Monday, February 13, 2006

Johnny be Nasty


We rarely think that there is racism amongst the mainstream sports media. Barry Bonds, for example, is not vilified because he black; rather it is because he seems to have little respect for the fans...and that whole steroids thing.

At the same time, we are not so naive as to think that the remnants are not there. And an Olympic athlete may prove that the media has not yet completely escaped their racist past.

U.S. figure skating champ Johnny Weir (pictured in a Russian jacket, one of his lovable photo ops), a favorite to medal in Turino, has garned recent headlines like:

So, what's missing? Weir is a writer's dream: always there to provide a controversial quote to spice up a slow news day. His topics have included comparing his outfits to "an icicle on coke" and "a Care Bear on acid"; referring to an opponent's short program as "a vodka-shot, lets-snort-coke kind of thing" (we are noticing a pattern in the rail-thin skater's choice of metaphor); wife-beating; and to top it off, on a TV piece aired over the weekend, compared the Olympic Village to living in "a concentration camp."

WHAT? Weir likes to compare himself to the outspoken athlete who cannot be quited by "propriety." And thus far, the media have loved it. I can't imagine what would have been reported had Allen Iverson called the '04 Village a concentration camp. Or if Ray Lewis said the sidelines reminded him of blow.

Where's the fairness? Just because Weir is a clean-cut white boy in a clean-cut sport (minus Tonya), does not give him a free pass on blatant ignorace. We are the first to stand up and say when sensitivity should not win out and society should relax a bit. But Weir is not one of those instances. Someone needs to call him on his vitriolic remarks that he spins as humor. There is no better opportunity than the next week.

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