The Oishii office has been bustling with World Cup conversations. With staff members from Germany to Mexico to England to Peru, everyone has a story to share; a team and player nuances passionately mapped on the whiteboard.
In a recent NPR program, guest Felix Sanchez raised questions about what he perceived to be the racist or culturally offensive remarks made by Univision game announcers during the World Cup. Sanchez, who champions the Hispanic voice and perspective in media and culture, also raises awareness about the lack of inclusivity in content we consume.
During certain World Cup games, Sanchez argued that the racist and otherwise off-color remarks, such as “morena” and grena,” showed a lack of respect for certain players, and reflected racist perceptions about “dark skinned” peoples. While some audiences may grit their teeth and laugh off the bravado, he pointed out that other audiences might be insulted by such racially charged language. Reactions to Sanchez’s comments have fueled further outcry, forcing him to defend his criticisms:
Again, the issue is not how you have used the word “moreno” and “greña,” but how it was used in the context of this broadcast. Here the sportscaster had been calling all the players by their last names, but when it came to the Afro Latino player, he referred to him by the color of skin and gratuitously focused on his hair, essentially he said: “the black guy with the dreds.” That kind of double standard commentary is not acceptable and at a minimum raises issue of fairness and respect to Afro Latino players, and at a maximum reinforces a classist/racist/ mentality.
We think it’s important to look at the World Cup less as a spectator sport more as a moment of television cultural anthropology. How television, culture and sport are symbolic and real “screens” onto which we can see audience values, tastes, opinions and ideas intersecting and influencing one another. How cultures merge and where conversations happen. The World Cup is a great opportunity to see how television works in very powerful ways. In the United States, television audiences reflect demographic trends. Audiences are increasingly diverse and bring with them their experiences and ideologies. With this diversity comes convergence, and merging is not without its conflicts and happy accidents. Rather than label announcers, perhaps we should embrace the chaos and sit without judging. Observe and truly understand the importance of audiences in the new local-global television scape.
What are your thoughts on Sanchez’s argument? What role / responsibility do you think TV should play in this case?