NCAA Basketball: Challenging Racial Stereotypes

Ben Quazzo Co-Editor in Chief Two weeks ago, on April 5th, Butler and Duke’s basketball programs took to the court in Indianapolis to compete in one of the most anticipated college championships of the decade. The stadium was electric. The players were focused. All the normal characteristics expected to be found at a national championship game. Yet something was different. Even the most naïve college basketball fan noticed that something was a little off-kilter. The oddest thing was that the irregularity didn’t have anything to do with basketball. Instead, the topic was geared toward race. Five of the ten starters that took the court that night were white. This might not seem like an alarming statistic on paper, but the truth is there hasn’t been that many white starters on the floor of the NCAA Championship game since 1998. Even though race in basketball is often thought of as a taboo subject, there is no question that this past NCAA tournament sparked plenty of hushed discussions about it. The tournament challenged many negative stereotypes about white players lacking speed, athleticism, and jumping ability. Sam Austin, a Latin junior, played for many years on a Chicago area AAU team and now plays for the Latin varsity basketball team. “Many people label white players as bad dribblers and poor jumpers. They can shoot, but aren’t as athletic as African-Americans,” said Austin. These stereotypes can crush a player’s dreams long before he or she even reaches high school. For Austin, these labels have not hampered him from trying to be the best player he can be. He admired the great performances put on by the likes of Jon Scheyer and Gordon Hayward, two stars from Duke and Butler’s programs. Both players will end up in the NBA. For Latin, a school with a majority of white students, the message that should be taken away from this year’s March Madness is simple. Being white is not a good enough excuse to give up on one’s basketball dreams. NBA stars like Jason Kapono, Steve Nash, Tyler Hansbrough, and Kirk Hinrich never let the negative stereotypes get in their way of becoming great. And now, half of Duke and Butler’s rosters show that skin color is not the deciding factor in basketball domination. Hard work, on the other-hand, might just be factor #1.]]>