Boston: Still Racist. Here's why.

Danny Woodhead is the name on the best-selling New England Patriots jersey so far this year.

What, no love for BenJarvis Green-Ellis? (I would love that spelled out on my jersey, if I didn’t, you know, hate the Patriots with the burning ferocity of 1,000 suns.)

In fact, he’s beaten out #2 (Tom Brady) and #3 (Wes Welker). This just in: If you’re black and play sports in Boston, you should probably think about relocating.

Boston’s sports fans are whiter than Wonder Bread. But why *that* city?

Black athletes have long taken note and candidly spoke about Boston’s rep as a racist city. But, coaches, players, fans and city execs have ultimately shunned the interview opportunity, which is odd, because it’d be a golden ticket out from under the cloud of racism that engulfs the city when it comes to sports.

We found an old Henry Abbott article, which helped shed some slight, based upon a study done by Boston Magazine.

But more than anything, Gonzalez found a disappointing willingness among Bostonians to pipe up. His story ends like this:

The city’s reputation for racism endures because we don’t want to talk about it, because the press seems more interested in reporting on the controversy than in initiating a useful dialogue, because athletes are more careful today than they’ve ever been. There aren’t many Bill Russells anymore-someone who speaks his mind because his conscience demands it. Russell once told me he thought of himself as a man first and a basketball player second. These days, with millions riding on endorsement contracts and a capricious media to navigate, candor is seen as bad business. In a way, that’s understandable, but it would be a powerful thing to hear from more of today’s athletes. Because what Russell realized that so many current players still don’t is this: The best way to move forward is often to deal with the past.

To that end, the city itself could probably learn something from the experiences of Guy Stuart, the Kennedy School lecturer. Before he came to Boston, Stuart, who is white, spent a decade working in black communities in Chicago. It was there that he learned a useful lesson: If you want to improve race relations, “don’t go around simply saying you’re not racist.”

UPDATE: More insight on the same topic from Vincent Thomas of SLAM. He concludes that, as a black man, he now has no trouble rooting for the Celtics, but he doesn’t wonder where the hesitation comes from:

You gotta admit, those Celtics squads — especially from the mid to late 80s — were downright NBA aberrations. It almost looked weird. You would be hard-pressed to find a playoff squad that rotated in three white players for more than 15 minutes a night by that time. The Celtics, on the other hand, would feature five, sometimes six white players in a nine-man rotation. And they were so good as a team and so tough to beat that it irritated the folks in black neighborhoods. They had made the NBA “theirs” and here comes a team full of Birds, Mchales, Waltons, Ainges, Jerry Sichtings and Scott Wedmans. There was nothing The Chief or freckle-face DJ could do to put lipstick on that pig, no lily to gild right there. Some of the media coverage played into racial stereotypes. Boston was portrayed as smart, tough, and industrious. To let writers and announcers tell it, the Celtics used skill, resource, fortitude, guile and toughness to outwit and outplay the predominantly black squads that relied solely on athletic gifts. (Interestingly, though, this enterprising squad’s coach, KC Jones, a black man, never hoisted the Red Auerbach Trophy as coach of the year.) Some of these perceived slights or biases were just that — perceived, drummed-up — umbrage. Still, it resulted in deep, pervasive, long-lasting backlash within the black community.

Boston’s alleged sports racism can be deduced from the following takeaways:

1. The extreme prolonged success of certain white players, or teams of disproportionately white makeup in Boston, has made it appear (to media and the outside, as well as players) that Boston is a city that cheers for white people. This is aided by the white players playing well. (Think Duke Basketball.)

2. Successful Boston teams and players are often described in stereotypical terms like ‘scrappy’ and ‘tough’ and ‘intelligent’, which is off-putting and gets flagged as racist.

3. The media reports on allegations of racism, and the Boston institutions accused of it (municipal and regional institutions, teams and coaches) refuse to entertain useful discussion about whether or not this racism, in fact, exists – which makes it look like they’re hiding something.

You’ll never guess which white Patriots player has the best-selling jersey [Deadspin]


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