Sports | October 5, 2017 3:46 pm

Why White Fans Turn on Black Athletes When They Get Political

Author Samuel G. Freedman writes about the 'morally corrupt contract' between white fans and stars of color.

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If you’ve been reading or watching the news lately, you know that sports—especially, football and basketball—have become a highly political arena. There’s a back-and-forth between a sitting president and two professional leagues like none other in American history. And the fervor among fans for and against is reaching a fever pitch.

As The Guardian‘s Samuel G. Freedman writes, it’s not always so cut and dry. He cites the example of Baltimore Ravens two-time Super Bowl-winning linebacker Ray Lewis, a fan favorite, whom the team erected a statue of outside their stadium. However, as soon Lewis waded into the sideline protest debate by kneeling during the national anthem, fans started calling for the statue to be taken down.

As the writer argues, this could have to do with the Colin Kaepernick controversy, or people buying into the president’s view that kneeling during the national anthem is unpatriotic.

What it’s really about, though? “The morally corrupt contract between white fans and black athletes.” He explains that “this provides the African American sports star with provisional, symbolic whiteness—in the forms of adulation, affluence, product endorsements, social acceptance. …In return, however, the black athlete must surrender his or her political voice as a black person.”