Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Letting My Hair Down

Even though I was a fairly decent football player in high school, the NFL is easily my least favorite professional sports league.

The ridiculous violence that permeates every play along with the the master/slave dynamic between players and executives really make it difficult for me to enjoy the sport. When I watch the NFL, I see a high-stakes reflection of the worst aspects of the black experience in America. The tenable employment status, the horrible working conditions and the overriding of sense of exploitation are all too familiar.

Something just ain't right about pro football.

Most recently, I've been disgusted by the way the player's union has abdicated its responsibility to protect the interests of its members. The NFL's braintrust has initiated new policies that allow the NFL commissioner to suspend players indefinitely if they are arrested for a crime or involved in a serious controversy. No conviction is needed for the suspension, and players are not paid while they are on suspension.

These moves were made in response to media speculation that the league was being overrun by "thugs" who didn't know to be grateful for the "privilege" of playing professional football. These big black bucks apparently were sullying the reputation of the game and the commissioner needed to take a hard stance against them in order to reassure the mainstream American fan base that is the lifeblood of the league.

And that's one of the reasons why the NFL is now considering this new rule.

Look closely, the NFL, a sports league, is considering enacting a rule that prohibits its players from having long hair. A league built by a game that often shortens the lifespans of its players by at least ten years, and is overrun by physiques that could not be achieved without the rampant use of illegal steroids and human growth hormone, is worried about long hair.

Something is wrong there.

Look, don't hit me with the argument that every employer has the right to dictate how employees can wear their hair. As this link from The proves, employers can't just set arbitrary and discriminatory rules about hair. And make no mistake, this new rule will disproportionately affect black players because of their penchant for wearing their hair in long dreadlocks. Sure, some white players and other minority players will be affected, but they are collateral damage.

In my mind, this rule is for the unruly and unkempt niggers.

Oh, NFL supporters will deny this fact vehemently. They'll claim that the new rule applies to everybody, and that it's an effort to protect players from being dangerously tackled by someone grabbing their hair. They'll note that the new rule allows long hair as long as it doesn't cover the name on the back of a player's jersey.

And they'll be wrong.

Just like the NBA's dress code and like those nightclubs that don't allow white t-shirts or sneakers, this is a rule designed to make white folks comfortable. It's not about safety, it's not about helping fans keep track of the players on field by being able to see their names. It's about removing any whiff of "thug" from the NFL experience. It's about ensuring that NFL players don't resemble those dangerous negroes lurking behind every tree waiting to rape and pillage. It's about making white people feel comfortable with niggers killing themselves for their entertainment.


And you know what? I'm really not surprised. I'd actually have to be extremely out of touch with the realities of life in America to be surprised that rules are being enacted to make white folks feel good. What really bothers me, although it also doesn't surprise me, is that this story has not generated more outrage among black fans of the NFL.

Too many of us are becoming comfortable with these increasingly frequent reminders from mainstream America that being "too black" is unacceptable. (Just ask Rev. Wright about that.) Many of us even seem to have internalized that viewpoint ourselves. Far too many black folk just want to fit in, to have a good time, to enjoy what everybody else enjoys without all that extra drama.

I guess I must be Kay Slay.

Because, it's becoming much more difficult for me to blind my third eye and just enjoy things. I can't watch most television shows because the lack of acceptable and important black characters is appalling. Ditto with movies. I can't watch the news, or read most magazines because my experiences are conspicuously absent. And often when I watch sports I have to mute my television to get away from the inane and bigoted comments of sports announcers.

All black folks need to make a commitment to repel this increased push to make everything associated with black culture the default negative. Too many black folks are in the vanguard for the wrong side in this battle. We must speak up against all attempts to make wholesale assimilation the only path to success.

This hair thing is just the beginning.


Lolo said...

Man, I used to babysit for a retired linebacker and that man's body was WRECKED. As in, he moved like a man twenty years older after being in a trainwreck.

The NFL are some serious fascist, in my opinion. I got so pissed off when DeBartolo got fine for paying his guys bonuses, cuz the other NFL owners didn't want that sort of precedent set. The hell??

I personally LOVE the hair, the victory dances, all of it. Hello, half of it is about glorious spectacle, isn't it? Gladiators.

As to your evolving .... saturation? I don't know what word to use but I feel for your personal struggle to fit yourself into a place that allows you strength and enough peace to persevere as a parent and as a man. I don't want to overstep my bounds and presume to give you unsolicited advice and yet, here I go.

Please go and get Obama's book, Audacity. I've been reading it and it's really resonated in some strikingly personal ways due to his ability to lay out how he's managed to walk in this world himself. I'm just saying that it's helping me reaffirm some of the things that I see and believe and to know that there are others (cuz while I like to joke that I'm freaky, it's plain I'm not a freak) who are navigating this society that we are alternately cursed and blessed with is a comfort.

Okay, lecture over and bless.

WNG said...

As you know, I'm a big time NFL fan and have been since the cradle. I'm not saying I haven't been pissed at the league before, but this is some seriously stupid shit. Some of my favorite players have long hair and don't even get me strted about the differences between hippy-i-don't-wash-my-hair-dreads and the true african american dreadlocks which take time and care to create and maintain.
Now you've got my blood pressure all up. Guess I'm headed to the NFL message boards.

Big Man said...

Don't go over there WNG.

You know how they get down.


I read both of Obama's books, I actually liked the first one better than the second one. I know it sounds like I'm at my breaking point based on the way I write, but often times just the act of writing stuff down alleviates most of my stress.

As long as I avoid the comment sections on ESPN and on political stories I'm usually straight.

Danielle said...

I hear you. Sometimes I feel it's open season on blackness and it is. I have no doubt about it. This is a RACIST country. Period.

It's always in the back of my mind when I get lulled into a sense of contentment. I'm just pissed off all the time. I've had to tune out 90% of TV.

T.A.N. Man said...

I see where you're comming from, but I think the NFL rule is different from the Ruby Tuesday rule. The NFL is looking at requiring hair to be kept inside the helmet. Ruby Tuesday's said, these specific hairstyles--predominantly worn by black people--are unacceptable under our new grooming standards. That's a significant difference.

Though I believe many black ball players will be adversely affected by the rule, I think its fair. Shit, Palamalu well be affected, and that would be so if he were white or just simply Samoan (sp).

I agree that the professional sports machine is in a culture shock right now; given the influx of "urban culture" to the front lines of its image. But, I think the rule has the potential to affect everyone the same. This issue is that mullets are not in right now.

Plus, the league has passed a number of rules in response to injuries or the potential for injuries, including the horse collar rule. And, I doubt that any will argue that move was based in race, even though the main person affected is Roy Williams.

The biggest problem I see with the rule is that because I'm don't wear locks, I don't know how easy it will be for some cats to pin them up. McKenize and Ross have a lot of hair. I mean, you can't put a newsboy on under your helmet.

Trust me, I see the race issue ... but then I also see the league's trend with this type of rule--especially because they didn't say it way an image deal (like the NBA and Ruby Tuesday), but based it on safety.

Anyway, you have to admit, the NFL needs a image lift. Shit, Pacman Jones advocated the Titans getting some more thugs on the team. That's bad for business.

Big Man said...

I don't think the NFL needs an image lift. I think they need to do a better job of taking care of their current and older players and stop punishing players without due process.

But, I see your point on the safety issue. However, I think the NFL could prohibit playes from grabbing hair and deal with the safety issue. Forcing players to cut their hair is not the only solution.

I think the league has hidden a push to change the league's image inside of a push for safety.

T.A.N. Man said...

You misread the proposed rule--which was proposed by the Chiefs, not the league. The rule requires the hair to be tucked in, not cut. And just bannig the tackles does not prevent the tackles where the temptation is still present (e.g., Roy Williams' three horse collars this year)

Taking care of the older players and needing an image lift are two separate issues. But, both are needed changes. A professional athlete is still a professional.

Big Man said...

I said the hair of black athletes would have to be cut because it is impossible to tuck dreadlocks into a helmet and still maintain the integrity of that helmet. They are too thick and take up too much space in my opinion.

You're right about my misreading the article when it comes to the fact that the safety from the Steelers was tackled by his hair.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

I remember when Charlyne Hunter-Gault got fired from the network because she had the audacity to show up for work with her hair in cornrows.

She sued for discrimination and won.

When showing out authenticity, it's always going to scare someone, but not always the people they think. Now, the brothas wearing these unkempt Afros are pissing me off; if you're going to wear a 'Fro, keep it neat.

I've seen brothas with dreads, and they take care of those dreads. I work for the Federal Reserve and a whole lot of brothas are dreaded, in Armani suits, coming to work here in DC. If the Bernanke doesn't have a problem with it, neither should the NFL.

But, Big Man, just because a brotha can look gangsta, doesn't mean he always should. These guys get paid a boatload of money, and yeah, football players have it bad after they retire because their bodies are beat up (I know Jack Tatum and he hasn't been the same since "the hit" on Darryl Stingley back in 1978, but I digress) - but that doesn't mean they have to be in the street looking tore up.

If professional sports wants to implement rules, they should get one for tatoos; as in HOW MANY. Some players are looking like walking road maps, and don't know why.

OTOH, the NFL is the employer, and yeah, the employer can make rules on appearance, but up to a point. Anyone wanting to go to their "Roots" have to demonstrate they were already there before being forced to make changes.

There's several ways to look at this. I guess it's my home training, but my mother always stayed on my appearance, even when I was working as a secretary while in college (skirt and heels or pantsuit), and I still dress that way (tailored) to this day.

Professionals should look like professionals. I can't stand the New York Yankees, but when they are on the road, that team looks like Wall Street players in their suits and clean-shaven, too.

I've seen the Red Sox on the road, and they look like thugs - I'm surprised they didn't get detained and put on planes to Gitmo, cause they were looking like Al Queda on steroids.

Big Man said...

You're breaking my heart CPL?

I know you are not a sister with self-hate issue, but this hang-up about clothes and tattos is troubling. Look, I'm not a fan of seeing cats with their underwear showing either, but I don't take it as a personal affront either.

I think this hair thing is a problem. I think it's an overreaction by a team, and I think it's exactly the kind of rule the NFl would love to implement. I just think that they are trying to turn players into completely interchangable automans so that it's that much easier to replace them when they wear out.

I don't like it.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

No, Big Man, I would never break your heart that way. I just think we have a difference of opinion on the matter.

Yeah, the NFL wants to control the brothas on the plantation - the key here is that they choose to play football, the NFL is their employer. If they want to "do their thang", I agree, if they're off the clock, they should be able to do what they want. But when you're at work, your employer can have a reasonable expectation of how he wants his employees to look.

You know why I can infiltrate as successfully as I do, Big Man? It's because I know how to wear the uniform. I scare them when I open my mouth because I can sling it with the best of them, in college-educated fashion, too, and they don't know I've called them racist or bigoted to their faces until I've walked out the door.


Because I have on the uniform, and my elocution of speech is worthy of a Harvard graduate. I don't sound street, but I do know how to keep things real.

You could be right it's an overreaction by a team, but guess what? That policy has to apply equally to all players - meaning the cracker contingent of the team can't come in in flip-flops looking like they're heading out to a tailgate party. So if they strictly adhere the policy to the brothas, but the white guys get away scot free, NOW we have issues, known as DISCRIMINATION.

I don't like the policy much either (can't throw on my Levi 501s until Friday, cause that's casual day on the guvmint plantation) but what can you do? Not every employer is going to allow you to do what you want and still pay you. In the end, the brothas are going to be about getting paid, and they will do what they need to in keeping that cheddar coming.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

Self-Hatred. Big Man if you ever saw me on the street, I'd make you proud.

I'm told I'm a good-looking sista, but I'm also told I'm not what most people expect when they finally meet me in person. I guess because of the way I throw down on the blogs, I'm supposed to look like Angela Davis, complete with 'fro and the afro-pick with the fist handle sticking out of it (LOL).

My hair is too long for a 'fro - have to keep that stuff pressed and curled (ugh). But when I'm in the workplace, I don't want Mr. Charlie thinking I'm an ignorant Nigga who can't dress properly for the job (my mother's training, again). How many times I've been mistaken for the boss, because my boss wore a sweatsuit to work instead of a pantsuit or blazer, dress and heels?

The boss I have now dresses pretty tight. But my former boss (a gay brotha) had issues whenever we went to meetings together because he looked like a very rumpled L.L. Bean, and I was sporting Dana Buchman.

I could go on and on, but I wanted to reassure you I still put it down in the Fields, and I will always have your back, bro.

Big Man said...


You sound like my younger brother. Both of y'all have good arguments and a certain part of my heart agrees with you. But, I was always the contrary son, and I don't like folks telling what to do. Oh, I go along with the program on the plantation because I have bills, but I don't like too many constraints. But, I respect your reasonin.

Oh yeah, I wasn't saying you had self-hate issues, I was saying that I've read enough of your comments to know that could never be the case. My writing struggles when I type fast in these comments.

Raving Black Lunatic