By Raynard Jackson (NNPA News Wire Columnist)
I am quite fond of saying about Republicans when it comes to Blacks, “Even when they try to do the right thing, they do it the wrong way.”
In a similar manner, ESPN has become the Republican Party of TV and sports.
Last week they had their annual ESPYs awards show. This is their annual celebration of achievement in the world of sports.
They opened the show trying to do the right thing, but definitely did it the wrong way.
The event opened with four of the top NBA players speaking out against police brutality and gun violence. This was very moving to the extent that you had four of the biggest names in sports taking a public stance on a relevant, social issue, which is very rare for today’s athletes. The players were LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.
If this was such a good thing, you might be asking, then why am I criticizing the event?
All four of the above players are Black. This issue of police brutality and gun violence is not a “Black” issue, it is an American issue. Whites are subjected to these issues as well. Good and bad cuts across race and class.
In 2015, the NBA was 74.4 percent Black, 23.3 percent White, 1.8 percent Latino, and .2 percent Asian, this was based on a survey by Richard Lapchick.
It would have made more sense for the ESPN to have players from each of these groups on stage talking about these issues, sending the unmistakable message that this is not just a Black issue, but rather a societal issue.
The optics of the display were odd and quite offensive to me.
ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Company, one of the top pro-homosexual companies in the world. When they were aggressively promoting former player Jason Collins for coming out of the closet, they used the full panoply of races in their promotion of their homosexual agenda.
But when it came to police brutality and gun violence, they made it into a “Black” issue, not a societal issue like homosexuality.
A few days before the event, LeBron James reached out to the ESPY’s producer, Maura Mandt, with the idea, thus the plan was agreed to by all the suits at ESPN’s corporate office.
From my research, ESPN and the ESPYs seem to have no diversity in leadership in terms of decision-makers, the decision-makers all seem to be White liberals.
Maybe, just maybe, if they had people from diverse backgrounds in the decision-making loop someone would have pointed out the optics of LeBron’s idea and encouraged him to have a diverse group of players on stage with him.
Diversity is not just about race or gender, it’s also about worldview.
To their credit, ESPN has a very diverse workforce as far as race goes, but it is without question that an overwhelming amount of that diversity is racial, not ideological.
Most of their decision-makers and on-air talent are extremely liberal, which is totally in line with their corporate view. My friends who work for ESPN never dispute my conservative views in my private conversations with them, but they would never admit that they hold such views in public.
For some, expressing those views would be career suicide at worst or at best lead to a very public excoriation from peers and fair-weather friends alike.
Exhibit “A” in my argument is Chris Broussard. He is an analyst for ESPN who focuses on the NBA. He has been profiled in many media outlets about his Christian faith and his positive family life. He is another version of Steph Curry.
When Jason Collins came out as homosexual, Broussard responded, “If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, (but) adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals…I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” Broussard said. “I would not characterize that person as a Christian, because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.”
His simple expression of his faith caused a backlash like I have never seen before. So, as long as you are for homosexuality, your thoughts are welcomed on ESPN, but if you don’t agree with it, you are silenced.
I applaud these athletes for trying to take a principled stand at the ESPYs, but I fault ESPN for not having the foresight to fully understand and appreciate the optics of having all Black athletes on stage.
Now, mind you, ESPN is supposed to be experts in optics, after all, they are the world leader in sports and entertainment. But, because they are surrounded by people who all look and think like each other, there was no one to point out the obvious racial connotation of these optics.
Like the Republican Party, they tried to do the right thing, but did it the wrong way.
Raynard Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BAFBF), a federally registered 527 Super PAC established to get more Blacks involved in the Republican Party. BAFBF focuses on the Black entrepreneur. For more information about BAFBF, visit www.bafbf.org. You can follow Raynard on Twitter @Raynard1223.