Nevius: Sports not always the great equalizer
You probably saw the latest manufactured internet clickbait scam, an attempt to get a rise out of Steph Curry fans.
Some guy named Rob Parker called him “a high-paid Harlem Globetrotter.” And he added that Ray Allen made more 3-pointers, that Curry’s free-throw percentage went down in the NBA Finals and with the game on the line, he’d take Allen over Curry any day.
This raised several questions - beginning with, who is Rob Parker? And we will get to that.
Just to dispose of the numbers. Allen played 20 years, Curry has played 11, but last season was basically lost to injury. So in essentially half the time, Curry is within 478 threes of Allen. In his last full season, 2018-19, Curry made 354 threes.
Second, at the free-throw line in six games in the 2019 Finals, Curry went 14-14, 8-9, 13-14, 7-8, 6-6 and 6-6.
Finally, Curry has won three championships (and counting) and went to the Finals five straight years. Allen was in three Finals and won two.
Somewhere Allen must be wondering, “How did I get involved in this?” An out-of-nowhere rip of Curry seems more than random, it is just plain weird.
Parker is no one you’ve ever heard of. He’s not a former player. He is currently a sports anchor for 7 Action News in Detroit. He used to be a columnist for ClickOnDetroit and the Detroit News, and had his 15 minutes back in 2012, when he was fired from ESPN after comments he made about then-Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III.
In that interview, Parker asked pointedly if Griffin was, “a brother, or is he a cornhole brother?” and later added, “He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really.”
Parker’s proof was that “We all know he has a white fiancée. There was all this talk about how he’s a Republican.”
In other words, Griffin wasn’t authentic enough.
That cost Parker his job, but now he’s back, at a time when racial identity is front and center in this country. And out of the blue, he picks an argument with someone who has had to defend his own racial ?credentials. Coincidence?
I’d cut Parker a break, except for the “Harlem Globetrotters” line. Like many of us, African American athletes must see the Globetrotters as relics from another time, when happy-go-lucky black players traveled the country, clowning around and putting on a show.
We don’t need to spend more time on Parker. He knew what he was doing, trying to stir up a controversy and get his name out there.
But he did do us the favor of raising an important point - we are still working out this racial stuff in sports.
Curry has faced a racial purity test from the moment he came into the league. As an elderly white person, I certainly do not have the credentials to talk about it.
But teammates have spoken openly of the double standard.
In 2017, Draymond Green said on a podcast that anyone could tell immediately that Curry “ain’t from the hood.”
And then he added, “And of course Steph is light-skinned, so they want to make him out to be soft.”
And last year, Matt Barnes said on “The Jump” that Curry didn’t get the respect he deserved, partly because of “the light skin thing. People have problems with that.”
Slight detour. During the quarantine, we are watching a terrific series on Starz called “Vida.” Recently, one of the characters talked about her racial identity. She grew up in Boyle Heights, a Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles, but she mostly spoke English. She didn’t learn formal Spanish and only speaks a slang version.
“People see me,” she said. “And they see a Mexican. But Mexico-Mexicans don’t think I am Mexican enough.”
Which made me think of what Ayesha Curry said in an interview last year in Working Mother magazine.
“I feel like I’m too black for the white community,” she said, “but I’m not black enough for my own community. That’s a hard thing to carry.”
All of which is a reminder that, although we like to think of sports as the great equalizer, it isn’t that simple. Richard Sherman recently spoke up optimistically for the camaraderie of being part of a team.
“You kind of get lulled into the belief that everyone has torn down those stereotypes and those walls,” Sherman said. “And everyone is treating each other equally.”
Those are nice thoughts, but let’s go back to the Drew Brees controversy about him criticizing kneeling during the national anthem. He said it was an insult to the flag. That was a dumb thing to say. So dumb that he fell all over himself apologizing.
But the reaction was immediate, and cast in racial terms. Former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett scoffed at recent statements by white quarterbacks supporting the #blacklivesmatter protests.
“Tell me one white QB that truly stands for something other than their Captain America images,” Bennett wrote. “None of them spoke up when it wasn’t easy to speak up.”
Former wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said in a radio interview that “defensive linemen will take a 15-yard penalty just to hit (Brees) late and prove a point.”
Wow. OK. So I guess what we are saying is progress has been made in closing the racial divide. And the current climate seems to be closing it even more.
But we should also remember:
We all have work to do.
Contact C.W. Nevius at email@example.com. Twitter: @cwnevius