The newsstand contained only one copy of the USA Today, but it was only this one copy necessary to induce a quizzical look from me.
|National Felon League... all because of profiling, right?|
The perfect front-page headline for "Black Friday," but it still seemed a joke.
It wasn't. [Black NFL players arrested nearly 10 times as often as whites, USA Today, 11-29-13]:
A police officer in Cincinnati watched a large black man get into his car and turn on the engine after being told it was illegally parked.
The officer thought the man was trying to avoid a parking ticket and told him to stop. So the man — Matthias Askew, at the time an NFL player — stopped his Cadillac Escalade, got out and was arrested in a scuffle with several officers. Police used a stun gun on Askew four times, alleging he resisted arrest.
A judge rejected the police account and cleared Askew of all charges.
"They tased him simply because he was a big black man, not because he did anything to make them fear for their safety," Askew's former attorney, Ken Lawson, told USA TODAY Sports about the 2006 incident.
For many black players in the NFL, it's a familiar scene. Of 687 NFL player arrests since January 2000, Askew's was one of 294 that came in a traffic stop, according to a USA TODAY Sports investigation. In a league in which 66% of the players are black and 31% are white, black players were arrested nearly 10 times as often as white players (260 to 28), accounting for 88% of those NFL traffic-stop arrests.
That percentage is consistent with the overall NFL arrest numbers: Of the 687 total player arrests in the USA TODAY Sports database that spans 14 seasons, 607 involved black players — 88%, a disproportionate rate sociologists attribute to several social factors in the black population at large, including a disproportionate rate of poverty and single-parent backgrounds. Those factors also include profiling, civil rights experts and NFL players say.
"We get looked at a lot more than the average Joe Blow because of what kind of car we drive or how we look," said Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss, who was not one of the arrestees. "You see a young, black kid in a nice ride, and chances are he's an athlete. Sometimes you get labeled."
It's not just an NFL issue. The national debate erupted anew this year with the Trayvon Martin case in Florida and the stop-and-frisk police policy in New York City.
The overall numbers on traffic stops continue to show differences along racial lines: A study released this year by the Justice Department showed a higher percentage of black drivers (13%) than white drivers (10%) reported their most recent contact with police came from being pulled over in a traffic stop. In a similar survey released in 2011, a greater percentage of black drivers (4.7%) than white drivers (2.4%) were arrested during a traffic stop.
The challenge with racial profiling is that whites and blacks generally perceive the issue much differently because white people have not experienced it, said Cyrus Mehri, a Washington, D.C., attorney who has studied racial stereotypes and worked on big race and gender cases.
A forgotten classic from 1998
"It's very, very painful to the African-American community, and the white community is not fully sensitized to how big of an issue this is," Mehri said. "The best thing we can do as a country is to talk about it and deal with it than to sweep it under the rug."
Police advocates argue that profiling is not the reason players get stopped and arrested. Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations, says when police decide to pull over a motorist they often can't see the skin color of the vehicle's occupants. He also says the decision to make a stop comes down to a simple question that does not involve race: Did the driver violate traffic laws or give police a reasonable suspicion to stop the car?
"Racial profiling is bad police work," Roberts said. "Situational profiling is good police work."
The American Civil Liberties Union defines racial profiling as "law enforcement and private security practices that disproportionately target people of color for investigation and enforcement."
"It's safe to say that goes on," Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt said. "Because people are human, and it is not just policemen. You can't just say it's cops. But they make their own judgments, and some of them use their power. ... It definitely makes you leery about where you go and who is watching for you. "
Britt has been arrested or faced charges in four traffic stops since 2010 — two for license issues, one drunken-driving case and one case of eluding police. He paid fines in two of those cases, was acquitted of the DUI charge and saw one license case get dismissed. Two of those incidents were in his home state of New Jersey, where the state police were embroiled in a scandal in the 1990s that resulted in authorities agreeing to a consent decree that expressly barred racial profiling in traffic stops. The decree was dissolved in 2009.
"I don't bring ... my (expensive) cars to New Jersey anymore," Britt said.
Reason for stop
To civil rights activists, another question should be asked first: Did the officer have reasonable suspicion to make the stop? If he didn't, they point out, there should be no questioning of the motorist and no search of the car without probable cause.
Mehri, the attorney, says racial profiling and guilt are not mutually exclusive — both can happen in the same incident and in the same pool of arrests.
Mehri says he thinks two factors are affecting the traffic-stop arrest rate for black NFL players. First, he says, an officer might see a situation he thinks is out of place — a young black man in an expensive car. Secondly, Mehri says some white officers might harbor prejudice against young black athletes. "There's no doubt in my mind these NFL players are being subjected to some level of discrimination," he said.
The USA TODAY Sports investigation found other differences in how authorities handled black players vs. white players during traffic stops:
About 6% of traffic-stop arrests for black players resulted only from charges related to their driver's license, such as driving with a suspended license. The records showed no white players arrested on such license charges.
Black players were pulled over at least 13 times for playing music too loud or having window tint that was too dark. By contrast, USA TODAY Sports found no examples of white players stopped for those offenses during the period studied.
Critics rejected the law enforcement claim that window tint prevents officers from knowing the race of a car's occupants.
"To heck with the window tint, all they (officers) have to do is put a license plate in a computer and they know exactly who it is," said Harry Edwards, a sociologist and consultant to the San Francisco 49ers.
Rarely were white players arrested on charges that resulted from a search of the vehicle. Twenty-three of their 28 traffic-stop arrests, 82%, were because of suspected intoxicated driving. For black players, 56% of traffic-stop arrests were because of suspected drunken or reckless driving. Another 26% were arrested or cited mainly because of alleged gun or drug possession, often discovered in a car search.Why do laws, devised by evil white men, even apply to black people? Especially black NFL players?
We live in a age where the criminal is the individual (or group) the media, academia, and the ruling elite automatically align - and sympathize - with, believing some malicious, shadowy white supremacist organization is still calling the shots from some hidden bunker.
Such is not the case.
Alas, without sports, it's hard to imagine where positive images of black males would manifest, outside of television programming and movies. Thus, it's no curiosity why the USA Today did not reach out to Jeff Benedict, who (with Don Yaeger) wrote Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL. Published in 1998, the best chapter of Benedict's work is titled, The Elephant in the Room.
It's this chapter that
The Race Card.
As Johnnie Cochran so dramatically proved, it can trump DNA evidence, outpoint any statistics, or be used to bluff any jury. It is the card that can make businesses, politicians, researchers, and even journalists fold when it is pulled. So daunting are the race card's consequences that the mere threat of its use can make important subjects seemingly disappear from our collective radar screens.
Why, then, should it be a surprise when the NFL, faced with mounting criticism of its players' off-the-field conduct, reaches for the bottom of the deck and plays the race card? (p. 165)
To examine this issue from a statistical standpoint, it is first necessary to look at the racial composition of the NFL. Over the past three season (from 1996 to 1998) the percentage of the players in the league who are black has ranged between 67 percent and 71 percent. Of the 509 players whose criminal histories were researched by the authors, 79 percent of them were black, 18 percent were white, 2 percent were of other races, and 1 percent of the players were unidentifiable in terms of racial composition due to the incompleteness of the public record.
The research revealed that of the 109 players who were found to have a serious criminal history, 96 (or 88 percent ) were black, 8 percent (7 percent) were white, 2 (nearly 2 percent) were of other races, 3 were unknown. The tendency here is to want to focus exclusively on the glaring discrepancy between the percentage of black players who had a record and white players who had a record. Without considering other factors, this produces very misleading conclusions.But remember: anything that disproportionately harms black people (though almost all of the harm is because of individual choices by black people that aggregate to showcase an undeniable dysfunction among this racial group) is an obvious result of this shadowy, malicious white supremacist group, calling shots from some destination located in parts unknown.
For example, while blacks represented 88 percent of the players who had been arrested, they also compromised 72 percent of the survey population. The authors turned their findings over to Professor Blumstein and asked him to compare arrest rates for black players in the NFL to black males in the general population. Based solely on racial comparisons (in other words, no account was taken here for income, education obtained, background, and so forth), Blumstein determined that blacks in the NFL are arrested at rates lower than black males in general population.
More important, since 38 of the 509 players in the survey were black and only ninety-six of the black players were charged with a serious crime, that indicated that the vast majority of black players were found not to have a criminal record. Put another way, the majority of the law-abiding citizens in the league are black, a point of paramount importance that seldom if ever gets emphasized.
The bottom line here is that there is no basis for framing the issue surrounding criminals in the NFL as a race issue. It is a crime issue. NFL players who are committing crimes are not being singled out because they are black, but rather simply because they are criminals. If the NFL were truly concerned about cutting down negative racial stereotyping in this area, it would simply rid itself of criminal players. This would not only cut down on the misleading images that get promoted through the media, but it would largely do away with the league's public relations problems associated with criminal conduct. (p. 168 - 169)
The NFL should lose its non-profit status immediately.