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Thread: Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

  1. #1

    Default Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

    I got my copy of WIN-Magazine today...

    One column that hit me hard was Jason Bryant's concerning apparent intolerable behavior on the part of some fans at the 2008 NCAAs when Phil Davis won the 197 lb title.

    I think about how ironic this is, the same year African-American wrestling legends were honored at a ceremony just a couple blocks away from the Scottrade Center.

    I also think about the interviews I've done with Simon Roberts, the first black NCAA champ (1957, for the University of Iowa)... and with Harold Henson, the first African-American to wrestle at the NCAAs (in 1949, for San Diego State). During our conversations, I asked each man if he had encountered racism in his wrestling career. Both men had stories of being refused service at restaurants on the way to NCAA events... but both Roberts and Henson made it clear that they did not experience racism on the mat in terms of fan, opponent or referee actions...

    Then I think back to a 1973 Des Moines Register article I found at the Iowa State archives, where black college wrestlers of that era alleged bias against them in terms of referee calls, recruiting, and hiring. (I incorporated part of this into my "black history" article for Rev:

    Perhaps we are sliding backwards?

    Here's Jason's column, as posted at the WIN website:

    When racism rears its ugly head, it's hard to ignore

    By Jason Bryant, W.I.N. Columnist

    Is racism present in wrestling? If you were one of the fans who booed after Phil Davis? victory at 197 pounds at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, you?d better examine your motives.

    Following Davis? win over Central Michigan?s Wynn Michalak in the NCAA finals, Davis celebrated by beating his chest and pointing to ESPN?s overhead camera, his friend Jake Herbert and eventually to the Penn State faithful. He was overjoyed and for obvious reasons.

    Then came the boos shortly before a fan, sitting behind the press table, uttered a racial slur loud enough to project down to the press table where at least one set of ears heard it clearly.

    ?This is completely intolerable,? said CMU wrestling coach Tom Borrelli, regarding the racial slur. ?I don?t care what color your skin is or what race you originate from, we are all knuckleheads sometimes.?
    Some fans might have thought Davis was taunting the CMU fans, who, coincidentally, were stationed in the section up and behind where the camera was positioned.

    ?I didn?t even know where the Central Michigan fans were sitting, I was too caught up in the moment,? said Davis. ?I was too happy to care that there was booing.

    Borrelli didn?t see anything wrong with Davis? celebration.

    ?I think he was genuinely excited and not trying to show Wynn up, even if it appeared so,? said Borrelli. ?My athletes have been told that their opponent is another human being who has worked very hard to be where he is and deserve to be treated with dignity.?

    Sure, Davis started celebrating with six seconds left and nearly got taken down, which would have led to the proverbial ?egg on the face.? He might have waited until the match was officially over.

    ?I don?t know if it was demeaning or not, but I hope that?s not how Wynn took it,? said Davis. ?He was in on a single and I saw the clock behind him. Four seconds, five points, I got this.?

    So after someone places four times at the NCAA tournament and caps off a great career with an NCAA title, is the first thing people do is boo his celebration??

    Stanford head coach Kerry McCoy is one of three black head coaches in Division I wrestling. Carl Adams at Boston University and Reggie Wright at Delaware State are the other two.

    ?There are a lot of stupid, ignorant people,? said McCoy. ?It happens all over the place. You?ve got a black guy running for President right now and I?m sure you?ve got people out there saying the same thing about him.?

    ?I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt with recognizing the fact there?s a lot of non-rational people out there,? said McCoy about why people boo certain wrestlers and not others for celebrating. ?(With Davis), it could be the last time he was in the finals, he didn?t put on the best show.?

    One of the happiest celebrations came from Coleman Scott of Oklahoma State after pinning Iowa?s Joey Slaton in the 133-pound final. Would the boo birds have come calling if he was black?

    There are plenty of cases where white wrestlers are booed for celebrations. For example, Johny Hendricks was booed after his championship celebration in 2006 and Ben Askren has been booed for some of his antics, but his personality is regarded by some as ?good for the sport.?

    Former Oklahoma Sooner Teyon Ware was booed in the 2003 finals after executing a backflip.

    Is it OK to be flamboyant if you?re Askren, but not OK if you?re Mo Lawal? Is it OK if you?re Dennis Hall, but not OK if you?re T.C. Dantzler? Is it fine if you?re Rulon Gardner, but not fine if you?re Daniel Cormier?

    This isn?t about gamesmanship, such as Mark Perry blowing kisses to the Missouri crowd. It?s about a celebration.

    As an athlete, McCoy won two NCAA titles at heavyweight and was a member of the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic teams. Was he ever met with similar experiences?

    ?If it happened, I didn?t notice,? said McCoy. ?I didn?t pay much attention to it.?

    Lawal noticed, starting back in high school.

    ?I remember I beat this kid from West Texas. He was undefeated and I only had six matches. It was a big win for me,? said Lawal. ?I was running off the mat excited because it was a huge upset and his mother came down from the stands and (used a racial slur).?

    Internationally, Lawal?s celebration?s aren?t met with the chorus of boos he typically gets in the United States.

    ?People booed here when I beat Lee Fullhart,? he said. ?But overseas, they love the celebrations. They like you because you?re good, not because you?re black, white, or whatever. They don?t see color overseas.?

    McCoy keeps an even keel on the subject, but doesn?t think it?s all based on the action of celebrating.

    ?I don?t think it was 100 percent because (Davis) was black,? said McCoy. ?But I wouldn?t think it?s impossible either.?
    ?For me, it?s been a long time coming,? said Davis, a native of Harrisburg, Pa.. ?I never made it to the state finals. I made it to the national finals (in 2006) and lost (to Oklahoma State?s Jake Rosholt). I made it back and finally got the big win. I accomplished what I really wanted to. That was the expression coming out of me.?

    ?It?s hard to figure how someone can perceive you when you?re winning,? said Davis.

    But Davis, infectious grin and all, has somewhat of a different theory.

    ?I think the crowd designates the good guy and a bad guy for every weight. Some people remember me in 2006 as the guy in the finals who punched (Jake) Rosholt?.?

    ?Maybe that makes me inherently the bad guy,? Davis said. ?They didn?t see me get poked in the eye then or this year when I had to get my eye super-glued shut.?

    Does Davis feel his ?bad guy? perception is sometimes racially motivated?

    ?It does have a component to it, but I?m not sure how it manifests itself in how you get booed,? said Davis.

    While celebrations aren?t limited to some racial questions, McCoy does notice discussions about black wrestlers being considered ?athletic,? whereas a white wrestler hitting the same move would be considered as having ?great technique.?

    ?Certain people fit a certain mold. If you?re not over the top, you?re not seen as black. You?re just seen as another guy,? said McCoy.

    ?It?s a type of discrimination; not necessarily hurtful, but it?s one of those things where a lot of times you get, ?You?re not black,? or ?I wasn?t talking about you, I was talking about other black people.? ?

    ?I?ve heard that so much,? said Lawal. ?Oh, he?s quick, fast and athletic.

    ?Lee Kemp is one of the most technical wrestlers I?ve ever worked with and all everyone talks about is how athletic he was or how strong he was. They didn?t talk about Melvin Douglas? technique. They talked about how fast he was.?
    Lawal feels he doesn?t need to censor his emotions.

    ?When a white person celebrates, he deserves it, he worked hard,? said Lawal. ?If a black wrestler celebrates, he?s classless and flamboyant.

    ?I?ve been told to be quiet and not do anything, but that?s not me. Raise your hand, wave to the crowd and bow and walk off the stage? It?s not that easy, it?s emotional. I just do what I love doing.?

    If it?s fine for one race, it should be fine for another.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

    One need only engage people on wrestling forums in these very kinds of debates about race to learn very quickly bigotry is alive and well. In fact, I'm often times appalled.

    Good, but disturbing article.
    UNI Panthers...Because it's just right.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

    Not to detract from where this article is going, because I beleive racism is present in all sports, but the line, "They don’t see color overseas” is way off base. Racism recently reared it's ugly head in European soccer.
    See you in St. Louis!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

    Where Mo was referring to was where he's wrestled-Eastern Europe, Iran, Russia. They LOVED Mo in Iran.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

    We in the US are more hung up on race than about any other country in the World. It's a shame if it comes up in wrestling, the most democratic of sports. Wrestling doesn't have a panel of judges or other generally subjective evaluaton system. Our athletes determine the outcome on the mat; regardless of race, physical handicap, or most anything else. Wrestlers win or lose based on their abilities.

    I was sitting next to the CMU fans in St. Louis and didn't really notice anything untowards. If someone did shout a negative comment toward Phil Davis I suspect that person never actually wrestled. It's too bad anyone has to demean our terrific athletes.

    A funny aside. I was searching for something on the web and stumbled upon a photo that indicated a long time friend of mine was the first African-American ACC wrestling champion. It never even dawned on me that Tyrone was unique in any way other than being a great wrestler and a great guy!
    Last edited by WrestlingTerp; 04-03-2008 at 06:47 AM. Reason: e

  6. #6

    Default Re: Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

    Was it racist when the Minnesota crowd booed for Angel Escobedo at big tens? Davis is a very charismatic individual and people love him or hate him much like the Yankees in baseball. The only people who mention the race issue or look at it as racist are the one's who are acting in that matter.
    Do not bring Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson into our beloved sport

  7. #7

    Default Re: Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

    Quote Originally Posted by RD149-2 View Post
    Was it racist when the Minnesota crowd booed for Angel Escobedo at big tens? Davis is a very charismatic individual and people love him or hate him much like the Yankees in baseball. The only people who mention the race issue or look at it as racist are the one's who are acting in that matter.
    Do not bring Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson into our beloved sport
    It was racism in this case because someone yelled out a racial slur.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

    Quick question: Usually during the NCAAs, there's an announcement given during each session that says any intolerant or racist remarks, chants, etc will not be tolerated. I do not remember hearing this announcement at ANY of the sessions in St Louis. Not that this sort of announcement would put a stop to idiot fans, but... at least it puts everyone on notice.


  9. #9

    Default Re: Racism In Wrestling: Retrogression?

    I agree with bluestater that since a racial slur was used, racism by definition has to be a factor. However, just because there was one incident of racism doesn't mean every fan booing is a racist. People have many different motives when they do that, racism admittedly among them. I think many of the CMU fans many have thought he was taunting based on the premature celebration and their position in relation the the camera Phil Davis pointed at. People are unlikely to take taunting well from anyone regardless of color.
    Just like the ongoing debate in pro football , I have no idea where to draw the line with "excessive" celebration. I think taunting fans (Mark Perry blowing kisses, etc.) is definitely out and a celebratory back flip, hug with coach or nod towards your fans is fine. Beating your own chest is a little "look at me" for my tastes but that is likely a personal sentiment rather than a generally accepted thing.

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