Why They Kneel: Boston, Buffalo and That Pesky N-Word

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To examine the injustice and inequality that prompted some NFL players to protest during the national anthem, each week, for the remainder of the NFL season, The Root will explore the data behind racial disparities in the two cities represented in the National Football League’s premiere matchup—Monday Night Football.


Tonight, the New England Patriots travel to Buffalo, N.Y., to take on the Buffalo Bills.

I’ve seen two people get shot. Once, in college, I had to rush my next-door-neighbor to the emergency room when she sneezed so hard, her eye literally popped out of the socket. I listened to approximately 26 seconds of Taylor Swift’s rendition of Earth Wind & Fire’s “September.”

But by far, the worst experience of my life is the day I had to listen to a woman bawling on the phone as she explained, in a thick Boston accent, why she was not racist. Not only do Bostonians sound like God punched them in the throat as they were eating hot chowder, but the Boston accent might be the most unattractive accent in the world. It sounds ugly.

While it might seem “wicked funny,” it actually relates to this subject. In the wake of Donald Trump’s insult at athletes who kneel during the national anthem, I wrote an article using a photo from a New England Patriots game of a female fan who seemed to be jeering the protesting players. Immediately after the photo went viral, the woman somehow contacted me, begging me to call her. She explained that she wasn’t actually berating the players as the picture suggested, it was her friends.

Even though the image was licensed through our photo service, I took the photo down. However, I can’t be blamed for thinking that she disagreed with the players and agreed with the President.


After all, she was from Boston.

Boston is one of those places that just feels racist.

The baseball fans have been known to scream the n-word at opposing players. It was the last baseball team to integrate. Even Celtics legend Bill Russell said of the city:

It had all varieties, old and new, and in their most virulent form. The city had corrupt, city hall-crony racists, brick-throwing, send-’em-back-to-Africa racists, and in the university areas phony radical-chic racists …

Other than that, I liked the city.

Buffalo fans aren’t much better. Aside from their new franchise quarterback’s history with the n-word, when Colin Kaepernick started his first game after his protest began, it was in Buffalo. He received death threats and fans went to great lengths to voice their hate:


Unlike the previous articles in this series that used data to examine the discrimination and inequality in NFL cities, tonight we want to see which city feels more racist. Specifically, are you more likely to hear the n-word from someone who thinks Tom Brady is God, or from a person still steaming about Scott Norwood’s missed field goal in the 1991 Super Bowl?



Hopefully, we can agree that openly racist people will probably use the n-word.

While Boston has more than twice Buffalo’s population, 2016 FBI statistics show that the Boston Police Department reported 75 race-based hate crimes, compared to five in Buffalo. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism’s 2017 report says Boston reported the fifth most hate crimes in the country last year.


The Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate map shows three anti-black hate groups in the Boston area including the Daily Stormer and Vanguard America. Buffalo has one.

Winner: Boston

That Racist Feeling

According to a 2018 study by MassINC polling and the Hyams Foundation, 89 percent of Boston’s black residents feel that racism is a serious problem in the city, compared to 68 percent of the white residents, which means that—hold up, that can’t be right.


OK, we can stop here. When the vast majority of white people know racism is a problem, it must be really bad.

To be fair, there is no subsequent survey for Buffalo residents but it’s so cold in Buffalo that I’m sure the black people there would say that the weather is disrespectfully racist.


Winner: Boston

Hate Speech

Here is where it gets interesting. For a hate crime to be committed or for someone to feel racism, there must be someone to report the racism. But this is the place where Buffalo shines.


In 2016, Abodo scanned millions of tweets to determine which city had the most racist tweets. Buffalo made the top 10 list of anti-black cities coming in at number 8, while Boston placed fifth in derogatory language for women and took the gold medal for homophobic slurs.

And when The Root used Google Trends to analyze the use and searches for of the n-word in both cities, Buffalo averaged five more searches per day than Boston. A study of media markets found that Boston area residents use the n-word less than the national average while Buffalo uses it a great deal more.


Winner: Buffalo

Overall Winner: Boston

Boston takes home the World Series of Racism trophy only because the Alabama Crimson Tide is not a professional team. As always, the loser is me.


I can still hear that lady crying.


Not Enough Day Drinking

You forgot benching and eventually trading away the best quarterback they’ve had in years who actually got them to the playoffs for the first time since Bill Clinton was president, for the worst quarterback in league history (like for real) for no discernible reason other than the former was black and the latter was white.