Stereotype Threat and Racism in Football

Allen “Al” Davis is one of the most well-known people in all of football. He was most known for being the owner and general manager of the Oakland Raiders football team. Davis grew up in an affluent Jewish neighborhood in Brockton, Massachusetts and was well known for having an outlaw image and would often go against the norm and wasn’t afraid to do it. As head coach of the Oakland Raiders starting in 1963 he was most famously known for his intense will to win and saying “Just win baby”. After coaching the raiders for three seasons he became owner and general manager of the team (Corkran). While owner of the raiders Davis had near absolute control over the team and was one of the most hands on owners in the national football league (NFL).

During his tenure as owner of the Raiders until his death in 2011, Davis was also known for his advances in civil rights and breaking of diversity barriers. He was the first NFL owner to hire an African American head coach in Art Shell and the first female chief executive, Amy Trask (Longoria). His commitment to diversity is still felt throughout the league. He was person that was not afraid the challenge stereotypes and the stereotype threat that many minorities felt in the white dominated sport of football. Stereotype threat is the internal oppression where a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their social group. An example of this would be that a black coach would feel that he would not be a good coach because of the negative stereotype that black people do not make good coaches. Al Davis sought to challenge that stereotype by bringing in Art Shell the league’s first African American coach. Davis took a risk in hiring Shell because of the stereotypes but as many people who knew Davis would say he didn’t care what color your skin was as long as you “Just win baby”. He also was very instrumental in the civil rights movement.

Davis also would use his team as a way to defy racial barriers and breakdown institutionalized racism and segregation in the south. Institutionalized racism is racism of any kind that creates inequality based on one’s race. It is specifically racism that can occur in institutions such as public government bodies, private business corporations, media outlets, and universities. Davis often fought to end these injustices by refusing to allow the team to play in cities where institutionalized racism occurred. One example of this is in 1963 when the Raiders were scheduled to play a preseason game in Mobile, Alabama, but Davis refused because of the state’s segregations laws at the time. Another example of his defiance was in 1965 when the American Football League, a precursor to the National Football League, scheduled its all-star game in New Orleans (Harrison). Davis protested the site because of the racial barriers in the city at the time. He was also very instrumental in moving the game to Houston that year.

Although Davis was viewed as a hardnosed person who dared you to ever cross him, many people don’t realize the advances he made in civil rights and diversity in the NFL. He often challenged the authority of others and lived by his own rules. Later in his career some of his decisions would be questioned and his arrogant and brash personality would often rub people the wrong way and would gain him many enemies and the criticism of many people in the NFL.  The thing that Al Davis will be remembered most for will be his use of football to justify what he felt was right and wrong in the world. He never had a prejudice about someone as long as they could perform and do the job right. He hired the first African American coach, Art Shell, the first Latino coach, Tom Flores, and the first women CEO in the NFL, Amy Trask (Longoria). He helped to make the NFL what it is today, one of the most popular sports in the world. Al Davis will forever be the man who changed football for minorities and women and opened doors for other minorities to enter and have success in professional football. Al Davis died October 11, 2011 in Oakland, California of heart failure, as his health had started to deteriorate in recent years (Harrison). As a testament to all that Davis had done a moment of silence was held in his memory at every NFL game the following week.

 

References

Harrison, James. “Al Davis Dead: Raiders Owner, NFL Legend Dies At Age 82.” Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/08/al-davis-dead-radiers-owner-nfl_n_1001379.html&gt;.

Longoria, Mario. “History: Latin-Americans in Pro Football.” 12 Deals of Christmas. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.profootballhof.com/history/general/latin-americans.aspx&gt;.

Corkran, Steve. “The Al Davis Legacy: Innovator, Fighter, Maverick – Inside Bay Area.”Home – Inside Bay Area. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.insidebayarea.com/raiders/ci_19071834&gt;.

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