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Jason Douglas Lewis - When fighting in sports is okay

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When fighting in sports is okay

Fighting in ice hockey, where the athletes are mostly white, is acceptable by the sporting pubic, but in the NBA or NFL, where the athletes are mostly black, punishment is swift and harsh.  



Please do not argue with the Sports Editor.  It’s like feeding the animals at the zoo.  It’s just a bad idea.  Illustration by David Brown


Article originally published by the Los Angeles Sentinel. www.lasentinel.net


By Jason Lewis

Sentinel Sports Editor (2010-2013)


I was channel surfing on Saturday afternoon, waiting for the Lakers game to come on, and I landed on a NHL ice hockey game.  


Within minutes of turning on this game a fight breaks out between Sean O’Donnell of the Philadelphia Flyers and Brandon Prust of the New York Rangers.  I was surprised to see the referees stand by and watch as these two players repeatedly threw haymakers at each other.  


The NBC announcer said, “Well here’s the first scrap of the day.”  


Does he mean that there will be more of this behavior in this game?  This is actually acceptable?  


In the NBA, where about 80 percent of the league’s players are black, and in the NFL, where about 65 percent of the players are black, if a player threw punch, let alone landed one, he would be ejected from the game and subject to suspension.  


Fans would be all over the sports radio shows calling those players thugs and saying that the league needs to clean that garbage up.  


But in the case of the O’Donnell and Prust fight, they just served five minutes in the penalty box and then they were allowed to continue playing.  


There was no outcry that these players should have been ejected or suspended, and they have not been called thugs, even though they landed more punches on each other in 30 seconds than landed punches by NBA players on other NBA players combined over the last decade.  


This past NFL season, Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour connected with one jab to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s facemask and he was immediately ejected from the game.     


Just last week Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes was ejected and suspended for one game for shoving Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks.  No punches were thrown.  


When the University of Miami had their brawl with Florida International in 2006, 31 players were suspended afterward and the players were called gangsters.  Five of those players were suspended for the rest of the season.  


ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski called Miami’s one game suspensions “a soothing caress and manicure,” and he suggested that Miami head coach Larry Coker should have been fired.  He also called for Miami to wipe the game from their records.  


Clearly the NFL, NBA, and NCAA have taken measures to clean up their sports.  Fighting used to be the norm in the NBA back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, just like in ice hockey, but NBA officials decided to clean the league’s image up.  


Well apparently the NBA may have been better off letting their players fight like the NHL does, because the mostly white ice hockey league has been able to get away with fighting in their league for decades.  


Do a Youtube search on O’Donnell or Prust and you’ll find numerous videos of these two fighting in ice hockey games.  Both of these players are in fights just a week before their fight against each other.    


Going by what you’ll find on these guys on Youtube, it would appear that all they do is fight, but sports fans have never screamed for that league to clean up their image.  


Could it be that white fans in the crowd or watching on television have no problem watching white athletes fight, but if they see black athletes fighting, it’s because they grew up as gangbangers?  


Fans see the tattoos, the corn rolls or dreadlocks, the black skin, and they have a negative reaction to the rare moments that there is a fight in basketball or football.  But let two white athletes fight and they are simply policing their game.  


Was Jerry Stackhouse simply “policing” his game when he punched Jeff Hornacek in his jaw twice?  


Going way back in history, did Kermit Washington, a black player, deserve to be blackballed from the NBA for punching Rudy Tomjonavich, a white player?  


Fighting is wrong, in any sport, but if it is acceptable for ice hockey players to fight on a nightly basis, then the rare time there is a fight in basketball or football, the players, who are mostly black, should not be labeled as thugs.  


That’s a pretty nasty double standard right there.  



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