Hulk Hogan is easily one of most well known professional wrestlers in wrestling history. Over several decades, generations of wrestling fans followed and became fans of Hulk Hogan due to his wrestling persona, physical ability, and accomplishments. In the matter of minutes, Hogan destroyed his reputation after he used racial slurs in a conversation caught on a sex tape. The racial slurs include arguably the most controversial word in American history and are riddled in black stereotypes. World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. severed ties with Hulk Hogan following their discovery of Hogan’s comments. Unfortunately, comments that can be deemed as cultural or racial stereotypes happen at times in sports although sports has become more and more inclusive in terms of its participants.
A Hall of Famer of a different sport, former NFL linebacker Charles Haley, has been as known as much for his personal demons off the field as his success on it. He was known for erratic behavior during his playing days and eventually was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began to undergo therapy and take medication following his retirement. Haley’s most recent comments to San Francisco 49ers’ rookies at 49ers training camp would cause one to question whether he truly understands the magnitude of his comments. According to the San Jose Mercury-News, Haley said to 49ers’ rookies, “Why don’t you all act like the white guys? You never see them in the paper getting high or hitting people. Why don’t you act like that?’ They all looked at me crazy.” There are a few reasons why Haley’s comments might elicit a lot of quizzical looks from the 49ers’ rookies.
There are a greater percentage of black players in the NFL than white players although not as high percentage as a predominantly black sports league like the NBA or the predominantly white sports league like the NHL. The off the field conduct of NFL players like Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy to name of few have shined a negative light on the NFL over the past year but it is easy to forget that the fraction of NFL players who serve suspensions for personal-conduct issues is the very small numerical minority of black NFL players in the NFL. It is unethical to blame the individual decisions of a handful players to the hundreds of players of the same race who never have their names in the newspapers for the wrong reason. It is also a bad and dangerous idea for Haley to compare the actions of one race of people to another as if one group as a stronghold on moral or ethical behavior.
Athletes aren’t the only people in sports who can make foolish comments based on cultural or racial stereotypes. Sports radio host Colin Cowherd, was relieved early of his duties with ESPN following comments he made questioning the intelligence of Dominican Republic players. Cowherd comments about baseball not being “too complex,” then cited the abundance of Dominican Republic-born players in Major League Baseball as evidence while also mentioning that the Dominican Republic had “not been known, in my lifetime, as having, you know, world-class academic abilities.” Those unfortunate and uneducated comments from Cowherd drew the ire and frustration of Major League Baseball Players’ Association, who have demanded an apology. It is dangerous to link a group of people from a country like the Dominican Republic to lacking academic ability.
Human beings will always make mistakes with language. Professional sports is not different from any other occupation in that regard. However, comments that are made that group people based on racial and cultural stereotypes are damaging and narrow minded in a world where education is available in various ways based on technology.