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Don Imus – the Mourning Show

By Brian | April 13, 2007 | Share on Facebook

As the 2007 NCAA tournament wound to a close, I bet the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team figured they’d remember this basketball season for the rest of their lives. Other than losing to Tennessee in the finals, it was a dream season. They accomplished (almost) everything they set out to do, and had achieved national recognition for their efforts. They would all graduate from a fine school and move on to successful professional careers, some in the basketball realm, others not. No matter – they would always be remembered as the 2007 Rutgers team – the one that made it to the finals against the mighty Tennessee Lady Vols.

Well, all of that is gone now.

As it turns out, they’ll always be remembered as the women that a popular morning radio DJ made a stupid, racist comment about. The news articles coming out about them now don’t even mention the basketball season, and we’re not even a month past it yet.

So here’s my question: who did this to these poor women? Who ruined their legacies? I would submit that it was not Don Imus. He said a stupid thing that was only heard by his ever-shrinking audience, and most of them probably ignored it or deemed it a lousy attempt at humor. The small minority of folks who took him literally probably brought their own racist and/or sexist attitude to the table to begin with. All the same, he attacked these women without provocation, and he got his punishment – both from the court of public opinion and the unemployment line.

But it was the so-called “civil rights leaders” that affixed the “victim” label on these women for the rest of time. As racism continues its slow decline in our society, folks like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson run the risk of losing relevance. To combat this trend, they need to elevate public displays of racism to “national scandal” status. To do any less would suggest that this instance is somehow less awful than the last one. And so we see a steady stream of condemnations: Trent Lott, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Don Imus.

This Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of the start of Jackie Robinson’s major league baseball career. Baseball is acknowledging the day with a league-wide celebration, in which every player on every team 200 players throughout baseball (and of every skin color) will wear Jackie’s number 42 for the day. Yet, there are some who believe that Robinson’s legacy is in danger, because only 8.4% of current major leaguers are African American (more than 40% are minorities – primarily Latinos, as well as a growing number of Asians).

Like Revs. Sharpton and Jackson, I believe these folks completely miss the point. And that point is this: skin color is no longer relevant in becoming a major league ballplayer. Black, brown, yellow and white have all succeeded. Kids of all colors cheer players of all colors, and there is very little talk of who’s in who’s group. What matters is what you can do on the field. That’s why all the so many players are wearing #42, not just 8.4% of them. That’s what Jackie Robinson helped bring about. That is his legacy.

The Rutgers women should be remembered for what they did on the court, not what they said in some press conference or on the Oprah Winfrey show. They’ve earned that legacy. To the extent that it’s been stolen from them, I think it’s a shame.

UPDATE: Apparently, some players felt that having everyone wear the number lessened the impact of it, and preferred to have one or two representatives wear it for their team. Four teams, including the Dodgers (Robinson’s former team), had all the players wear it. All in all, it came out to about 200 people, with at least one on every team.

Topics: News and/or Media, Sports Talk | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Don Imus – the Mourning Show”

  1. jason says at April 13th, 2007 at 3:07 pm :
    Hear, hear. All week long I’ve been thinking that this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. The specific remark Imus made wasn’t even that bad on the grand scale of offensiveness (which isn’t to excuse him or say it wasn’t offensive, just that I could think of a lot worse things he could’ve said).

    I hope you’re right and that race is becoming less relevant. I’d love to see a day when people would simply shrug, dismiss someone like Imus as an ignorant jackass, and get back to whatever they were doing, because it just doesn’t matter.

  2. Brian says at April 13th, 2007 at 11:07 pm :
    Jason – I think most people did exactly that, but then their “spokemen” (Sharpton & Jackson) forced the issue into a major scandal…

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