Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Do Black Athletes Ever Have Fathers?!?

[Editor's Note: I am married. I have a daughter. I woman gave birth to me. I don't hate women. I don't hate single mothers. I don't hate women who have to go it alone because some man was too much of a b*tch to stick around and raise his own damn kids. This post isn't about any of that. It's about the media's obsession with perpetuating a stereotype of black men as absentee fathers. If you can't draw the distinction between the two, please close the browser right now because this is not the post for you.]

Yesterday, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant accepted the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award and gave a very emotional speech about his mother. You may have already seen this, but if not, here goes.

This was touching, I think any human being with a soul would concur. So was this poorly disguised Cadillac ad/tribute to his single mom by NFL QB prospect Teddy Bridegewater.

And yeah, who can forget Lebron James tribute to his mom a couple of years ago?

And of course, we spent the entire March Madness/April listening to the story of Shabazz Napier's mom, and seeing the camera cut to her every 4 seconds.

Showing Napier, and showing his Mom happened with such alarming frequency during UConn's run to the national title that it damn near bordered on creepy. And it made me wonder: What exactly is the media's fascination with showing black athletes raised by single mothers?

Is there some ulterior motive at play here? That level of adulation/obsession is seldom if ever displayed when black athletes have two parents, and it's darn near never given to white athletes, unless they happen to be the parents of a family of players (ie: The Zellers)[1].

What the hell is up with that? Is the whole "Momma we made it!" angle just a shopworn journalistic shortcut? Or is there something more devious at play here? When 50% of black kids (which is granted, not an ideal number) are being raised in households with two parents (married or otherwise) it's hard for me to believe they can't find more examples of kids whose fathers[2] were actively involved and instrumental in their achievements.

Here's where it really gets icky though (cue the angry comments!): I can't help but notice a serious double standard at play in all of these stories. Many (not all, but many) of the women in these stories had other children by other men (See the Bridgewater story) that they never married. These women are (rightfully!) hailed as saints who helped their children beat the odds and achieve their dreams, even if in some cases (ie: Lebron James' mother) those women weren't always present and had their own issues. It's hard for me to find any scenario in which a man who made poor judgement calls and had a sh*tload of kids by women he didn't commit to would be heralded in an equally favorable light. I've never, ever seen that. Not to get all Tommy Sotomayor on ya'll, but something about that double standard really, really rubs me the wrong way.

Anyways, just wanted you guys thoughts on this admittedly convoluted and ultimately trival observation.

Question: Does it seem as if the media promotes "raised by a single black mother" stories to advance some ulterior motive? Is that simply an easy journalistic trope, a reflection of where things are in society, or an underhanded way of advancing stereotypes about Black America?

[1] The Currys would obviously be the exception here, but even in that case 90% of the media attention is given to the mother. Albeit for entirely different reasons.

[2] The obvious exception: when the father was also an athlete. See also: The Currys, Glenn Robinson Jr, Tim Hardaway Jr. I almost see that as an equally shopworn journalistic shortcut.

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