In Favre and Udoka scandals, some see echoes of sports media’s shortcomings

News of Ime Udoka’s long suspension with the Boston Celtics has dominated the internet since the NBA franchise announced last week that he had violated team policy. But amid the articles and social media posts about the situation, many are wondering why the head coach’s personal leaks get more attention than seemingly larger ethical misdeeds in the news, like Hall of Famer quarterback Brett Favre’s role in the Mississippi welfare scandal .

For social media users, the discrepancy is glaring.

“Can we get more coverage of Brett Favre and less of Ime Udoka?”, one person tweeted On Wednesday. Another Tsweet read“So ESPN can have Ime Udoka all over the news but hardly talk about Brett Favre, that looks very racist and sounds very racist.”

The Celtics have released few details about the circumstances of Udoka’s suspension for the 2022-23 season. But both ESPN and The athletics reported that Udoka was having a consensual “intimate relationship with a female” employee, in violation of the franchise’s code of conduct. Favre, who retired in 2010, is suspected of pressuring Mississippi state officials to spend millions of dollars of federal welfare funds on a volleyball center at the campus where his daughter played the sport and a soccer facility.

Favre has not been criminally charged, but he is one of more than 35 people and entities named in a civil lawsuit filed by the state. Recent text messages from 2017 and 2019 show Favre pushing the then governor. Phil Bryant and other officials to secure funding for the sports complex from funds intended to go to needy families across the state. Bryant has said he was unaware of the plan and Favre has said publicly that he was unaware the funds were Social Fund and believes he did nothing wrong. On Thursday, retired US women’s soccer star Abby Wambach announced she was cutting ties with a Favre-backed company.

Media reports of the former soccer star’s involvement in mismanaged social funds began in 2020 but were quickly – and for some excessively – overshadowed by news of Udoka’s suspension last week. Amid the discourse on apparent inequality, some Critics have pointed this out that media coverage may be imbalanced because Favre is retired and Udoka is a star coach who guided Boston to the NBA Finals last season, making his situation even more newsworthy.

“When this scandal was first reported, I had the feeling that the Brett Favre story was being swept under the rug a little quicker than most would like. It came at such an opportune time for this coverage to drown out something far more reprehensible like stealing from the poor,” said Kazeem Famuyide, co-host of “MSG PM,” which is shown after New York Knicks home games, and creator of the Say Less podcast.

“The Udoka story just checks so many boxes of what we think is interesting when it comes to sports coverage. I can almost understand why it was treated differently. That came right at the start of the NBA season,” Famuyide said. “For people who cover the media, if it doesn’t necessarily have an impact on what’s happening on the field or on the pitch, they don’t care as much as they probably should. That speaks to the culture that thrives in sports talk.”

When news of the suspension broke last week, social media users were quick to point out that Udoka was more in the spotlight than Favre. one person tweeted“If you’re more upset about Ime Udoka and the Celtics’ predicament than Brett Favre stealing millions of welfare funds from the poorest in our country in Mississippi, then you’re part of the problem.” And another added, “Now that Ime Udoka is officially suspended it would be great if sports media people took that energy and shifted it to reporting on Brett Favre stealing millions of welfare funds from the poorest state in the nation.”

In addition to questions about the circumstances of the Celtics’ decision, reports and chatter on social media also focused on Udoka’s fiancé Nia Long and questioned why Udoka would be unfaithful to the beloved actress.

The disparity has also raised questions about whether the media reports more favorably on white athletes and team officials than on black ones. A 2015 University of Missouri study found that sports media, a white-dominated domain, are more likely than whites to portray blacks in a “negative tone” with an emphasis on crime.

“It’s hard to ignore the fact that race is a factor in this situation. And much of the blame for the premature leak of this story should rest with the Boston Celtics,” said Raja Rahim, a sports history professor and expert at Appalachian State University.

The franchise has said it will decide on Udoka’s future with the team at a later date. and according to Sports Illustrated, Officials have given no guarantee that Udoka will return to the team after his suspension. Sports fans have speculated that this scandal will be the end of Udoka’s NBA coaching career. If so, it would be a disappointing ending to Udoka’s year-long journey to becoming head coach, which has been shaped by racial dynamics, Rahim said.

“We can see this not only in the NBA but also in the NFL,” Rahim said of the lack of diversity in sports leadership. “This is rooted in pseudo-scientific notions that exist about black men and their intellectual abilities and abilities.”

After ending his NBA career, Udoka spent nine seasons as an assistant coach in San Antonio, Philadelphia and Brooklyn before being named Boston’s head coach last year. He noted that Detroit, Cleveland and Indiana overlooked him when trying to fill the position and “that was difficult,” he told Yahoo Sports. Udoka’s plight is common among black candidates seeking a head coaching job. There are currently 15 black head coaches in the NBA with 30 teams making up half the league for the first time. However, this is a record only recently set in the NBA, which didn’t see its first black head coach until 1963, when the Celtics hired Bill Russell as player-coach.

“You had to excel, or you never got the opportunity again, and nobody really talked about it,” Andre Iguodala, who plays for the Golden State Warriors, said according to NBC Sports, acknowledging the difficulties Black Head coaches face . “The way the headlines looked, if you portray black coaches historically, it wasn’t in a fair light. On the other hand, there was the notion of ‘the good old boys’ club’ where you recycle the names over and over again.”

Udoka’s hiring was part of a major push in the league to address the lack of diversity among the NBA’s head coaches following the George Floyd protests of 2020. His suspension comes at a time when Black Head basketball coaches, historically neglected and overlooked, are finally seeing significant opportunity in the NBA. Rahim agreed, noting that Udoka’s achievements are well documented. In his freshman year with the Celtics, Udoka led the team to their first NBA Finals in 12 years. He is credited with turning the helm for the team after a lackluster start to the season.

“In this situation, Ime will not be acquitted of the results because he was in a leadership position and should have known the team policies,” Rahim began. “He literally took a Boston Celtics team that started rocky to end the season on a great streak. In his first season as head coach, he made it to the NBA Finals. Well, an incident like this overshadows what he was hired to do. ”

Even Celtics players were shocked at the news of his suspension.

“It was hell for us. Just surprised,” Marcus Smart said of the scandal, according to the New York Times. “Nobody really knows anything, so like everyone else, we’re standing in the wind. The last few days have been confusing.”