The Mississippi welfare scandal, Brett Favre and privilege


Washington
CNN

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The welfare fund scandal involving Brett Favre has left people reeling.

A series of texts show Pro Football Hall of Famer Phil Bryant, a Republican, was lobbying former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant for funding to build a volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi — Favre’s alma mater and where his daughter played the sport. time – even though Favre was told that misusing state funds was illegal, according to new court records. Funding for the project was part of a multimillion-dollar investigation of Mississippi Department of Human Services public welfare funds.

It is not clear how the issue can happen. But it has already rekindled a debate about a long-standing pattern: in the wake of the scandal, white athletes seem to be treated differently from their black counterparts.

“People think there’s more vitriol directed at black athletes when they do wrong or look messed up, and I think that’s fairer. As long as nobody’s rooting for Favre, there’s not that loud cry that he has to lose everything.” said journalist Jemele Hill on Twitter.

“People almost always want a pound of flesh when it comes to Black athletes, and it’s often impossible. So sometimes it’s not a question of coverage, but tone.’ he added.

To explore the issue further, I spoke with Harry Edwards, a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley whose research interests include race relations and the sociology of sport. He is also the author of the 1969 book “The Revolt of the Black Athlete”, about activism among black athletes.

Our interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What did you think when you heard about the Brett Favre scandal?

Well, on the one hand, I knew Favre’s history, even though he was playing in the league, so at that level, I didn’t think something like that was beyond his capabilities, let’s say.

On the other hand, there is a lot of publicity surrounding this case. At this point he has not been charged with anything, let alone convicted of anything. But he has become the face of this tragic situation.

The people who should be in front of this situation are the former governor, those who manage the funds and so on. But instead, because of his popularity, Favre has become the poster boy for ripping off the poorest people in the country.

Jemele Hill recently pointed out that black athletes often face more vitriol after an allegation of wrongdoing. Would you agree that this is an issue?

Absolutely. We can see this situation as part of the fabric of white privilege in US society. When a white athlete behaves in an abhorrent manner, the incident is usually sports, and that’s common when you’re dealing with celebrity sports. But it is also bleached. That is the element of white privilege.

For example, people talked for decades about Jack Johnson – the first black American world heavyweight boxing champion – and his flirtatious and casual relationships with women. (He had several interracial relationships at the beginning of the 20th century).

If you compare Johnson to Babe Ruth (a legendary white baseball player who was involved in many issues), you couldn’t get a credit card between the two of them. But Ruth was not a disappointed athlete; it turned white It became a state of masculinity, prowess, virility. But it became a degenerative problem with Johnson. So this goes back decades. There is bleaching that goes along with the sports wash.

Sports laundry: It’s a term I don’t know. Could you say more about what it means?

Athletic celebrity involves the investment of many people. I mean, what kind of loyalty does it take to wear a jersey with someone else’s name on it? This kind of loyalty is very difficult to subvert, unless it is perceived as something of a higher political, religious, personal or racial sentiment or value.

For example, people wearing Colin Kaepernick’s jersey started burning when he took a knee against police violence against black people. Something that involves ripping off poor people, especially poor black people? I don’t think people are going to burn Favre’s jersey because of it.

To me, it seems like one of those situations where sports trumps common decency, especially because the athlete was victorious. That’s what people buy.

What will you see in the next few weeks?

It will be interesting to see how it all evolves and how long the issue remains a focus of conversation, especially since an undervalued team is being victimized and the scandal involves one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. After all, that’s what I’m looking for. It will also be interesting to see how the NFL responds.