P.K. Subban: Time to admit the racism issue in this
It’s a subject that the media is trying its absolute best to completely avoid.
Is one of the reasons P.K. Subban under so much scrutiny is that people don’t like a flashy, enigmatic black player in their hockey game?
Now, I’m not opening this to accuse anyone explicitly of racism. The showboating of Linus Omark provided a great bumper to make it clear this was a rookie/young player issue and had nothing to do with Subban’s colour. One might think my primary focus on this is the remarks by Darren Pang, where he was comparing Pietrangelo’s calm and respectful demeanor as “the white way” but I’m one to honestly believe that Pang is a good person with no racist fibre in his body. But wow, what a freudian slip. It’s a slip everyone is both cautiously trying to avoid and excitedly waiting for someone to make with vitriol behind it.
What we’re really getting is a lot of coded words being said from players and the media. Grant Fuhr might have liked it coded in his days (that magic two-syllable word was common for him to hear) but that’s another topic. Nothing was more apparent than the upcoming Sports Illustrated article by Michael Farber entitled “Montreal’s Mighty Mouth”. While it is a solid article from an otherwise flimsy opinioned Farber (his comments on the Reporters are only overshadowed by the elite stupidity of Simmons and Cox), there is one point in the article that seems to go completely unnoticed by a quick glance at being the crux of this entire article. A direction Farber could have taken it, had his focus from the start not been on promoting Subban and his peers as “The Generation of Yap”:
Subban is a one-man on-ice filibuster. Nothing salacious—”We wouldn’t allow that, because it’s disrespectful,” says veteran Montreal winger Mathieu Darche. No, mostly Subban harangues opponents with a playground you-can’t-beat-me braggadocio, which has prompted one NHL assistant to observe, “It’s almost like he’s an athlete in a different sport.”
Read the bold. What kind of observation is that? It’s the sort of thing that needs to be outlined and magnified under a microscope. It is the type of article in which Michael Farber needs to burn his source and out the assistant. And I say this because oh my, that’s barely racism under the cloak.
“An athlete of a different sport” would suggest he is saying that Subban’s behaviour is typical of a different athlete. Well, is it Bowling? Soccer? Golf? Volleyball? Formula-1? Tennis? Rugby? Baseball, even? No, I think we all know exactly what this assistant was referencing. He was referencing one of two sports that are primarily dominated by African Americans: basketball and football.
In other words, to break down what this assistant said, Subban is not playing like a minority in a white man’s game (which hockey is. Middle class white to be exact), he’s playing like a minority in a black man’s game (basketball/football). Somehow, celebrating like a football player or showing trick moves like an AND-1 streetballer is considered not the attitude we expect in the game of hockey. At least to that assistant.
There’s a reason why I have such a problem with such a comment. We’re dealing with one of the few black hockey players in the NHL who is under any form of microscope. They usually fall into the background as soft spoken like Wayne Simmonds or Anson Carter. Georges Laraque was very outspoken and charismatic but had a tendency to put his foot in his mouth more than anything. Subban is bringing a flash, flair and cockiness to the game. All that assistant to some NHL team had to say was, “It’s like he’s auditioning himself to be a pro wrestler in the WWE.” A comment like that would focus on the trash talking, showboating and disrespect that Subban is supposed to be bringing. Instead, he’s an athlete from a different sport. And by making such a criticism, and for it to go completely unfocused in the Farber article, it’s making a very clear point in Sports Illustrated, a magazine that prefers to cover those “different sports” a lot more than the NHL: This is the whitest game in sports, and unless you play by our rules, we tend to keep it that way.