I had planned to write something about the PBR event in Oklahoma City, but an article on the PBR website, “Mainstream Impact,” has so disgusted me that I want to address it instead.
The article was about the PBR’s early effort to get mainstream publicity. It describes two appalling examples of racism in action, treating them as humorous. Obviously racism is alive and well in the PBR, since apparently in all these years nobody has apologized for these incidents.
Keith Ryan Cartwright described how Ryan Seacrest had interviewed Ednei Caminhas and Ross Coleman for “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. Here’s the text:
“At the time, Caminhas’ broken English was spotty at best, so the show played along by subtitling his interview with “@#%^&@#.”
“That’s just one of the many times in the previous 19 seasons the PBR has been featured on late night talk shows…”
Played along? Played along with whom? With the rest of the bullies? The PBR thinks what’s important is that it was featured on talk shows?? At the expense of one of their riders? They think it’s funny that because English isn’t Ednei’s native language, they were so clever to trash him that way? What an appalling way to treat someone, let alone a World Champion! How would an American rider like to be disrespected that way on a foreign TV show?
The PBR could’ve hired a translator for an hour so people could hear what Caminhas had to say in his own language. That episode show so clearly how little the people in charge think of foreign riders as human beings— the riders with darker skin, that is.
Probably someone will respond to this post saying Ednei didn’t care, he laughed, it was just a joke, etc. Wrong. Jokes are supposed to be funny. And you know what? Even if the victim of an ugly “joke” denies its effect, the people who perpetrated it have shown their racism. What choice does the guy have but to “go along to get along”? He was outnumbered by a bunch of jerks.
The article talks about Justin McBride and Ross Coleman on a TV sports show. McBride said that the hosts made him so comfortable, “I actually had a pretty bad screw up.” Describing a fan who jumped into the arena while the bull was still running around, McBride said, “Yeah, this drunk Injun from in the stands jumped down.”
“Everyone on the stage was still laughing, so McBride never thought twice about what he had said, while Abbott [Denise Abbott, senior director of public relations] cringed and wrote in her notebook: MEDIA TRAINING IMMEDIATELY.”
“However, in the moment, the segment went so well the producers asked McBride and Coleman to overstay their scheduled segment and were featured for half the show that night…”
There are so many things wrong with this scenario, it makes me want to slap a lot of faces. If McBride’s comfortable, he lets his real ugliness show, is that it? Making a racist remark– and then making excuses for it— is not a “screw-up.” Fluffing a line or misreading a cue card is a screw-up. McBride’s comment was a nasty racist slur.
Media training?? That’s putting a Band-Aid on an abscess. This episode was not about media training, it’s about festering RACISM. McBride needed to have his tiny little mind washed out with soap. Polishing his act doesn’t get rid of the underlying disease.
The people on the stage were laughing; the show was going well, ha ha ha, because they obviously didn’t think of Native Americans as individual human beings. They joined in laughing at an ugly stereotype, and instead of bleeping McBride or cutting out that part of the segment, the producers chose the almighty dollar over basic human decency— never mind the millions of people McBride insulted!
McBride called his remark an “unintentional and honest mistake.” That’s the classic defense of every racist when they get caught out. There is no such thing as unintentional racism; it is never a “mistake.” A mistake is making a typo or spilling milk. Nobody makes a racial slur by accident. The fact that other people had to tell McBride what he did shows that he thinks racism is normal, and that he assumes everyone thinks that way.
The article says the producers “overlooked the slip and invited each World Champion to appear on the show for the next several years…” Overlooked the slip?? First of all, it’s not a “slip.” Mispronouncing a familiar word is a slip. Calling a person by someone else’s name is a slip. McBride’s remark was a deliberate choice, a rotten stereotype— and he thought it was funny! The fact that the producers ignored it shows that they had no problem with racism; they were racists themselves. If one of them had Native American blood, I doubt they would have “overlooked” what McBride said.
McBride called what he did a “blunder.” It wasn’t a blunder. A blunder is when you ask a fat woman if she’s pregnant. People don’t accidentally make racist slurs. Again, this is the usual racist defense. We’re supposed to think some hateful remark came out of his mouth without his consent. He’s one of those people who think you just have to be careful what you say— never mind what ugly stuff is in your head.
Characterizing McBride as the face of the sport makes me sick. He’s still a crummy commentator; he’s just out front because he’s cute and plays guitar and sings. Sort of. The article says, “McBride had clearly become the biggest star in western culture.” In whose mind?? How do you rank him above Ty Murray?
The article goes on to talk about publicity plans for the future, and about the young guns taking over from McBride, Coleman, and Chris Shivers. It mentions J.B. Mauney, Douglas Duncan, Ryan Dirteater, Stormy Wing, Chase Outlaw. According to Abbott, “Those are the guys who are going to take us there.”
Not one Brazilian rider is mentioned. Apparently they’re not welcome in the PBR’s media effort, even if they hold the top spots in the riding. Naturally, the excuse will be that it’s a language barrier thing. Uh, let’s see; Austin Meier does a national commercial saying two words— or rather, one sound and one word: “Uh…yeah.” I think any Brazilian can handle that.
The PBR is making minimal effort at providing translation during events; meanwhile they ought to be paying for English classes. What’re they gonna do when Silvano’s English lessons kick in? Or he becomes the richest cowboy in the history of bull riding? Or maybe even wins another world championship? Are they going to pretend he’s still not good enough? What’s wrong with using Adriano Moraes as a spokesperson? He’s quite a personality. Even more obvious, use the most photogenic rider in the PBR as a media star: Guilherme Marchi. Oh, dear; he’s Brazilian. We can’t do that.
He certainly couldn’t do worse than McBride. Check this quote: “As things evolved and as my riding improved, I think, my media skills improved too as I went.” “It got harder for me to do,” he admitted, “but, I will say, I never shunned from it.”
Shunned from it? This is the guy who’s your media spokesperson?
In contrast to the PBR’s “oh, what the hell” attitude about racism, when ESPN’s website posted a headline about Jeremy Lin that read, “Chink in the Armor,” and a furor erupted, ESPN issued an official statement on air and on their website, apologizing for comments made on ESPN outlets, and gave details about the disciplinary action it was taking:
“At ESPN we are aware of three offensive and inappropriate comments made on ESPN outlets during our coverage of Jeremy Lin.”
“Saturday we apologized for two references. We have since learned of a similar reference Friday on ESPN Radio New York… We have engaged in a thorough review of all three and have taken the following action:
• The ESPN employee responsible for our Mobile headline has been dismissed.
• The ESPNEWS anchor has been suspended for 30 days.
We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future.”
The PBR might want to make note of what they should do when another racist incident happens…because unless they conduct serious reality therapy with their people, it will.