Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Idiocy, Thy Name Is Jemele Hill

Life's been dealing me some lemons lately. It's been rough. My parents' basement is developing a mold problem, my Super NES isn't reading cartridges right now, we're out of Pop Tarts, and worst of all, my Kate Beckinsale poster fell off the wall and somehow got ripped in the process. Sigh. That's just the way it goes sometimes, I guess. But whenever I hit a rough patch like this, there are two truths I can always lean on to make me feel better:

1. "No matter how bad life gets, there is always beer." - Norm MacDonald
2. No matter how bad life gets, Jemele Hill will always be the perfect balance of entertaining and ignorant.

There was one particular hand gesture that came to mind when I heard the NFL will be intensely scrutinizing players' hand signals for possible gang signs next season. And let's just say the response I thought of is the same gesture Michael Vick gave Atlanta Falcons fans.

Let's just say that since you recently decided to compare rooting for the Celtics to being a Nazi sympathizer, you might as well just directly say that the NFL can go fuck itself. Go ahead, let it out.

I'm usually not opposed to a league being proactive, but in this case not only has the NFL gone too far, it has successfully insinuated to the public that the league is full of Doughboys and O-Dogs.

The second clause and the third clause there are redundant. That's like saying "not only are you ugly, you're also very unappealing to look at." Unless, of course, Jemele thinks there's another aspect of the policy that takes things too far, which is doubtful. Also- easy on the hyperbole, champ. The league is not insinuating that it's "full of" gangsters; it's insinuating that it's worried about the possible presence of some level of gang affiliation.

Sports leagues have a right to protect their image. Doing so often rubs players the wrong way, but sometimes it's what is best for the league and its players. NBA players rebuffed the league dress code, but ultimately it was for their own good. An undying allegiance to Phat Farm and Jesus pieces was costing the league and the players money at the box office. When corporate sponsors are uncomfortable and reluctant to spend, the players don't make as much as they possibly can. Besides, with any job, there is nothing wrong with instituting a standard of decorum.

Remember this- it will be very, very important.

But the NFL's latest move is not about decorum or even petrified sponsors.

The "Paul Pierce incident" (the impetus for this idea) is less than 2 months old, and no NFL games have been played since it happened. How do we know how sponsors would respond? How do we know how much negative media attention might develop over the first incident that resembles Pierce's that happens this fall? We don't. Thus, the league is being proactive. Shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

It's just a league overreaction, and a reminder to the players that they -- and not the coaches and owners -- are under the rule of a stern commissioner.

I think pretty much everyone involved in the league is aware of Goddell's personality and iron-fisted rule at this point. I don't think any coach or owner is happily parked on their ass, saying to themselves "Ah, good ol' Rog. I know he's on my side. I should be able to do pretty much whatever I want."

An NFL official told the Los Angeles Times this week that the league was focusing its attention on players' hand gestures because of an overblown incident involving Paul Pierce during the NBA playoffs. After a scrum with Atlanta's Al Horford in the first round of the playoffs, Pierce flashed what the NBA deemed "menacing gestures" toward the Hawks' bench and was fined $25,000. Pierce vehemently denied making a gang sign.

That makes it overblown, I guess. Now, no one's definitively saying that Pierce runs with a gang and would have shot and killed the Hawks if he could have. But what he did was certainly strange, needless, and overaggressive. The fine might have been excessive, but I'm not sure if I'd call the incident "overblown." It wasn't that huge of a story to begin with, and gesturing at an opponents' bench in the way Pierce did probably isn't within the bounds of good behavior.

(Side note- this is why I hate Boston sports- check out the video of the incident. Then check out this video from a local Boston sports station, which tries to get Pierce off the hook by documenting non-threatening hand signals he uses during pregame celebrations that are absolutely nothing like the ones from the incident. Now, maybe any city's local sports station would make a claim like this if one of their stars did something sketchy. But I doubt it. Just my opinion. Go fuck yourself, Boston fans besides those who read this blog.)

According to the Times, if a game officials sees a "suspicious hand gesture," he must alert the league, which will be hiring gang experts to review game tapes.

Right. Exactly. It's not like they're throwing down personal foul penalties or taking points off the board during the actual game. They're just looking into suspicious incidents to make sure there isn't anything overly negative going on.

"We were always suspicious that [gang-related hand signals] might be happening," Mike Pereira, the NFL's vice president of officiating, told the L.A. Times. "But the Paul Pierce thing is what brought it to light. When he was fined … that's when we said we need to take a look at it and see if we need to be aware of it."

What a normal, expected reaction from a business as powerful and profitable as the NFL. (No sarcasm)

Being more aware is generally a good thing, and I'm certainly not suggesting the NFL look the other way on something as serious as gang violence.

Except that by bitching about a new policy that will simply involve the league reviewing any suspicious signals, you're basically implying that they should be looking the other way. We have a label for this.

But by responding to a situation in another pro league, the NFL successfully planted a stereotype about its own -- namely, that the league is filled with Bloods and Crips.

Damn you, NFL, for being proactive! You know, I don't really think any given sport should start a steroid testing program until its athletes are breaking records at a furious pace. By instituting a program before any of its own athletes are caught, that sport is insinuating that steroids are a widespread problem. We all know that's not the case.

The next time a player throws up an ode to his fraternity in the end zone, Johnny Consumer is going to be thinking: "Drive-by."

Based on the Pierce incident, it's somewhat probable that that reaction would have happened whether or not the league instituted this policy.

The last thing the NFL should want to do is add to the perception that players are out of control.

Yes, it would be much better for them to bury their collective heads in the sand and insist that their sport couldn't possibly have any problems.

We can get that idea without the league's help, even though NFL rule breakers are the exception, not the rule.

This is one of the most batshit crazy things I have ever read. Let me simplify Jemele's stream of logic for you: Paul Pierce did something sketchy and got fined for it ==> Paul Pierce doesn't play in the NFL ==> Therefore, it's dumb for the NFL to institute a policy that responds to Pierce's incident ==> People already think the league is full of out of control players anyways

Don't read that too many times. You might get dizzy. I'm not 100% happy with the way it turned out, but I think that's Jemele's fault rather than my own.

Maybe the NFL decided now was a good time to reiterate its tough-on-crime stance because of some of the criminal shenanigans that have taken place the past week. Jaguars wide receiver Matt Jones was charged with felony drug possession, former Viking Darrion Scott received a three-game league suspension for putting a plastic bag over the head of his 2-year-old son, and Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was released from jail after serving time for a probation violation.

You are not helping your case. (Again.)

Time to show everyone who's the boss.

Yeah, actually, maybe it was.

What's lost is that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest gang affiliation was even an issue for the NFL.

Jemele is still struggling with the concept of proactivity (sic?). Hey, why worry about a potentially dangerous problem until it's a really legitimate problem?

When asked on Friday if the NFL had a gang problem, league spokesperson Greg Aiello quickly issued a strong denial.

What the fuck else is an official spokesperson going to say?

So why is the NFL creating smoke, when it's adamant there's not an actual fire?

You're absolutely clueless.

"What they've done is publicize the solution without giving us any information on the problem," said David Cornwell, an Atlanta-based sports attorney who once served as the NFL's assistant general counsel.

That's because they probably don't know much about the problem, but want the public to know that they're being proactive. Do you see a trend developing here?

All this does is ease a path to stereotyping. Even if a game official witnessed a "suspicious hand gesture," how exactly could the NFL prove intent?

They don't need to. They need to investigate and see if there really is a problem or not. If it seemed like there was a problem, they would probably discipline (or at least have a discussion) with the player in question. Shouldn't be too hard to fix.

In my old Detroit neighborhood, kids and adults use hand signals all the time, but they represent neighborhood pride, not gang activity.

That's fine, but maybe they represented different things to different people. Some of them probably were/are open for interpretation. And remember how Jemele approved of the NBA's dress code, because millions of dollars from sponsors and fans was at stake? Hmmmmm. If you really stretch your brain, you should be able to envision a scenario in which the same issues come into play for the NFL.

These days, players are so creative they invent their own signals. Doug Christie, possibly the most whipped man in the history of professional sports, used to send hand gestures to his wife, Jackie, after made shots and free throws. Jason Kidd did the same on foul shots as an ode to his ex-wife, Joumana. Steve McNair put up his fraternity sign on touchdowns.

All of these are perfectly acceptable. If these incidents happened in the NFL after the institution of this policy, the league would probably review the tapes, consult with the players, decide whether or not the signal was harmful to the league's imagine, and then either let them slide or ask the player to please stop. Not that difficult.

And sometimes, players merely copy what they see from hip-hop videos, unaware of what those hand signals mean. It's naive, but imitation is the root of pop culture.

Were the players to accidentally use gang signs they saw in music videos, the league's paying customers and sponsors would probably not care where or how said signs were learned.

The NFL's heart is in the right place, but there are times when even the most well-intentioned rule can be harmful. Case in point: David Dicks, the police chief in Flint, Mich., has come under fire for ordering officers to arrest people who wear their pants too low and expose what we'd rather not see. Personally I detest seeing young men "sag," because they're copying prisoners. But even I can't argue that Dicks' directive is unconstitutional and provides a convenient way for cops to racially profile.

I for one don't know what Dicks' (haha.... "dicks") motives were. But I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt here and suppose that this policy is actually about indecency rather than race. Just like this NFL policy is about protecting the image of the league, rather than race. Oh wait, this is a Jemele Hill column. I almost forgot. Everything is about race.

"I do understand what they're trying to do [in the NFL], but I don't think it's a move in the right direction," said Carl Taylor, a senior fellow at Michigan State University who has studied gangs, violence and youth culture for years and is the principal investigator for the Michigan Gang Research Project.

Why is that, Carl? Please explain your position.

"I also understand why they don't want guys doing [gang signs].

Oh, OK. You're not going to clarify. You're just going to contradict yourself.

It's also interesting because you open that Pandora's box. A lot of people don't know the Ku Klux Klan has signs too. Are you going to police all signs?

You definitely should. All signs linked to violent, hateful organizations, anyways.

"The mere fact that they've done this, we're looking at black and Latino athletes. It does have the undercurrent of racial stereotyping,

1. People of all races are members of gangs. There may be a disproportionate number of non-whites in gangs, but it's not like some kind of uniquely black/Latino thing.
2. If that is the case, it's not the NFL's fault. Not wanting to appear to be racially stereotyping is not a good excuse to overlook a issue like this. (Sorry about the double negative.)

but also youth culture stereotyping."

Hiding gang activity behind the pseudo-intellectually protective umbrella of "youth culture" is disgusting.

The NFL wants to make money and have a clean league.

And this is not a good way to achieve that goal, because....

But it has to be careful. In its thirst to appear tough, fans can be left with the wrong impression.

Remember when you said this?

The last thing the NFL should want to do is add to the perception that players are out of control. We can get that idea without the league's help...

You're fucking stupid.


Venezuelan Beaver Cheese said...

Jemele Hill makes my head hurt.

Andy said...

Dude..."Rog" is totally a racist. I know he's gonna sit in his office, and when when a KKK sign gets flashed, he's gonna know exactly what it is because he flashes it too.

Then again, he wouldn't ever see that sign being flashed, because he's only gonna be watching Blacks and Latinos to make sure they stay in line.

(Ok, done with my sarcastic rant)

Andy said...

Oh, and I forgot to add: "SMACK!!!"

Can you make a new label for that?

Anonymous said...

Is she really so stupid she doesn't see the reasoning behind this, or is she so caught up in looking for racism in everything that moves that she has her head up her ass?

Jeff said...

1. "In my old Detroit neighborhood, kids and adults use hand signals all the time, but they represent neighborhood pride, not gang activity."

Wha? I must be too much of a whiteboy because the only people I've ever seen using hand signals were deaf.

Also, Jemele Hill is terrible at writing with logic.

Martin said...

Can't "The Death of Logic" be one of Jemele's permanent tags? I refuse to actually read her articles now so as to keep the count down, unless it's a really bad one that gets ripped...then I must read to fully appreciate the ripdom.