Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Noteworthy: Jones, Davenport, and gay athlete convergences

1. Marion Jones was sentenced last week to six months in prison. She did drugs, she lied about it, she admitted lying about it, and because of the lying (not the drug use) she is going to jail. Her story is similar to other athletes accused of doping--except that she confessed. How many in sports such as cycling and baseball are shaking their heads so hard these days you wonder if they're going to get whiplash? But Jones admitted her sins and is being made an example for others. The question that has been posed to me--actually it wasn't a question, it was more of a statement: If Marion Jones was a guy, she wouldn't be going to jail. In other words, Marion Jones is the Martha Stewart of athletics. A lying woman gets jail time, a man in a similar situation gets a slap on the wrist--or if you have the right connections, a hard slap and then a nice little pardon to ease the sting, a la Scooter Libby. But is Jones the Martha Stewart of track and field? Hard to say. They both did something wrong; they both got punished with jail time after requesting lighter sentences. Would a man's request have fallen on more favorable ears?

Obviously the situations are not entirely analagous. Most obviously we cannot simply overlook the issue of race that pervades this situation. A black woman, one in whom we (and by we I mean the society in which white people make and enforce the rules) put our trust and faith, "failed" us by lying and cheating. Sure many other sports heroes have lied and cheated, but we overlook those people because we need to believe in the myth of meritocracy that sports provides. But Jones is expendable. Convincing ourselves that she deserves what she has gotten is easy because we live in a racist society that tells us, in ways too numerous to even list, that black women* cheat and lie. She was the model black citizen for a while and maybe we even would have let her go on being so if she hadn't admitted her wrongdoing. But she did and now she's been dropped.

We shall have to wait to see how race and gender play into the cases of others implicated in the BALCO scandal. One thing we know, Jones is not headed to Camp Cupcake and I doubt there will be many t-shirts proclaiming her innocence or asking for her freedom.

On the other hand, there are some who see the sentence as hypocritical and unjust. See here, and here.

* I also don't think we can dismiss how her ignored pleas about being separated from her infant, whom she is still nursing, play into stereotypes about black motherhood. I am very skeptical that a judge would insist on jail time on a perjury charge for a white woman who was nursing. A white child needs its mother, we seem to see here, a black child may be better off without his.

2. Lindsay Davenport has moved to the top of the career prize money list--for women, of course. (See a previous post for more on disparities in prize money in both tennis and golf.) There are some male athletes who make in a few years what Davenport has earned over the course of her career (over $21 million).

3. Feel like you just got back from Chicago and/or Montreal and you couldn't possibly think right now about going to another big gay athletic festival? Too bad. The World Outgames is coming. Well not right away--they'll be in Coopenhagen in 2009. And by then you may have recovered from the Curve mixer or all the softball parties and be yearning for some gay athlete fun. The schism that created two separate versions of a "gay Olympics"--shhh...don't tell the USOC I used Olympics and gay in the same sentence--is too complicated to get into. So in 2006 there were two versions of the games. The Gay Games in Chicago and the Outgames in Montreal. Both groups plan on keeping their respective events going. The Outgames, wisely I think, had opted not to hold their event in the same year as the Gay Games, which will be in Germany in 2010. Hmmm...if I go to the Australian Open and the Outgames in 2009 and the Gay Games and the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 that means....that I will probably go broke, never finish writing my dissertation, and never get a real job. But I'll be having a gay ole time!

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