Let’s hear from anoter footballer today, and talk about a specific stereotype directed towards Black athletes.
Ramble of the Day
Like any elite footballer, Crystal Dunn’s credentials are specific to her and therefore make for a special combination. In her case, it is in large part because of her remarkable versatility. She excels at both left back and at forward for a club team and a national team considered the best in the world. On top of that, she has been asked to play other roles in her seven years as a professional and has shown a similar level of excellence. Simply put, she is an extremely impressive player and one of the best in the world.
As we continue listening to Black people, I encourage you to read a message that Dunn wrote Friday and focus particularly on the second paragraph.
It is going to take EVERYONE! pic.twitter.com/JcgP2MWvnM— Crystal Dunn Soubrier (@crysdunn_19) June 5, 2020
Dunn highlights a personal experience that has belittled her abilities. Many have described her as an athletic player, and she says “there is some truth to that.” However, many view her as primarily athletic: “not once am I told that is because I am a smart player who can read the game and understand multiple roles better than most.” To speak simply about football, it makes very little sense that someone with a level of mastery in multiple positions would not be commended on her ability to read the game. Unfortunately, she is far from the only Black athlete to receive similar labels.
Zito Madu wrote a piece for SB Nation during the 2018 World Cup that focused on the same thing, with a lens specifically on Senegal. Madu did a simple experiment for the piece — search any given Senegal player’s name on Google with the words “pace and power,” and see what comes up. I’d encourage you to actually click on the article because what he found was that so many of the team’s players had been described that exact way by media members, and that the team itself was described that exact way in multiple World Cup previews.
Regarding that Senegal team specifically, it is a pretty outrageous claim, as it was in Dunn’s case. I recall the team as a joy to watch, tactically stylish and entertaining. Madu described the team’s opening match as such: “Senegal outplayed Poland and won, 2-1, by playing direct, composed soccer, relying on sharp passing and technical dribbling, while barely allowing their opponents anything on the other end. It was Poland, in fact, that employed long balls and physical play later in the second half to give themselves a way back into the game.”
Madu attempted the “pace and power” experiment with other well known Black male players and found similar results, showing how incredibly overused those words and the stereotype is. There is a reason Dunn specifically addresses commentators — she has heard them lean on the stereotype time and time again instead of doing research. I have heard it time and time again, as have many others.
To describe any given athlete as fast or athletic is not a negative thing on its face. Black players overwhelmingly being labeled such a way undersells both their ability and their actual performances, and very frequently leads to inaccurate descriptions of players and teams.
Dunn describes this as the end result: “Even if those traits accurately describe that athlete, from an early age, we are led to believe that that is all that we can contribute to the game.”
Links of the Day
The LA Galaxy released Aleksandar Katai after his wife made racist posts on Instagram regarding protests against police brutality.
Season ticket holders in the Championship will be able to watch their teams at no additional cost when the league resumes play.
A longer read: David Hytner interviews Watford’s Andre Gray on his experiences as a Black person in the U.K. and how stereotypes follow Black people outside the U.S. for The Guardian