ESPN’s Howard Bryant pinpoints the latest act of systemic racism … and it’s a doozy

ESPN’s Howard Bryant pinpoints the latest act of systemic racism … and it’s a doozy
Howard Bryant (Image: ESPN video screen grab)

America in 2016 is still very much the land of haves and have nots. Among the haves are professional athletes, who, depending on the sport they play, earn on average between $5.15 million and $1.9 million a year. (That excludes Major League Soccer, which is still in its relative infancy, and pays its players a measly $160,000 annually.)

The highest paid sport far and away is professional basketball, where an average career in the NBA lasts 4.8 years, paying out a life-of-career total of $24.7 million.

Basketball is not just the highest-paying sport. It’s also the sport with the greatest percentage of black players (74.4% compared to 23.3% who are white). This is not intended as a criticism. On the contrary, professional basketball is a genuine meritocracy — a model the rest of the country would do well to follow.

Rather, I mention all of this as context for the latest rant by ESPN commentator Howard Bryant. In his article, titled “The Unspoken Truth,” Bryant laments the racist practice of having police — police, of all people! — sing the National Anthem before sporting events. He writes of what he terms an “authoritarian shift at the ballpark” and “the smothering effect that staged patriotism and cops singing the national anthem in a time of Ferguson have on player expression.”

In Bryant’s world, every cop is a killer of young black males, and if you’re going to have one of those types sing the National Anthem, you may as well empty out the prisons and invite convicted murderers to croon “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Clay Waters writing at NewsBusters puts it this way: “In Bryant’s Manichean worldview, supporting police means the poor don’t matter.”

The problem with diatribes like this is that they provide for resentment for those who, like Bryant himself, look for reasons to claim victimization.

In an imperfect world, such as this one, there is plenty of cruelty and hurt to take offense at. If you go searching for it where it doesn’t naturally grow, all you find is a mirror image of yourself and your own dark heart.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.

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