Monday Notes

(I’m still here).

1)No, I don’t think Adam “Pacman” Jones should have received a penalty at the end of Saturday night’s crazy Bengals-Steelers game. Steelers’ assistant Joey Porter did not belong on the field. The moment was extraordinarily heated. Jones was clearly not trying to bump an official. Is he easily provoked? Duh. Was he trying to do anything but engage with Porter verbally? Quite obviously, no. This is an instance in which the officials threw a flag with a profound impact on the probable outcome of the game that was totally out of proportion to the offense itself. That’s bad officiating. (certain people are going to yell at me for this).

2)I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while. From the Monkey Cage politics blog at the Washington Post, an interesting study about the connection between racial attitudes and support for paying college athletes. The results aren’t surprising, but they’re still instructive. Political Scientists Kevin Wallsten, Tatishe Nteta and Lauren McCarthy reported the following:

  1. A 2015 HBO poll, which found that 65% of Americans opposed paying college football and basketball players (consistent with other surveys).
  2. A 2014 survey noted significant disparities by race. 53% of African American supported paying college athletes. Only 22% of whites did.

As Wallsten, Nteta and McCarthy note, racial prejudice has been well-established to drive attitudes toward “ostensibly race-neutral policies like welfare, health care and law enforcement.” (Marc Hetherington and I wrote about the relationship between racial resentment and attitudes toward health care reform here – scroll down at the link).

Using that 2014 survey, Wallsten, Nteta and McCarthy carried out a statistical analysis that controlled for a variety of factors and concluded that “Negative racial views about blacks were the single most important predictor of white opposition to paying athletes.” Whites who believe things like blacks don’t work hard enough, or the government gives them too much of a hand up are regarded as scoring higher in racial resentment. And the higher that score, the more likely a respondent is to oppose paying college athletes.

To further flesh out that finding, the three authors conducted an experiment.They showed one group of white respondents pictures of young black men with “stereotypical African American first and last names.” Another group saw no pictures at all. Then they asked the question about paying athletes. Among whites who saw the pictures, opposition to paying athletes was substantially higher than it was among those who didn’t see the pictures (and it’s high to begin with).

Wallsten, Nteta and McCarthy conclude: “the discussion about paying college athletes is implicitly a discussion of race.” At least in part.

(Some people don’t like to hear this, but the discussion of a staggering range of issues of public interest and import is, at least implicitly, a discussion of race).

(Here’s a post I wrote a couple of years ago about a Rupe-Reason poll on paying college athletes. That poll specifically asked whether athletes should receive a portion of the revenue from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. When it told some respondents how much money the NCAA made, support for sharing revenue with players increased. The racial gap in that survey was also large, but no analysis was done of the connection between racial attitudes and paying athletes).

3)Good discussion on LeBatard’s show today with Malcolm Gladwell about the recent Al-Jazeera report on alleged HGH use by certain high-profile athletes, most notably Peyton Manning. That report is obviously problematic, insofar as its key source recanted what he said after publication. That doesn’t make the report wrong, but it makes it hard to know what to do with the claims. Regardless, Gladwell focused rightly on the larger context of the NFL’s ban on HGH. He noted that playing football is highly injurious to the health and well-being of its players. He also noted that there is rampant abuse of legal, prescribed drugs by football players in ways that further compromise their already-imperiled health and that the NFL has not taken meaningful steps to stop such practices. In this context, how we are supposed to get worked up over a guy using HGH presumably to facilitate recovery from surgery and injuries more generally. Gladwell doubts that Manning actually used – I don’t really know why – but that’s hardly the point. The point is, as I’ve said a thousand times before, that the ethical and competitive lines we’ve drawn through acceptable and unacceptable health practices don’t stand up to scrutiny.

As an aside, since that Manning/HGH report really hasn’t gone anywhere – as Zirin notes – wondering how that fits in with the Kannell/Whitlock “war on football” thesis? That anti-football “liberal media” has, I’ve noticed, largely boycotted the sport over the past two weeks.*

*By which I mean the opposite, as we’ve had wall-to-wall football coverage in that time across ESPN, the networks, the blogosphere and everywhere else.

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