March Madness

This past weekend the NCAA DI Final Four aired on national television. In this tournament, the “unthinkable” occurred: Kentucky, a team who was on their way to an undefeated season, had been taken down by the Wisconsin Badgers. Whether a supporter of Kentucky basketball or an avid critic, the game was an emotion filled four quarters that had its viewers hooked. However, for the players, specifically Kentucky’s guard Andrew Harrison, the emotion was simply too much. After the loss, three of Kentucky’s players, including Harrison, walked off the court without shaking Wisconsin’s hands. While this is a sign of disrespect, the disregard for Wisconsin’s players continued when Andrew Harrison simply couldn’t control his emotions. During a press conference after the game, a reporter asked a Kentucky player what was unique about Kaminsky (a white male Wisconsin guard). Under his breath, Andrew Harrison (a black male) muttered “F— that N—-“. Obviously, the microphone picked his words up and social media erupted. To watch this bit of the interview, click HERE.

What I thought was most interesting about this situation is that while internet surfing to find out what the reaction of the social world, I found most websites zeroed in on role race has to play in this situation rather than if his actions as a student athlete. Instead of questioning the repercussions of an emotion filled response as a human, most articles and tweets focused on the function of race and his choice of words.  I expected authors to be interested in him as an athlete, yet to my surprise reporters seemed to narrow in on the idea of race and how his choice of words affected him. Furthermore, reporters could not come to an agreement as to whether or not his comment was racist or emotionally built. Some argued his comment is being unnecessarily blown up, while others argue that this topic is being too far ignored. Specifically, the reporters who argued this type of situation was being ignored questioned if there would be more backlash if the race of the two males were reversed.

Responses I found included:

“That’s just reality though. Trying to play victim and whining that one group of people doesn’t get as condemned as your group of people when saying a bad word is a waste of time. If that’s the greatest affront facing your particular social group, then count your blessings.”

“Imagine if Kaminsky had said this about Harrison’s brother, Aaron, last year after that killer 3-pointer that eliminated the Badgers in the 2014 national semifinals. Kaminsky would have been executed by a social media mob. Perhaps literally.”

“Is it okay Andrew Harrison called Kaminsky a racial slur? No. Is it being blown way out of proportion? Absolutely”. – tweet from David Hookstead

“Andrew Harrison is yet another example of the absurdity of trying to control a word that you choose to use, but “forbid” others to use.” – tweet from Robert Smith


Essentially, what I am trying to display, is the complete disagreement between Americans whether this under the breath, emotion filled comment should be analyzed and punished. Is this situation being “blown out of proportion”? Would the situation be different if the roles were reversed? Kaminsky forgave Harrison for his statements, so should the conversation be forgotten? How does this apply to whiteness as a property and the reinforcement of race as a social construction?

Let me know your thoughts!


6 thoughts on “March Madness

  1. Your blog post is very interesting for multiple reasons, Jessica. What I found most interesting what the hesitance on social media to call Harrison’s actions racist. Calling someone the “n” word should be a decidedly racist comment. I believe that the reason that so many people are hesitant to claim his actions strictly as racist is because Harrison is black himself and was referring to a white person. Supposedly, if the situations were reversed—as in a white man called a black man the “n” word—there would be no claim that the statement came from heightened emotion after the game. The white player would immediately be condemned as a racist. Second, I don’t believe that someone can suddenly exclaim a racist comment just because their emotions were distorted. Racism is embedded in society and is not something that only affects us when we are more upset or angry. Do you think the hesitance to call what Harrison did as racist would be an example of reverse racism? Do you think this is an important issue? And if it is, how can we attempt to fix this issue?


    1. Jacquie, I first had very similar thoughts. Personally, I think it would be completely different in the roles were reversed. However, this is because a white man using the “N Word” is simply not OK. White people have lost that privilege. That word was used by white slave owners in a time of deep oppression. During this time, blacks were enslaved, beaten, lynched and raped and otherwise humiliated. The white man used this title as a tool of oppression. The word was a category which classified someone as a able to be taken advantage of and humiliated. Additionally, the question of why whites cannot use the “n-word” is the essence of “white privilege”. Why are whites privileged to use the word? Why are whites entitled to it when they have done nothing but abuse those who’s culture has deemed them as one? When using the “N-Word” the black community is signifying a constant reminder to society that all the power that word once had over an entire population for hundreds of years has now been completely stripped away.
      So yes, I think the situation would be reversed, but this is because a white man should not use this word, not because a white man was “mean” to a black man. The white community may have chosen to ignore this issue (sort of), but the black community has every right to be upset by a white man using a term that once asserted so much dominance.
      What do you think about this term? Do you think the roles would be reversed in the same way?


      1. I definitely agree with both of you in that if the role’s were reversed the situation would be immensely different. Furthermore, I agree that white people have in fact lost their right to use the “n” word due to the racist and derogatory meaning it had been previously associated with. However, I think it is difficult to assess the situation from an outsider perspective because we were not feeling the immense anger and disappointment after the loss. Kentucky was well on their way to breaking IU’s perfect record back in 1975-76 season and in the heat of the moment things were said and words were exchanged. While white Americans look to the word as racist, black Americans may not. We hear the “n” word used many times during rap songs and that never seems to trigger this kind of media response. The media has the ability to blow a lot of things out of proportion and this, I believe, is one of those things. From the white outsider perspective, this appears to be a scenario where there should be punishment as an effort to right a wrong on the lines of race, however; I think the word and the statement is being analyzed too deeply from outsiders and media personnel. In the heat of the moment, people say a lot they may regret later and why keep bring up a matter that has been settled between the two men involved?


  2. I think the conversation y’all are having on this topic is good, and solid points have been brought up. What I would like to add to this is the cultural perspective of a black female basketball player who has had interactions with black males, and black male basketball players, almost daily for years. At pick up games, streets games, or really any type of basketball setting in an “urban” environment, the “n” word is used frequently– as play, as insult, as really any response to any emotionally and physically charged moment. This, of course, is usually in the presence of mostly black peers. I personally think that Harrison’s use of that word was inspired by his hectic emotional state, where he was out of his mental element. It was obviously like second nature to him to use that term, as he probably says “f” that “n” all the time with good and bad connotations. I dont think it had nothing to do with Kaminsky as white male or as a person, as it did his frustration and pride for losing a game they should have one.

    If he said, “f” that “cracker” or “f” that “redneck”, or something that actually is racially derogatory towards white people, that would be a conscious, racially charged comment and might touch this concept of “reverse racism”. But that is not the case.

    I think what needs to be addressed is the disrespectful way Kentucky players handled their loss emotionally and verbally, but it isn’t a racially charged event like those tweets are making it out to be.


  3. After reading everyone’s comments, I think your comment, Candise, really made me consider the importance of context. Your interactions with black male basketball players gave me information that I had never known before, which makes me wonder about language in general. As an English major, language is obviously a topic that I am interested in. Thus, intent, context, and tone are all important aspects to consider when evaluating someone’s phrase or sentence. Yet, the issue about the “N” word and who has the privilege to use it reminds me of third wave feminism. Feminists reclaimed words such as “bitch” in order to revolutionize them and redefine them. The meaning of a word is changed because people have reclaimed them. Thus, this made me wonder about race in general. We have learned about how non-whites are connected with the meaning of “inferior.” Thus, if we can change the meaning of words, can we use language to change the meaning behind specific races?


  4. I’m obviously late to the ballgame on this post, but I distinctly remember this happening. Personally I feel the comment was way overblown. Yes, he should not have said that, but I do not think you can ignore the immensity of the situation for Andrew Harrison. His team just lost in the Final Four semifinal game when pretty much everyone in the world was picking them to win the national championship. On top of that, he is probably being forced to speak to the media in which case a reporter asks a question about an opposing player. All of these factors culminated into a release of emotion that people across the country heard about almost immediately.

    Another situation that this reminds me of is Kanye West’s comments in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when he was trying to raise money for the Red Cross and he said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

    A musician, like an athlete, channels emotion unlike many other jobs or past times. For both music and sports, emotion is at the root of the individuals drive. That’s why I believe both Harrison’s and West’s comments are way overblown. Although West was not performing at the time, he was in the middle of a very emotional event for not only Americans, but for black Americans who bore the brunt of the hurricane and negative media coverage. West, like Harrison, channeled the emotion they typically use in their craft and said something I am sure both wish they had not said.


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