Misguided Blame: Hip Hop And Athletes

By Chris Murray
Updated: October 24, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — The next time some misguided, ill-informed pundit, talking head or basically any one on FOX (Jason Whitlock) gets on TV and blames hip-hop culture for the all the ills facing the Black community or in the sports world, I’ll have one thing to say before I press the next channel of my remote control: STOP!

In a recent article on FOX Sports.com, entitled: “Hip Hop Culture Hurting NFL,” that scriber of opinionated, misinformed nonsense from Kansas City — Jason Whitlock — blames “hip-hop” culture for the behavior of Black athletes in the NFL.

In his article he writes, “African-American football players caught up in the rebellion and buffoonery of hip hop culture have given NFL owners and coaches a justifiable reason to whiten their rosters. That will be the legacy left by Chad, Larry and Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, Terrell Owens, Michael Vick and all the other football bojanglers.”

Throughout the entirety of the article, Whitlock rants about the abhorrent behavior of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Lewis and Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson. He writes, “Hip hop is the dominant culture for black youth.”

“In general, music, especially hip hop music, is rebellious for no good reason other than to make money. Rappers and rockers are not trying to fix problems. They create problems for attention.”

That’s the closest thing you’ll see to any kind of evidence linking hip-hop culture to the knucklehead behavior of some of our Black athletes. That’s like saying the reason why there is crime in America because people watch too much TV or movies. It’s utter nonsense.

Buffoonish and boorish behavior by athletes, regardless of race, in the NFL or any other sports league, has been going on long before hip-hop hit the world in the early 1980s.

Wasn’t former Dallas Cowboys receiver Lance Rentzel arrested for exposing himself to a little girl back in 1970? He was traded to the San Diego Chargers and still played for a year or so.

Did listening to Jim Morrison and the Doors cause that? Morrison did expose himself at a concert in Florida around that time.

I guess Whitlock can put that on hip-hop, too.

Hip-hop, like the term “liberal” in the political world, is a buzz-word been misused by attention-seeking Black conservatives like Whitlock and others as a shortcut to absolve responsibility from the larger entities in the sports-industrial complex that contribute to the foolish behavior.

The demonization of youth culture is an easy target for sanctimonious TV pundits. The constant blaming of hip-hop for the ills of Black world, the sports world or for society’s neglect of the structural inequities that exists in this society is not only disingenuous, but intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt.

When you break it all down, it is downright hypocritical, especially when you look at the complete world of sports. It’s the system of athletics itself that creates the knucklehead monsters Whitlock rails about.

From the moment we find out that little Johnny Boy can slam dunk a basketball or has 4.2 speed in the 40-yard dash, he is separated from the rest of the world and courted with special treatment.

Everyone from coaches, parents, and even some media outlets have placed this young man on a pedestal, “He’s the Next Big Thing.” There are suburban newspapers throughout the country that put the photographs of kids as young as six-years-old in their newspapers when they start playing pee-wee league.

It makes parents happy, but it plants the seed for these kids to have a false sense of entitlement as they mature. Hip-Hop has nothing to do with that.

So what if he doesn’t get good grades in school, the coaches and other enablers will either overlook it or worst yet, create some fake prep school or academy and inflate their grades to get into some Div. I program. Last March, the NCAA passed legislation to crack down on the diploma mills that are designed to make these kids eligible for college.

Hip-Hop culture has nothing to do with that.

When they get to ” Bigtime State” U, they are treated like gods by fans and boosters even though they can barely read or write. They come in with a sense of entitlement. They get money from boosters and expect their grades to be fixed because they’re making millions of dollars for the University.

Some universities like the University of Colorado back in the late 1990s would go as far as providing a sexual escort service for potential recruits. Recruits were taken to strip clubs and oh by the way, the rapes of several young women were overlooked in the process. Again, that’s not from hip-hop culture.

Consider the case of former Ohio State star running back Maurice Clarett, who told ESPN the Magazine that he was given money and cars and phony landscaping jobs he didn’t have to show up for. Additionally, he was placed in courses where professor passed him whether attended classes or not.

Former Maryland running back Sammy Maldonado, who transferred from Ohio State, confirmed Clarett’s story when he said that most of his transcripts weren’t accepted by the University of Maryland.

Athletes get all the preferential treatment and are separated from the rest of the student population. The implications of this for African-American athletes are enormous.

Some of these dislocated brothers walk around believing they are exempt from the racism that affects the rest of the African-American student populace because they are athletes and the white boosters and athletic supporters who slip money into their pockets are looking out for them.

About 10 years ago, a former Maryland classmate of mine who played on the football team told me he had no idea that regular Black students were facing racism on campus. That’s an example of the cultural dislocation.

In many instances the bad, dysfunctional behavior of these young men are overlooked because they’re averaging 150 yards per game with two TDs. Look at how many times the abusive behavior of Lawrence Phillips was overlooked by Nebraska because of his football prowess.

And so when these guys get to the pros, you’re going to get those guys who think they are above the law and who allow their success and money to go to their heads.

Throw in those ESPN SportsCenter highlights that shows Chad Johnson’s self-promotion 10 times a day and actually produces commercials (that pays the athlete and encourages more buffoonery) from them, you have what you have. You can’t put that on hip-hop culture.

One final point, Pac-Man Jones, Tank Johnson, Chad Johnson and others are just a very small percentage of Black athletes who behave badly. It is not the norm. Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has a boom box in his locker and plays hip-hop music.

He was recently honored by Philadelphia Mayor John Street for his charitable work. You don’t see his name on anybody’s police blotter.

The irony of all the hate on hip-hop culture is that the sports leagues have used hip-hop music and culture as a part of their marketing schemes to promote the game. Go to any NFL stadium before the game and you’ll hear hip-hop blaring over the public address system.

Whitlock is right about one thing it is a cultural problem. It’s not hip-hop, it’s the culture of the sports industrial complex.