Chris Henry’s Death Exposes Double Standard

Toxicology reports are back for NFL wide receiver Chris Henry. The results show that Henry died in Charlotte last December from a fractured skull and other head injuries, which occurred when he jumped or fell from a moving truck; his fiancée Loleini Tonga was behind the wheel. The story made national headlines and kicked off a media frenzy about Tonga’s innocence or guilt.

High-profile domestic disputes, especially those involving NFL players, aren’t new in Charlotte. Former Carolina Panther Ray Carruth murdered the mother of his child more than 10 years ago. And in 2003, Deidra Lane killed Carolina Panthers running back Fred Lane, alleging domestic abuse.

Folks took a particular interest in the Henry case because the athlete, who experienced some problems early in his career, had supposedly turned his life around, winning his spot back on the Cincinnati Bengals — a team that had previously dismissed him for bad behavior.

According to witnesses, Tonga was fleeing a domestic dispute with Henry at the couple’s home. Henry jumped into the back of the pick-up truck when Tonga drove off and, somehow, he was ejected from the vehicle. Authorities ruled the incident an accident, declining to press charges against Tonga.

When the accident first happened, comment threads surfaced on the Web calling Tonga a murderer. Some people said: “Had she just pulled over, he would be alive.” I thought to myself, “Had he been able to control his emotions and not chased her out of the house and jumped on the back of the truck when she left, he would be alive.”

I heard and read that Tonga was driving at breakneck speed, purposely making him fall off of the truck. Investigators found that Tonga was not traveling more than 19 mph. I thought perhaps Henry’s anger, adrenaline or superior physical condition contributed to his “jumping” from the truck. I remember trying to reserve judgment until more facts became available, even though in my mind it was clear that it was a dispute gone wrong.

But when trying to chat about it with friends, male and female, the same tone crept into the conversation: Tonga, who was called every name but a child of God (including “bitch,” “whore” and “gold digger”), was supposedly this venomous woman who plotted to trap Henry and purposely kill him. Really? It’s always interesting that people think athletes are so much better than the women they date. But I digress.

When I asked folks who spoke so harshly about Tonga what was driving their anger, many simply stated that they were giving Henry the benefit of the doubt. I thought to myself: “Why weren’t they willing to give Tonga the benefit of the doubt?” One friend said Tonga left him on the side of the road, which shows that she knew what she was doing. But Henry, who ran out of his house and jumped in the back of her truck, didn’t know what he was doing? Another colleague stated that if Tonga had stayed in the house or not driven off, Henry would be alive. I wondered aloud, “But would Tonga be alive?”

It was clear that very few people cared about this woman because she wasn’t an NFL player. In their minds, she was some “groupie” who bagged a professional athlete and killed him for no reason. Folks were blind to the facts that were coming out about the case. With all of that selective hearing and reading, it was determined that Tonga was a horrible person. I suppose if a woman isn’t a pop superstar, then it doesn’t matter if she’s involved in a volatile or abusive romantic relationship. But that’s another article.

The irony of the situation is that this type of thinking about women informs domestic violence. Women as evil temptresses who lead men to do dubious things is part of the world’s historical narrative in all aspects of society including religion, education and popular culture. It is communicated to us every day that women are objects of desire who cannot be trusted. When women try to escape this way of thinking, they are usually punished … much like Tonga. And it is not just men who think like this — it is also women, many of whom raise batterers.

With the recent findings that Henry was not intoxicated or on drugs during the incident, the hating on Tonga has resumed. The failure to address Henry’s role in the domestic dispute that cost him his life has resumed as well. While domestic violence incidents are present, real conversations about the problem are nonexistent.

This incident made me think about the countless number of domestic disputes that happen in Charlotte that don’t get national news coverage. Last year 617 women were admitted to Charlotte’s Shelter for Battered Women. More than 2,000 were turned away. So what are victims to do if there is nowhere for them to run?

A campaign is currently underway to build a larger battered women’s shelter, which is good and bad for obvious reasons. Unless we get a handle on this epidemic, clearly there will be plenty of high- and no-profile cases. As evidenced by the Henry case, no one wins when it comes to domestic violence.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is serves as cultural critic for Creative Loafing. She is also an editor-at-large for TheRoot.com, where she writes the Buzz Section and feature stories.

Soccer Fever Rises Worldwide but Dips in Charlotte

World Cup fever is in full effect in South Africa. Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about it. Commercials, music videos, special songs on the radio, official jerseys and soccer balls all sport World Cup-related imagery. TV shows of all genres have written the countdown to the 2010 World Cup into their story lines. South Africa’s Department of Education has even designated Fridays as “Football Fridays,” where teachers, administrators and students, most of whom usually wear uniforms, are allowed to don World Cup jerseys and T-shirts.

As I travel throughout South Africa, it is not lost on me that one of Charlotte‘s most interesting soccer-oriented organizations, Concrete2Green, is in jeopardy. Currently the group is housed at Eastland Mall, which will no longer exist in a couple of weeks — so they will be, for all intents and purposes, homeless. It’s tragically ironic that an organization dedicated to bringing soccer to the inner city is losing its lease during the month of the most anticipated World Cup in recent history.

Concrete2Green teaches kids (among other skills) the art of futsal, which is a variation of soccer that is played indoors on surfaces different from traditional grass fields. The ball used is smaller with less bounce than a regulation soccer ball. There are two teams, with five players each, and one goalkeeper. The team is allowed unlimited substitutions for team players. The game is judged based on improvisation, ball handling and the ability to pass in tight spaces.

The goal of Concrete2Green is to bring soccer to communities that wouldn’t normally have access to traditional soccer fields, mainly those in urban settings. Its “higher calling” was to take abandoned spaces of recreation and revitalize them with sport, creating a community where youth have a space to share, communicate and, of course, play soccer. Through this, the hope was to create players who would then go on and compete in traditional soccer (football) tournaments or become a part of the growing futsal movement across the world.

It is with this in mind that Akbar Majeed and Irvine Smalls Jr. started Concrete2Green, and they accomplished their goals, bringing together black, brown and white communities in Charlotte. On any given day, they would have 200 or more players in and out of the Eastland Mall location with no drama — which was much needed at that troubled mall. It is truly sad thinking about the possible demise of this organization — because of the loss of its primary home — that has managed to accomplish in a short period of time what many have not been able to do in decades, through the lens of sports.

Sports has always been a space where social and political issues are either highly charged or slowly disappear. To give young people who would not ordinarily have the opportunity to explore soccer in any form a chance to develop skills used on and off the field is important and significant. As I watch Bafana Bafana (South Africa’s national soccer team) on every channel, their team is made up of people from their country. The same is true of Brazil, Portugal, Nigeria and Germany, to name a few.

When the United States rolled out its 2010 World Cup roster this week, only four of the 23 players on the team play for American soccer clubs. I thought to myself that organizations like Concrete2Green are necessary if for no other reason than to develop a pool of homegrown soccer players who can represent our country on the world stage. Even though futsal is different, it is based on soccer, so it is not out of the realm of imagination that traditional soccer players may develop from this sport.

As I am surrounded by 2010 World Cup mania, my mind is on Charlotte and thinking about the role that we could have played in creating homegrown talent that could possibly compete on the international level one day. As is the case in our fair city, there’s loads of talent in a number of categories, but our ability to nurture and grow this talent is a challenge for us. Futsal/soccer are not immune to this challenge.

In the United States in general, we get behind so many sports — even extreme sports are wildly popular. It is a mystery to me why soccer doesn’t make the cut, particularly with so many immigrants from countries that live and breathe soccer (aka football). Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have some of these young people from Concrete2Green travel to South Africa to witness the 2010 World Cup in person? (It’s the first time that the World Cup has been hosted by an African country and judging by the growing challenges leading up to the tournament, it may be the last.)

Whatever the case, losing Concrete2Green at this time would be a sad thing — particularly as the rest of the world celebrates what we’ve let go.

Nsenga Burton serves as cultural critic for Creative Loafing, where she examines pop culture through the lens of race, class and gender. She is an editor-at-large at TheRoot.com, where she writes the Buzz section and a bi-weekly column.

Forgotten American Hero: Larry Doby

ehind every great hero is another great hero. Have you ever heard the name Jackie Robinson? You’re probably from another planet if you haven’t. Ever heard the name Larry Doby? Well, you’re probably from this planet if you haven’t.

On June 1, 1947, exactly 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball, a man named Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the American League, taking the field for the Cleveland Indians. A native of Camden, S.C., Doby became the first African-American to play for the American League. While he changed history, moving baseball and society forward, his legacy has been obscured by America’s fascination with Jackie Robinson. Make no mistake about it, Robinson is a true American hero and icon; but Larry Doby deserves to be a part of America’s collective memory about baseball because of his contribution to the sport and subsequently American society.

Like Robinson, Doby played in the Negro Leagues. Raised in Paterson, N.J., Doby joined the Newark Eagles at age 17, leading them to the Negro League Championship in 1946. In 1947, he was signed by the Cleveland Indians and in 1948, Doby became the first black player to hit a home run in the World Series between Cleveland and the Boston Braves, which is the last time the Indians held a World Series title.

According to MLB.com, “Doby was a seven-time All-Star who batted .283 with 253 home runs and 970 RBI in 13 Major League seasons. The power-hitting center fielder paced the American League in home runs twice and collected 100 RBI five times, while leading the Indians to pennants in 1948 and 1954.”

Like Robinson, Doby suffered many injustices by being jeered by spectators, banned from hotels and restaurants and on the receiving end of threats and hate mail. Robinson received support from his fellow players Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Ralph Branca, but Doby received little to none from his.

Through it all, Doby endured, having a fantastic career in baseball. He was the third American to play professional baseball in Japan’s Nippon Professional League. After retiring, he was a coach for the Montreal Expos and Indians, becoming manager of the White Sox in 1978. He was the second African-American to become a manager in Major League Baseball, ironically behind Frank Robinson, who was the manager of the Cleveland Indians. Doby was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and passed away in 2003.

While Robinson is celebrated, the contributions of Larry Doby are overshadowed at best and overlooked at worst. This is the tragedy that occurs when we allow others to choose our heroes for us. Before you start the hate mail, Jackie Robinson is undoubtedly one of the greatest American figures in modern history. I’m not trying to take anything away from him.

What I’m saying is that often when one person or story is held up, another is held down. Rosa Parks was not the first woman to refuse to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Ala. Nine months before her, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on the same bus system. Parks’ act of defiance sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which is why she is referred to as the “mother of the civil rights movement.” While Rosa Parks is part of our American history, how many people have even heard of Claudette Colvin?

Thomas Edison is credited with inventing the motion picture camera. While he was a great scientist, inventor and entrepreneur, his assistant William K. Dickson actually invented the motion picture camera — the kinetograph. It is Dickson’s celluloid film that set the standard for 35 mm that is still used today, but it is Edison who gets the credit because he owned the patents. It is Edison who is taught in classrooms, while Dickson is largely overlooked or ignored.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’m sure you get the gist. The point is that our society is so wedded to stories of triumph, that we often overlook those who were directly and indirectly involved with those triumphs.

Change and progress does not happen in a vacuum. When change actually appears, there has typically been something else driving it. Sometimes that “something else” is actually someone else. Typically, media institutions and those imbued with power dictate our collective history and choose our heroes. Often we follow along, not challenging or calling for the inclusion of others who have made a difference in our lives.

While many wear Robinson’s No. 42 each year to commemorate breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, I’m going to rock my Larry Doby No. 14 Cleveland Indians jersey. Not in protest but in celebration of the collective effort it took to change baseball and society itself.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is cultural critic for Creative Loafing. She writes the blog Tune N and is a regular contributor to TheRoot.com.

2010 CIAA Tournament: A Perfect Storm

The CIAA has finally arrived. The 65th annual Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament took over the Queen City last week as the five-day tournament returned for its fifth year in Charlotte.  The CIAA is the premiere basketball conference for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Over the years, it has evolved from a regional basketball conference to a national destination for upwardly mobile African-Americans due to numerous special events, activities and conference basketball.

If the conference is in its fifth year of operation in Charlotte, why has it finally arrived? Because finally the City of Charlotte has gotten over itself and realized what we’ve been saying all along – the college educated black folks that attend CIAA are here for a cultural experience that includes networking, socializing, spectatorship and fellowship.

The trepidation, with which Charlotte greeted the CIAA conference in 2005 when it first arrived, has largely been replaced by open arms, with local businesses and venues literally rolling out the red carpet for conference attendees.  This year felt different from previous years. Most businesses were welcoming, events were well planned, organized and executed and attendees seemed to be delighted with the outcome.

Some would argue that Charlotte businesses and venues were so jovial and welcoming because of declining dollars throughout the year due to the recession.  There is money to be made during the tournament, which has been consistently proven, even during rough economic times.  According to the conference website, CIAA accounted for the direct spending of over $25 million and a total economic impact of $38.2 million dollars over the one-week period in 2009. Neither the recession nor bad weather kept the dollars from rolling into the city during last year’s tournament.

This year’s tournament had even more events and much better weather, so the anticipated economic impact is tremendous from this year’s receipts.  According to veteran live music promoter Michael Kitchen of The Sol Kitchen, “Last year’s tournament was negatively impacted because of the bad weather. Even though there were a lot of people here, some promoters felt the heat because there were fewer attendees than during previous years.  Those that came spent less money. This year was much better because people came out in droves because the weather was much improved, which helped to make this year’s tournament one of the best ever financially and socially.”

April Garrett, 31, of Miami shares Kitchen’s sentiment. “I went to North Carolina A&T, so I always attended the conference. In Raleigh, everything was spread out and there wasn’t a lot to do. This year’s conference is the best because there is so much going on – parties and events and Charlotte is such a nice city.” First-time attendee, Craig Robinson, 31, of Washington, DC says, “I came down because I heard a lot about it from my friends. I think it’s cool because the conference has a small time flavor to it, but it is a major event.  It is great to see African-Americans coming together to support HBCUs and you can’t beat the networking. Everyone is getting along, which is great.”

Like the city of Charlotte which is becoming more and more diverse in terms of its influx of young, urban professionals, the CIAA tournament is attracting people from all over the country. Dallas, Miami, DC and Chicago boasted strong contingencies. Event planner Felicia Gray who was co-hosting a party with the Digital Divas at Zink stated, “It surprises me the number of people from Chicago and Dallas. We’ve met three people tonight that are from Minnesota. It’s amazing.”

CIAA caters to a broad range of African-Americans. It is one of the few places where you can find African-Americans of various generations intermingling and sharing space, which lends itself to the huge number of events that are ongoing during the conference. CIAA events included the Ford Fan experience at the Charlotte Convention Center, Food Lion Women’s Health & Wellness Symposium and Laugh 4 Life in the Time Warner Arena. Performers included En Vogue, Ginuwine, and local artist Lacee who sang the national anthem on Saturday.

CIAA added Chowan University to the conference this year, which shocked the hometown favorite JCSU Golden Bulls, by knocking out the two-time defending champions in the first round.  The conference also welcomed TV ONE as a television partner, which aired the men’s quarterfinal and semi-final rounds of the tournament, which was a first for the CIAA. The St. Augustine Falcons won the men’s tournament and the Lady Broncos of Fayetteville State won the women’s tournament.

Basketball games and CIAA sponsored events were buoyed by events hosted by celebrities and entrepreneurs. Rick Ross, Allen Iverson, Greg Oden, Melanie Fiona, Michael Vick, Diddy, Lil’ Kim, Doug E. Fresh, Chuck Brown and MC Lyte were among the celebrities in attendance who either hosted or performed.

Perhaps the most anticipated celebrity party of the weekend was Taylor Massey Entertainment ’s (TME) party at the Ramada Hotel at Woodlawn, hosted by Diddy, who made an appearance around 1 a.m. The event was well attended and had lots of buzz and energy, recovering nicely from a shaky start due to organizational challenges.

The Sol Kitchen’s Friday party at Mez was packed, with partygoers singing along to every cut that Grammy award-winning producer and DJ 9th Wonder spun. While the party was fantastic, there was gouging going on in V.I.P. with bottle service starting at $800.  If folks wanted to pay those prices, they would party in Las Vegas, Miami or New York. Part of the charm of Charlotte is the affordability of the city, which seems to disappear during CIAA when hotels raise rates exponentially.  In addition, V.I.P. is sky high during the tournament and includes little to no personal attention or additional services. Add drink prices that are triple what is normally charged, and Houston, we have a problem.

Although the parties seem to get better each year, they are still marred by novice issues like ticket issuing. Part of the reason for buying tickets in advance is to avoid standing in line. If people buy advance tickets, then there should be a designated entrance for ticket holders separate from those who need to purchase tickets. Unless there is a capacity issue, advance ticketholders should not be standing in line with folks waiting to purchase tickets. This happened at a number of venues.

Despite challenges with tickets and lists, which always seem to be somewhere floating around inside of an event as opposed to being at the door, the day parties are by far the best.  People are partying, networking and socializing in the middle of the day. 3 p.m. in Charlotte looks like midnight in New York. This is something that is specific to the CIAA and rarely happens in other cities, even during other major sporting events. The only thing better than the day parties is the DJs spinning throughout the day.

DJ DR, DJ Jazzy Jeff, 9th Wonder, Kid Capri, DJ Drama, DJ Stacey Blackman, DJ Skillz, DJ Bro Rabb, DJ D-Nice, DJ Vince Adams, DJ Slice, DJ Kool, DJ Trauma, Biz Markie, DJ Bonie B and DJ Daddy D were on the wheels of steel, moving the crowd and keeping the parties jumping.

Perhaps there is a little too much focus on partying and too little attention on philanthropic events during the conference which were well attended, but not “packed” like the legendary day parties and celebrity sponsored events.

For instance Uptown Charlotte / VIBE’s Friday event at the Ritz Carlton was a fundraiser for the CIAA General Scholarship Fund. Instead of attending the event, tournament attendees hung out in the lobby socializing. Some said that they didn’t go upstairs to the event because of the large number of people congregating in the lobby. They thought that the event was in the lobby, although there was clear signage directing people upstairs to the charity event.

While the parties are an important part of the CIAA experience, the philanthropic efforts need to be remembered and supported. The basketball tournament is already a fashion show with more people walking around the game profiling and chatting, than sitting and watching the actual game. There’s something that doesn’t sit right with dropping copious amounts of money at the bar, but not ponying up a few dollars towards a scholarship fund.  As the conference grows, more time, money and energy needs to be spent marketing philanthropic events to a greater extent so that they stand a chance against the outstanding entertainment events, especially in the Uptown area.

Jamell Hamilton, 34 of Charlotte who has attended the conference in Charlotte and other cities enjoys attending events in Uptown. “Uptown is able to accommodate so many people because there are so many venues. In Charlotte, you have 20 parties in a 3-block radius. At the EpiCentre, everyone is hosting something. That’s unheard of in other cities that host events like this.”

Event planner Tiffany Jones of Digital Divas agrees. “We host events Uptown throughout the year and have gotten excellent service, so naturally we continue to do this during CIAA. Zink is a great location because it’s two blocks from the arena.”  Promoter George Spencer’s D.M.V. Takeover Party Featuring Allen Iverson and DJ Quick Silva @ Strike City was a major success. “We had over 1,100 people attend throughout the night. I think Charlotte is a great location for the CIAA because of its cosmopolitan flare. Uptown’s killer combination of the EpiCentre, Time Warner Cable Arena, Ritz Carlton, and upscale restaurants, gives Charlotte that touch of swag that compliments the historical tournament.”

While most people enjoyed the tournament, there were some complaints. Garrett, who loved the day parties, disliked her stay at The Blake Hotel. “They ran out of hot water for the weekend and people were paying up to $300 a night to stay there.” According to a promoter, some of the artists he booked at the Blake Hotel last year suffered the same challenges. The conference is also marked by gridlocked traffic, particularly on Saturday night.

Spencer is concerned about the infrastructure in downtown, particularly 2nd to 7th streets. “There needs to be a better job of handling the traffic. Providing alternate routes and transportation options is something the city can work on. For example, keeping the rail open later or providing additional public transportation via shuttles would be invaluable to attendees and help alleviate traffic concerns,” he said.  Uncovered parking, like that at 935 and the Ramada, needs to be better managed.  When promoters are expecting hundreds of attendees, there needs to be a parking plan in place.

CIAA is clearly a national destination and next year is the last year on the contract. Just as the tournament appears to be hitting its stride, there have been rumblings about cities like Atlanta and Washington, DC making a major push to win the tournament. “I’ve been going to CIAA on and off for a long time. I’ve seen it grow so much. This is the best it has ever been and this is the most money that it has ever made. It would be foolish to leave Charlotte. We are the next biggest thing between ATL and DC, 25% black, and none of the other cities can hold it. Charlotte is the only city that can handle a conference like this.”

Many people staying positive, hoping that the CIAA stays in Charlotte because it has added value to the Queen City, just as the Queen City has added value to it. A truly reciprocal relationship exists between the two and should continue to grow and expand.

Keeping the CIAA in Charlotte makes sense. Besides, if the majority of HBCUs are located in North Carolina, why move it to another state?

This year, a perfect storm occurred – decent weather, great venues, positive attitudes, packed parties, veteran promoters, world-class talent and discretionary income made for a great 2010 CIAA conference. Is this enough for the Queen City to do what it takes to keep CIAA in Charlotte? Only time will tell.

An edited version of this article appears in Creative Loafing, where Nsenga serves as cultural critic.

Tiger the Pussycat?

Why is Tiger Woods giving a press conference on cheating on his wife? Is he an elected official or a man of the cloth? Come on man. 15 minutes of Tiger beating up on himself is not good television. I don’t give a damn about his dalliances with other women. That should be Elin’s concern, not mine. Just play golf again. I do not think that his success on the golf course was due to his squeaky clean image — more like his unparalleled skill set. Why are people mad? 85% of people in marriages in America cheat, so why do we have a different standard for him? Athletes and celebrities are not role models because they are as human and fallible as we are. To the world, I say, “Get a life.” To Tiger, I say, “Grow a pair.”

NBC’s Tasteless Winter Olympics Coverage

OK, I admit it: I’m an Olympics geek. If you read my column regularly, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a huge sports fan. I can honestly say that I was skipping around anxiously awaiting the start of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Yes, I love the kinder, gentler Olympics that some say are too “soft” to watch. To me, it’s more than just ice skating, which in fact is a grueling sport, but I digress.

I was ready. I had my snacks prepared, bookmarks on my laptop to all pertinent sports sites, done all my background reading on the city, nailed down the athletes to watch, memorized the stories of guts and glory, followed the Lindsey Vonn saga and was front and center at 8 p.m. sharp. What did NBC start the 2010 Olympics coverage with? They started the event with the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvil. I understand paying tribute to a young athlete who lost his life in pursuit of one of life’s greatest and most elusive accomplishments. My heart sank when I read reports about the tragic death of the 21-year-old before the broadcast. I immediately thought of his family who was probably there watching, his team and the fans. I knew that NBC would pull together a story, but I thought they would demonstrate a modicum of respect for the young man and his family.

I guess I expected too much.

NBC’s idea of a tribute to this young man was to start off with a short intro by Matt Lauer and Bob Costas, followed by Brian Williams reporting from the scene. NBC then proceeded to show Kumaritashvil alive at the top of the track, which was spine-chilling, and his death three times in a row, along with a still photo of his dead body with rescue workers working tirelessly to resuscitate an already deceased Kumaritashvil.

NBC went way too far. As a media scholar, I understand the predicament that networks face, particularly with so much competition from the Internet and citizen journalists. Having said that, there is such a thing as news value and news judgment, and I’m not sure what showing this young man’s demise over and over added to the experience of viewers — other than sheer horror. I don’t think that NBC should have shown it at all, but would have been more accepting of showing it once, if it were for the sake of transparency and delivering the news to viewers. I thought to myself that everyone working there is clearly asleep at the wheel. Sometimes it should not be about ratings, but about dignity and respect for others.

When in doubt, how about putting yourself in that person’s position? Would Matt Lauer like to see his son’s body fly off of a track and into a metal pole, dying instantly? Would Costas or Williams want the world to see their son’s lifeless body lying there, not moving, his foot propped up against the place where he lost his life? I would think not.

Did they ever think about this young man’s parents? His family and friends watching from his hometown? Kumaritashvil’s teammates? He was part of one of the smallest delegations there — one of eight from his country. What about the members of the Olympic committee? The chair was visibly devastated by this event even throughout the opening ceremonies.

NBC’s failure to think about any of these factors — or to think about it and dismiss it in order to justify showing this young man’s death multiple times — is sad. How do we claim to value life and treat someone’s death with such callousness?

This reminds me of the death of Seydi Burciaga, a young mother killed in the Atlanta floods in September 2009. News and tabloid agencies played her 911 call over and over. During the call, Burciaga, who is minutes from her home, is panicked because she knows that she is going to drown. The networks play the tape until she takes her last breath. I couldn’t sleep after hearing the terror in her voice.

For those of you wondering why I listened to it and why I watched Kumaritashvil’s death — it is because I wasn’t expecting it. I kept waiting for the news programs to cut away or for a happy ending, but it never came. That is what makes this young man’s death even more tragic: the fact that he died over and over again in the eyes of the viewers and the minds of the producers who were actually making these decisions.

I understand that if NBC doesn’t show the footage, they may lose ratings — but they gain respect from viewers by having a standard of decency and reverence for life. What exactly is that standard? All hell breaks loose over Janet Jackson’s nipple, which is covered and has to be magnified a zillion times to be seen by actual viewers because it’s harmful to children, but we can see Kumaritashvil’s horrific death because of its news value? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Burciaga and Kumaritashvil are more than just news stories. They’re human beings with families that are still here.

I used to watch NBC morning and evening news because of what I perceived to be journalistic integrity. Clearly this class act has become an ass act. NBC may be winning the ratings race, but it’s losing a lot more in the process.

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing, where she serves as cultural critic.

FaceBook Conversation on Tiger Woods

This exchange was so interesting, that I’m re-publishing it here. See below:

Nsenga Burton Tiger Woods using steroids. BULLSHIT. This shit has gone too far and yes I’m pissed.

Nsenga Burton:  Sorry for the cuss words, but really.
SZ:  nevermind the cussin!! I fully agree…they are doing waaaay to much right now!!!
JM: WORD!
CS: Wait-why is everyone pissed?
JS: please answer Christine’s questions… who cares what happens to him
NB:  @Christine – there’s now speculation in the press that he uses steroids – essentially if he cheated on his wife, then he’d cheat in sports. Nonsense.
JH:  I must agree slow news days can kill a career
NB: @Christine – there’s now speculation in the press that he uses steroids – essentially if he cheated on his wife, then he’d cheat in sports. Nonsense.
DW: Golf does have drug testing for PEDs so hopefully he’s been tested since his knee surgery. Just because he cheats on his wife doesn’t mean he cheats at his sport. Making no excuses for him, just feel until something proves otherwise we should withhold speculation.
CS: Kilo-please don’t defend that fool!
NB: @Christine: I’m not defending his indiscretions, but his golf playing — yes. He is the best golfer to ever walk the face of the earth regardless of race and to go after him because he cheated on his wife is ridiculous. Michael Jordan is a notorious cheater/womanizer. Noone has questioned his basketball abilities because of this. Shaq. Lance … See MoreArmstrong. You name it – many athletes cheat on their spouses, but that doesn’t mean that they cheat on the game. Those are two very different things and to try and connect them is disingenuous at best and a smear tactic at worse, particularly by people who could not beat this man even as a teen and long before he was married.
BN:

I’m witchu on your statements, Ms. B.! The last thing some folks want is for his Cablinasian ass to surpass the Holy Jack Nicklaus. If they can find a way to besmirch his previous 12 majors, then Jack will still be considered the greatest ever.
RP: How else are those white boys gonna explain how he’s been whupping their ass & taking their women for the last twelve years!!!
CS: So let the Caublasians defend him! Save your energy for athletes who admit they are black-if they need defending. If they accused Singh of cheating would you give a darn? So why waste your breath on that Caublasian fool?
DM: Yeah, this is getting stupid. No doubt Tiger got a lil bit of sociopath in him, but let’s tacke one f-up at a time!
NB: @Christine – I get your point. It’s beyond race to me. You’re right. Where are the Caublinasians? 🙂
JD: There is only one and he is in Sweden. As a reult the question I’ve been hearing the most is what do Black people think, are they mad at Tiger, etc.?? Just let him clean up his mess. Next they are going to ask Obama on 60 minutes b/c Tiger was at the inauguration.
NR: hmmm … maybe he DOES use steroids!
JA: thank u christine- i didn’t want to the first to say it
DM: Allegedly, Tiger’s doctor used a controversial — yet legal — therapy on Tiger’s bum knee. There’s no proof so far that anything illegal took place. The doctor’s shady, but that doesn’t make Tiger shady… at least not on the golfing front. Like Kee said, a wife cheater doesn’t automatically translate to a sports cheater. We got a witchhunt …
CL: now THIS is the type of dialogue i have been waiting for. I dont understand why Tiger got married in the first place. Because of who he is and the sport he is dominating and who he married, his infidelity was going to cost him everything. He had to know this, and his advisers are the ones that need to be fired. The interesting question is would…
DM: @ Contrarian… great point! If he’d married LaTasha from Brooklyn instead of Elin from Sweden, we may not be talking about this.

Tiger has always been a robotic, regimented and very scary cat to me. Someone that robotic has got to blow a gasket at some point, but who knew there’d be this much steam, ya know? Tiger went and procured a wife that would complement and complete his public image. When she was all set up, he went out and found the type of women that would satisfy his real compulsions. In this respect, Tiger is not at all unusual. There’s a segment of men who do this everyday; they marry a woman they can put on a pedestal and then they round it all out with a woman (or women) who will accept them in all their griminess. Only difference is Tiger had 11 of these skanks lined up instead of the usual 1 or 2.

NB: @Dee – Preach BSGO!