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Is Racism Behind the Top 10 Most Disliked Athletes?

By Mike Silva ~ February 13th, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized.

The biggest non-Super Bowl sports story the last two weeks has been the emergence of Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. Noted author Buzz Bissinger dashed cold water on “Linsanity” over at The Daily Beast, by injecting his own take on the phenomenon:

And sorry, because people hate to hear the cold truth, but there is a factor of race: if he were African-American, would there be the same type of hysteria—oops, I’m sorry—Linsteria? Nope. He would be perceived as a potentially very promising black player, but because of the eternal and wrongheaded assumption that all professional black athletes are naturally gifted, there would be none of the linsteria.

No one believes that Lin is going to average 25 points and 8 assists for a full season. However, anyone with an honest eye for talent can see he has the ability to be in an NBA rotation, and a good shot at a more than above-average starter.

Personally, I think Lin has been a victim of racism during his path to the NBA. He was overlooked by major collegiate programs and the NBA because he is Asian and educated. We all have personal bias no matter how hard we try to ignore it. When a recruiter or scout watched Lin, they saw an Asian kid, not an athlete. That clouded their ability to recognize he can penetrate and distribute the ball on a high level. Their eyes contradicted their bias and they couldn’t overcome it. If Lin were African-American he would have been drafted and very likely stuck on the bench of an NBA club.

On Sunday, Bissinger  to Twitter and trolled the public with his thoughts on Lin and racism. I took the bait and decided to debate him over the topic.

Forbes has released a top ten list of the most disliked athletes in professional sports. Nielsen and partner E-Poll Market Research, measured public attitudes toward pro athletes. The list includes:

1- Michael Vick

2- Tiger Woods

3. Plaxico Burress

4. Ndamukong Suh

5. Kris Humphries

6. Lebron James

7. Kobe Bryant

8. Terrell Owens

9. Alex Rodriguez

10. Kurt Busch

Bissinger is correct when he points out the list is dominated by African-American athletes. I believe that behaviors, not race, dominate the feelings of the public behind these individuals. You have dog killing, unsportsmanlike conduct, adultery, ego, and gun touting tied to the individuals on the list. You could argue that Kris Humphries might be getting a raw deal, but if you ever saw his show with Kim Kardashian, you would see why he hasn’t endeared himself to the masses. Bissinger fails to mention that Jerry Jones, Ben Roethlisberger and Mark McGwire dominated the list in prior years. All, unless I am mistaken, were Caucasian. The debate took many bizarre turns, but the long and short of it is Bissinger believes my theory is naive, as he later tweeted that my “denial of racism and racial stereotyping is complete ostrich in the sand.”

I think the platform that Lin stands for is more at the center of his popularity. He is the underdog, humble, and someone that we all could relate to. We see Jeremy Lin as our neighbor or classmate. We see Michael Vick as someone we want to avoid. We despise the extravagance and drama the Humphries reality show represents.

The rise of Jeremy Lin’s popularity and the Forbes list has nothing to do with race; it’s simply the public letting the sports world know what type of behaviors they appreciate.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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