The Racialized Optics of Televised Sports: Examining Explicit and Implicit Racial Bias

I don’t watch football at all, and so when the hoopla happened around the protest of Colin, I became intrigued.  I get why many people who watch these types of sport can become numb or perhaps oblivious to the racial realities that players and their family members experience, once they step off of the field.  About 77% of NFL fans are white (  In a national survey by Gallup Polls, Whites and Black often dramatically differ in their experience of racial relations in America. Some Whites generally see societal systems as fair and equitable while some Blacks and other ethnic groups experience social systems as inequitable, unjust, and punitive.

After all I reasoned with only a cup full of knowledge about team sports, Colin is a quarterback and given that 69% of NFL players are African American men, his protest makes sense to me.  “The NFL is still struggling with the issue of race and African American leadership. Black starting quarterbacks as of August 15th are eight, an increase of one from the 2014 season. Also there is an increase of one in African American Head Coaches: former Defensive Coach Todd Bowles will lead the New York Jets in 2015.” (

Here is how Colin sees it, and I agree. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” ( Many of these televised sports serve as visual representations of racial equity while obscuring vast social and economic inequities.

chalabi-sports-diversity-nfl2 chalabi-sports-diversity-nba1chalabi-sports-diversity-mlb-2These sports become innocuous “racialized” salves, whose purpose is to give a rosy picture of race relations through visual implication that racial equality exists from watching whites and blacks playing together on fields or courts. These “games” hide the operational background, historical racist legacies, and private investments that support racist adult play and adult male entertainment.  Watching these types of team sports, while clearly they are popular, meet some form of desire, or provide some form of psychological escape, and they are quite lucrative.  ” NFL games accounted for 34 of the 35 most-watched TV shows last fall [2013], according to TV by the Numbers. Football dominates the world of sports, and live sports dominates the world of television.”



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