Sunday, November 15, 2009

For Black Coaches, a Referee's Body Language Speaks Volumes

Growing up black in the United States teaches you how to recognize an essential element of survival: body language. This is abundantly clear regardless of walking down the gang infected streets of Compton, or the sterling towers on Wall Street. But what about the gridiron? During the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, referee, Tony Corrente's, crew made a glaring mistake. When Tampa Bay wide out, Michael Clayton, made a catch, he fell on his back; and from all appearances, Clayton was down by contact. While lying on the ground, Dolphin defender, Jason Taylor, ripped the ball from Clayton then jogged into the end zone. The official, however, hesitated before ruling no catch. Bucs coach, Raheem Morris, challenged the ruling on the field since instant replay revealed Clayton secured the ball when his elbow hit the ground. After reviewing the rerun, Corrente surprisingly ruled a fumble giving Miami a first down at the Tampa 13 yard line; the Dolphins, meanwhile, scored. Morris, justifiably staggered by the terrible call, voiced his displeasure to the a white official who flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct. It was the body language of official, though, which caught my attention. Rather than approaching Morris in a non confrontational manner, he stood his ground, hunched his shoulders, and tossed the flag high into the air. With such a posture, African Americans hear a white man yelling loud and clear, "Don't raise your voice at me boy!" Morris backed off immediately, but looking through a class prism, you wonder if coaches like Bill Parcells, Jeff Fisher, or Tom Coughlin would have been allowed to argue their points? The Bucs are a bad football team, more importantly, officials are inclined to believe there is a good reason for their mediocrity; consequently, referees are less likely to tolerate any lip. In this case, however, a young black coach may have been put in his place by more than just lip service.

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