Oklahoma City Thunder Superstar Russell Westbrook’s attitude toward the media has ranged over the years from harmless and humorous to “dangerous for the NBA” as Steve Kerr suggested.
“I just feel that we have to be very careful as a league,” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, via The Athletic. “We’re in a good place right now. Very popular. Fans love the game, the social dynamic, the fashion. But more than anything they love the connection they feel to the players. I think it’s important for the players to understand that it’s a key dynamic to this league. I don’t think this is a healthy dynamic, for this league, for any player, any team, any local media, any national media.
“It’s all part of the business,” Kerr said. “You’ve got to feed information to the fans. You don’t have to give a great answer, but it’s dangerous when you go down that path of no communication because one of the reasons people like the league right now is we have a lot of great players, really good guys who handle themselves well. So don’t kill that. You’ve got to keep that going. That’s a big part of the business.”
Westbrook slightly altered his “next question” approach following his team’s Game 4 loss Sunday to go down 3-1 in their first-round series with Portland, but his message remained the same.
The league hasn’t issued a fine or discipline to Westbrook, as he’s still performing his media obligations by showing up, not using inappropriate language or criticizing officials, and so on. But the optics, as many members of the NBA community see it, aren’t good.
Check out Westbrook’s responses — or, non-responses — over the years to questions asked by Berry Tramel during his postgame media availability sessions.
LAs the city of Winnipeg was preparing to host a large celebration to mark the beginning of the National Hockey League playoffs for its team, the Jets, a storm broke out over social media over a headline about the hockey street party.
Soon after, Black Space Winnipeg, an anti-racism advocacy group, tweeted a response to the article and posted a comment on its Facebook page. The group implied the words “white again,” along with the photo, would make racialized people feel unwelcome in the city. The group also suggested in a Facebook post the name of the playoff party (“Whiteout”) be changed.
“Have a look at these photos from past Jets pandemonium/fan appreciation. The four men wearing all white Jets outfits with pointed hoodies … remind you of anything?”
On Twitter the group wrote:
“This headline can carry a very different meaning depending on who’s reading it …”
Many people reading the tweet from Black Space Winnipeg did not take the time to think about the original headline of the article before they hurled back angry, misinformed or racist replies.
Some examples: “Go back to playing basketball and leave hockey alone” and “its (sic) ok to be white,” a slogan made popular by white supremacist groups.
I believe the angry tweets and Facebook comments can be classified into two main complaints: many people felt the term “whiteout” was never intended to be racist and that making that claim is political correctness run amok.
Words and traditions change because our world is not static. We shouldn’t be afraid to institute change as we become aware of errors made in the past. Decisions made 30 or even 100 years ago have been challenged and changed. Sports have also changed. McGill University recently dropped the name of its sports teams, the Redmen, because as McGill University’s principal said, it is “widely acknowledged as an offensive term for Indigenous peoples, as evidenced by major English dictionaries…we cannot ignore this contemporary understanding.”
She said the name “is not one the university would choose today, and it is not one that McGill should carry forward.”
Last year, the Jets won their first playoff series since the team returned to Winnipeg in 2011, making it all the way to the conference finals. This was a big event for the city. The parties attracted thousands of people to downtown Winnipeg. The crowds were loud and boisterous, but according to media reports, the atmosphere was friendly and a good example of the city’s community spirit in action.
“The whiteout” is a nickname for Jets street parties originated three decades ago. According to the CBC, the parties started as a response to the Calgary Flames’ “Sea of Red” during the 1987 playoffs. That was at a time when the Jets home colours were white, not blue as they now are, but the tradition has stuck. Although the Jets left Winnipeg in 1996, the “whiteout” resumed after the team’s return to the city in 2011.
On the surface, the term “whiteout” seems fairly benign and aptly describes the scene. Photos of the event confirm that it is indeed a sea of white. It looks like a blizzard, a phenomenon that naturally occurs in Manitoba winters.
It’s the second explanation — political correctness run amok — that is the most worrisome.
Many fans dismissed the concerns of Black Space Winnipeg and others, rather than considering why the headline might have been offensive.
I read some of the over 450 replies on Facebook and over 400 replies on Twitter. Many of the responses gave nonsensical responses that showed how little the reader understood the issue and how little they valued the conversation on racism in their city centre.
To demonstrate how ridiculous they thought the issue was, a few posters submitted ideas like having a white refrigerator makes them a racist.
But the headline, along with the photo of men in white hoods, can be interpreted as “only whites are welcome” message. The intention of the message may be innocent, but the way it is understood by the people will depend on their social location.
Black Space Winnipeg and other social activist organizations are asking Canadians to have conversations about race and to think about how we use language and how the way we label things and visualize them can unintentionally include and exclude groups of people.
The alleged perpetrator, who spewed his hatred of Muslim immigrants in an online manifesto, called U.S. President Donald Trump a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” and denounced the “decaying” culture of the white, European, Western world.
Although the carnage was condemned extensively across geographical borders, some reporting in England and Canada has been troubling.
As a PhD candidate, I look at how media outlets cover and translate news from the Middle East. In doing this, I explore how different representations of people emerge during news production and translation.
As the news of the shootings in New Zealand quickly unfolded, I took note of the way the event was covered in news media and how the coverage was being discussed on social media.
A mass killer also an angelic boy?
Although the Daily Mirror headline called the alleged shooter an “evil far-right mass killer,” the body of the text and photo tell a different story. The report says he was an “angelic boy who former associates revealed was a likeable and dedicated personal trainer running free athletic programmes for kids.”
Is that the best descriptor of a man who opened fire in two mosques as people prayed?
Although both acts of terror share a lot in common, the Daily Mirror portrayed the New Zealand mosque attacker as a onetime sweet innocent pure child, while the Orlando shooter was a demonic Islamic extremist.
The Daily Mail described the alleged terrorist as a “little blond boy” whose father died of cancer. Similarly, the Australian Courier Mail called the shooter a “working-class madman.”
Reporting on such tragic attack using phrases like “working-class madman,” “blond boy” and “angelic boy” masks the Islamophobic motives of the accused. The short-hand also minimizes his association to white supremacy and right-wing extremism.
A terrorist attack?
The attack was immediately labelled by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as “terrorism.” But an informal and initial examination of reports by the BBC and, in Canada, Global News and Ici Radio Canada, indicates that journalists at those news organizations did not use that term.
BBC’s editorial guidelines with respect to impartiality and terrorism coverage didn’t seem to be followed. Latifa Akay, a director at a U.K.-based charity group, wrote in the Guardian about an interview she did with BBC TV two days after the mosque murders. In the interview, BBC host Shaun Dominic Ley asked Akay whether she thought mainstream Muslim communities in the U.K. do enough to condemn Islamist extremism. Akay wrote:
“…somehow it felt appropriate for the presenter to re-establish an order — of Muslims as the aggressor and never simply a worthy victim. Where is the dignity of the dead, of the grieving?”
The interviewer’s question suggests that Islamist terrorism is an abominable violence, but anti-Muslim terrorism is partially instigated by Muslim communities.
The host relied on the most distorted interpretation of Islam, and by doing so implied that to be a Muslim was a significant factor in the actions of a far-right terrorist.
Research by communication scholar Wendy Naava Smolash compared media coverage of two high-profile anti-terrorism cases in Canada. Smolash found that the Globe and Mail and the National Post used racialized signs of otherness to characterize the incident and people involved. This type of narrative raises concerns on how news media may normalize state violence against Muslims and racialized minorities.
Such coverage reinforces specific narratives about what and who should be feared the most.
This media stigma and bias have real and devastating impacts on the daily lives of Muslims.
When white individuals commit horrendous acts, it seems news outlets portray them as people deserving of humanity. They are portrayed with complicated personalities: the little “angel” who went astray even after being revealed as a vicious and violent racist.
Those who share the same background as the alleged gunman — white and male — do not have to be anxious about the backlash against their community; they will not be asked to apologize for the unhinged among them; the will not worry about the looks they’ll get out in public.
But in the fallout of New Zealand, Muslims will have to contend with that.