Friday, December 01, 2006

From the heart the mouth speaks...

Robert Weintraub's recent article in Slate points to the latest round of racial gaffes by sports broadcasters. The most recent was that by Michael Irvin -- a comment about the athletic ability of a quarterback being owed to the miscegenation of an ancestor. Needless to say, an apology followed.

Commentators aren't just sometimes racist -- they are sometimes sexist (recall Keith Hernandez' comment about women in the dugout) and sometimes homophobic (recall the comment by ESPNU commentator Brian Kinchen)

Weintraub speculates that the reason for so many missteps in the broadcast booth is that so many commentators are former athletes who are untrained in journalism.

But that isn't true of many of the commentators who have spewed racist, sexist or homophobic comments off-the-cuff. They are journalists by trade.

I think these incidents demonstrate the need for sports broadcasters to get far more than training in how to call play-by-play or in the fine art of trying to convince viewers that a lopsided game is still worth watching. They need an education in critical thinking about their own (unspoken unless under pressure) stereotypes color their thinking about race, ethnicity and gender, among other things. Collegiate sports journalism programs must have issues-oriented classes where students can confront the stereotypes they may not even realize that they embrace. Then, those stereotypes are far less likely to spill out in front of a mass audience.