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‘We were slave traders’

Barry Hearn’s racist language and Nick Bosa’s social posts betray their white privilege

Not a day goes by that the convergence of racism and sports is not thrown in our faces. Sometimes so with venom, often out of fear, many times mindlessly.

On Monday afternoon in London, boxing promoter Barry Hearn, founder and CEO of Matchroom Sport, drew a parallel between boxing and slavery as he discussed the fight between Dillian Whyte, who is black, and Oscar Rivas.

Referring to Whyte’s limited contractual ties with Matchroom, Hearn said, “He’s not tied up like the slave contracts of yesteryear — when I was running boxing, it was much easier. We were slave traders. We had these guys and they were working for us and we was the boss! The pendulum has swung. Now I have to say, ‘Mr. Dillian Whyte.’ ”

Mister, indeed.

Then there is the callous insensitivity of the morally bankrupt who will do anything to get ahead and stay ahead.

On April 27, President Donald Trump marched into the sports arena again when he reached out via social media and tweeted his congratulations to Ohio State’s Nick Bosa for being the second overall pick in the NFL draft.

Normally a president, especially one obsessed with being perceived as a winner, would call the winner, the No. 1 pick in the draft, to offer congratulations. Trump did not publicly congratulate the African American quarterback, Kyler Murray, taken by Arizona as the top selection. Instead, the president chose to play political football by congratulating Bosa, a fervent Trump supporter whose tastes seem consistent with the president’s base.

In the days before the NFL draft, Bosa was forced to remove several questionable tweets and racially sensitive content from his social media posts. Among other things, Bosa described Black Panther as the worst Marvel movie and Beyoncé’s music as trash and called Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, a clown.

According to news reports, the Ohio State All-American has been criticized for liking several Instagram posts with racist and anti-gay slurs. In subsequent media interviews, Bosa was predictably contrite and apologetic. When pressed about his social media indiscretions, Bosa suggested that the media blame it on his youth.

Youth was no excuse for Bob Arum. Last week, the 87-year-old promoter told reporters the reason he was having difficulty making high-caliber fights, especially with black fighters, was manager Al Haymon, who manages a group of outstanding, high-profile fighters.

This is an atmosphere that encourages a boxing promoter like Barry Hearn to admit he was a onetime “slave trader” in the business of boxing, an atmosphere in which a Bob Arum feels threatened by a black power broker who tells his clients to buy black.

Arum’s once formidable group of fighters has been depleted, and his attempts to make top fights have been frustrated by Haymon, who is black. Arum claims that Haymon, who long ago eclipsed Arum as a power broker in the business of boxing, is telling his mostly black fighters to stay away from white promoters.

​As he addressed reporters, Arum imagined a conversation between unbeaten fighter Errol Spence Jr. and Haymon, with Haymon saying: “ ‘Spence, listen to me. Don’t listen to the white guys. Because if you listen to the white guys, they’re going to steer you down the road … listen to me, brother, we’re part of a brotherhood. And if I’m telling you not to fight Crawford, I’m telling you not to fight Crawford.’ ”

If only it were that simple, black power brokers like Haymon having the muscle to direct black athletes to buy black. And black athletes having the consciousness to listen.

If that were the case, there would be more Colin Kaepernicks and more black athletes standing behind him. If that were the case and black consciousness were in vogue, Zion Williamson would have attended North Carolina Central instead of Duke; Cole Anthony, who recently committed to the University of North Carolina, would have shocked the universe by announcing he and four black high school All-Americans would attend historically black Texas Southern University.

That type of game-changing sacrifice and thinking is not yet a consistent part of the contemporary black athlete’s consciousness.

There is, however, an emboldened white consciousness, one that seems oblivious to the past and haunted by a misguided idea that black gain means white loss.

This is an atmosphere that encourages a boxing promoter like Hearn to admit he was a onetime “slave trader” in the business of boxing, an atmosphere in which an Arum feels threatened by a black power broker who tells his clients to buy black.

An atmosphere in which the president assuages the insecurities of his base by reaching over a young black man who finished first to shake hands with a young white man who finished second.

Not a day goes by in this America that the convergence of racism and sports is not thrown in our faces.

William C. Rhoden, the former award-winning sports columnist for The New York Times and author of “Forty Million Dollar Slaves,” is a writer-at-large for The Undefeated. Contact him at william.rhoden@espn.com.