You cannot read Ethan Strauss’s piece on the NBA’s rating problems without a subscription to The Athletic. Fortunately, you do not need to read it to have read it, because his 25-character tweet accurately synopsizes the 2,000 words behind the paywall.
In it, Strauss stretches himself into logical origami to determine that the NBA’s very public embrace of Black Lives Matter has cratered its ratings. This takeaway is dumb and myopic and yup, racist too, for myriad reasons, including the been proven fact that the sort of “American” so bothered by the NBA’s progressive branding and messaging that they’d refuse to watch wasn’t watching anyway.
But enough about that weird and boring piece! I’m more interested in how he framed it when sharing because it revealed a flaccid and gutless and editorially flawed linguistic tic that so many—too many—white journalists and pundits and writers possess. And that’s referencing a vague and amorphous “America” when they clearly just mean “white America.”
Of course, “America” is not the only word that exists, for these white people who are paid money to know what words mean, to say “white people.” Millennials, Christians, Evangelicals, Red-state voters, Rust Belt voters, Suburbanites, Soccer moms—the list is so long that I made a list and only stopped at 40 because I wanted to hoop. The reason why this happens is simple: White Americans are, to them, the baseline Americans. The standard-issue Americans. The American-est Americans. To them, “white people” and “American” are as interchangeable as “Clorox” and “bleach.” People who are not white are the ones who require the qualifiers.
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Also, this is just aggressively bad writing, reporting and thinking. Imagine, for instance, that instead of naming “the NBA” in his tweet, Ethan Strauss referred to it as “a professional basketball league.” (“On a professional basketball league losing America.”) That would be goofy as fuck, right? You’d give yourself an ulcer wondering why he’s working so hard to not just say “the NBA.” It’s like going to Wendy’s and asking for a “burger.” Refusing to name white people is just as goofy and weird and dumb. And just think of how much better and heavier and more precise their work would be if they performed the radical act of literally just naming the thing they’re actually talking about.
I’ve reached the quota of words I planned to devote to this topic today. Goodbye!