Jason Whitlock Wants To Put Allen Iverson In A Burqa

I’ve read some dumb, lazy excuses for columns before, but I’m pretty damn sure this might take the cake. Jason Whitlock essentially says a factor in the increased ratings for the NBA playoffs is the lack of tattoos on the Lakers, Spurs, Pistons, and Celtics, at least compared to Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, et al. Never mind the fact that you really can’t prove this, it’s just ridiculously moronic.

The only accurate way to describe Garnett, Pierce, Duncan, Allen, Manu, Parker and even Kobe is “clean cut.” Yeah, there are a couple of tattoos in that group — Duncan has something on his back, Kobe still has his post-rape-allegation tat — but the Lakers, Spurs and Celtics have far less ink on average than your typical NBA franchise.

Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony have more tats on their hands than the entire Spurs roster.

I know many of you probably think the number of tattoos doesn’t influence viewing habits. You’re wrong. Like everything else televised, appearances matter. There’s a reason you don’t see nude scenes in movies with fat people. Trust me, fat people have sex. It’s just no one wants to see it. Not even fat people.

Wait. So tattoos on athletes are as ugly and repulsive as fat people having sex on TV? Someone tell Sports Illustrated — their cover story is on a guy who’s got 26 tattoos all over his body. His name just happens to be Josh Hamilton, and he’s the dynamite CF for the Texas Rangers. Guess that’ll hurt magazine sales.

No one wants to watch Delonte West or Larry Hughes play basketball. It’s uncomfortable and disconcerting. You don’t want your kids to see it. You don’t want your kids to think they should decorate their neck, arms, hands, chest and legs in paint. You don’t want to waste time explaining to your kids that some millionaire athletes have so little genuine self-confidence that they find it necessary to cover themselves in tattoos as a way to mask their insecurities.

No one wants to watch Delonte West or Larry Hughes play basketball because they are often very bad at it. They are pro hoops players, which means they are much better than the rest of us, but compared to some of their peers, they have flashes of total suck often when they play.  No one wants to watch West or Hughes jack up ill-advised shots everyone knows they’re not going to make.

It’s not because of the tattoos on their arms. It’s because of the bad plays they make more frequently than their peers.

It’s a television show. Pleasant smiles, non-threatening people sell products better than menacing, tattooed brutes.

If I was David Stern, I’d commission Nike and/or Under Armor to create a basketball jersey with long sleeves, all the way down to the wrists. I’d make Iverson wear a turtleneck jersey with sleeves. I’d cover the tats.

Jason Whitlock, our own one-man American Sporting Taliban.  Cover his legs too. Give Iverson, Anthony, West, and Hughes a burqa when they report next season. Make Chris Douglas-Roberts know he’s got to put one on when he signs his rookie deal. It’s the only way to not offend a constituency that we’re not sure exists!  Ayatollah Whitlock has decreed this fatwa, effective this 29th of May, in the year 2008.

Do you think Sports Illustrated would let its swimsuit models cover themselves in tattoos? Models are paid to look good. Athletes are no different from models. Everyone accepts that female basketball players — when possible — are pushed to showcase their feminine beauty.

Athletes are no different than models. Nice. Just because we accept it doesn’t mean it’s right, Jason. Also, SI has no problem with tattoos on athletes now — please see Josh Hamilton again.

It’s unfortunate that too many young athletes are too unenlightened to approach the game like a business. They resist almost all ideas that would put more money in their pockets. They have to be forced to do the little things that would help them make more money.

Growing NBA ratings is what’s best for the players in the long term. Adopting a non-prison-ready appearance would help everyone in the league earn more money. But no one will talk about it.

Yeah, because no one wants to come off looking like an unenlightened, 19th century-living moron who doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. And let’s not mistake the construction of this: They have to be forced to do the little things that would help them make more money. It’s more than a little fascist sounding, isn’t it?  At the very least, it’s horrifically condescending to treat grown men like this. I know what’s best for you and will make you more money.

Whitlock is happy to judge a book by its cover and say that because someone else does it, the book has to be completely re-written.

29 Responses

  1. I for one like the non-thug look of the new NBA. Whitlock ain’t wrong here. The majority of sports viewers don’t like watching jackasses play ball.

  2. Yeah. What proof do you have that guys with tattoos are automatically jackasses? Take individual behavior for what it is.

  3. I tend to want to agree with Whitlock here. I don’t find much pleasure in watching a Picasso body shoot a jump shot.

  4. What does a tatoo have to do with a player being good or not. That is total BS. I dont watch the spurs because their brand of ball is boring. As much as I dislike Kobe and LA I watch them becuz they play a good brand of basketball. I think the rating were fine in 2001 when AI led Philly. Oh, ya the ratings were donw in 2005 when the Pistons played SA. This is just a way for lame excuses on what people wanna watch. Lazy and off the mark. So I guess with all the NFL players with tatoo’s you can see means that they can expect the NFL ratings to drop. I dont think so

  5. I have to preface this by saying that I like Whitlock. He’s obviously quite opinionated, but I think his heart’s in the right place. As an African-American male, he knows that many white people in this country still have negative opinions about black males in general, and black male pro athletes in particular. These opinions are partially borne of ignorance, but they are also based on the image projected by these athletes. Whitlock is disturbed by black athletes who cover themselves in “body art.” I would suspect that he’s not big on cornrows either, but they are a much easier fix than tattoos.

    When you see a young black male covered in tats, you generally think “thug,” whether you want to admit it or not. Hell, I think “thug” too, and I’m black! I also think “idiot” (in the spirit of egalitarianism, I also think white people covered in tattoos are idiots, or at least spurred on by some idiotic impulses). Whitlock knows this, and it bothers him. He makes a good point, but I think he’s a little off the mark this time.

    I said all that so I could say this: good basketball is good basketball, regardless of the image of the participants. I think the mainstream fan (read: white fan) may be disdainful of a cornrowed, tattoo-festooned superstar, but he/she can still appreciate that player’s talent and love for the game. That’s why, over the past few years, there has been a growing respect for Allen Iverson.

    Whitlock is disgusted by players that project a thug image, and I think he allows that disgust to color his writing sometimes. But I understand where he’s coming from.

  6. “Do you think Sports Illustrated would let its swimsuit models cover themselves in tattoos?”

    Oh, gee, I don’t know. Uh, yeah, I do. Bodypainting differs from tats in impermanence only. And SI has been doing the painting for years now.

    Used to love Whitlock but that man is over the edge and on his way to one fantastic splat when his gravitational force squeezes his body flat between Earth and Moon,

  7. As far as ratings go, yeah, the inevitable Lakers-Celtics matchup had nothing to do with viewers. No, nothing at all. I haven’t watched the NBA playoffs in YEARS. And I’m not alone.

    There are plenty of us 30 and older who have no time for sports but will watch on the chance history repeats itself and feel young again. I watched Lakers and Celtics games.

    So, I’d sure like to see the numbers for the non-Lakers, non-Celtics games. Bet my argument holds more validity than Whitless’.

  8. Lee – why does it matter if the arm’s covered in ink or not? A good jump shot is a good jump shot.

    Ike – I understand that argument, but I’m tired of justifying or accepting the majority image of tattoos = thug. People need to get over it. Read or listen to a player’s words, check out his or her deeds, fuck using appearance as an excuse.

    Ana – nice on the bodypainting note.

  9. Ana,

    I, like you, am over 30 and excited about a possible renewal of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry that sustained the NBA throught the ’80s. Question though:

    Your last posting had a slight aftertaste of conspiracy theory. Do you think the LA-Boston matchup was given a gentle nudge?

  10. Ana,

    I, like you, am over 30 and excited about a possible renewal of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry that sustained the NBA throughout the ’80s. Question though:

    Your last posting had a slight aftertaste of conspiracy theory. Do you think the LA-Boston matchup was given a gentle nudge?

  11. Ana — sorry for the double-posting. Tried to correct a typo after I’d hit the ‘Send’ button. Oh, and while you make a valid point about bodypainting (“Bodypainting differs from tats in impermanence only.”), impermanence, to me, is a pretty big difference.

    Sig — you’re preaching to the choir, babe. I completely agree. But how do you get folks to look past appearances? We form our first impressions based on what we see, whether it be at a basketball game or in a nightclub. Kinda hard to deprogram that, don’t you think?

  12. […] Signal to Noise mentioned, the latest issue of Sports Illustrated features a cover story on Josh Hamilton, the […]

  13. who cares. play ball.

  14. If one doesn’t care about offending potential customers, because said customers have what one deems as an unreasonable expectation, accepting the fact that it might not be fiscally advantageous, then it’s all cool. Let the chips fall, baby.

  15. Whitlock is an idiot. I guess he’ll say that NBA players wearing headbands is “thug.” John McEnroe wore them when he played his sport. Roger Federer wears them now, and he’s also an all-time great. Lleyton Hewitt won some Slams rocking a hat to the back, but nobody called him a thug or a punk. And we can go back to Buck Showalter saying that Ken Griffey wearing his hat backwards in warm-ups was “disrespectful to the game of baseball?” Oh, you mean the game that showed basic human respect to blacks by banning them and then begrudgingly allowing them IN to the game after a “gentleman’s” agreement? Please.
    Whitlock is a fool.

  16. If Whitlock’s column was lazy, your response is just as bad. Ayatollah Whitlock? I believe the proper cliche is to call someone “Hitler” or “a fascist” when you disagree with what they say, but can’t form a cogent argument as to why.

  17. If you guys are paying attention to a basketball player’s tattoos instead of his baseline drive then you really shouldn’t be watching basketball.

  18. jojo – did you read the rest of the post or only stick to the Ayatollah and Taliban references? I did happen to make a cogent argument:

    a) there is no way to prove that the lack of tattoos has anything to do with the ratings for the NBA playoffs
    b) he is supporting and endorsing the idea of forcing players to have to cover up their tattoos just because he doesn’t like them and is hiding it under the guise of “this is for your own good and the good of your bosses.” It’s ridiculously condescending and authoritarian, with no basis in anything other than anecdotal observations.

    You can call the reference lazy and you have the right to do so — but I have made a cogent argument that Whitlock’s column is complete bunk.

  19. Delonte West’s tattoos are too much. When tattoos are on the neck and moving toward the face please stop. No more. Quit. Back away from the needle. Except for natives of Brazil’s amazon, tattoos on the face are a sign of mental illness (i.e. Mike Tyson).

  20. Okay — lots of stuff to process here.

    Phil — Whitlock’s not an idiot. He’s not talking about headbands so much as tattoos and cornrows and gang signs. What Showalter said about Griffey Jr. was idiotic.

    And what Mookie said was dead on. People who are offended by what others do to their own bodies — well, they need to get a life.

  21. Completely agree with you, S2N. The revulsion with tattoos and its subsequent association with the “thug” label is tired and sad.

    Phil Deeze, good points. I wonder if people would riot if Sampras won Wimbeldon with a tat.

  22. I say jojo is Whitlock, I’ve seen him write pro whitlock stuff on the KC star before…..

  23. NBA ratings grow in direct proportion to the quality of basketball that’s being played. Tattoos may hurt a player’s marketing potential, but it’s not going to keep people from watching. Whitlock simply thinks the world would be a better place if young black males didn’t deface their bodies in the name of “keeping it real.” I can’t disagree with that. Having said that, I can’t make the mental connect between tattooed athletes and naked fat people (not without some mind-altering substance, anyway).

    The fact that no one wants to watch fat people have sex is not a revelation. No one wants to watch fat people do anything.

    All in all, not Whitlock’s best work. In fact, not even a compelling argument. And yet a few of us are still carping on it. Is this because we think it’s a legitimate issue, or is just that Whitlock is fun to bash?

    There’s got to be a more interesting dead horse to beat. Think I’ll go find it.

  24. The fact that no one wants to watch fat people have sex is not a revelation. No one wants to watch fat people do anything.

    Nonsense, ever heard of The Biggest Loser? Then again, the goal is to lose weight.

  25. Too bad all these teams have players with tons of tats and most of the most popular players in the NBA have tats, NEWSFLASH, RATINGS ARE UP BECAUSE ITS GOOD BASKETBALL FROM CLASSIC TEAMS.

  26. Although they were initially considered socially unacceptable for ladies, with the range of celebs that are now sporting elaborate tattoos, they are getting more satisfactory and preferred for girls. Naturally most ladies wish to go with a feminine design which will add a beautiful touch to their body.

  27. certainly like your web-site but you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to tell the reality nevertheless I?ll definitely come back again.

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