Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, November 17, 2021

different colors
The hoots of outrage over this week’s “Monday Night Football” opening segment starring Terrell Owens and Nicollette Sheridan seem to be mounting, with even the FCC considering whether or not to label it “indecent” and levy appropriate fines. Within the sports world, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King sounds out the appropriate tones of indignation.

Let’s ignore the farcical nature of the segment, which was intended as an over-the-top spoof of classically trashy nighttime soap drama (of which the Sheridan vehicle “Desperate Housewives” is the latest successful rendition). Let’s also ignore the base hypocrisy of being offended by play-acted nudity in a pre-game promotion while condoning NFL cheerleaders’ near-nudity during gametime. Let’s even ignore the fuzzy logic in admonishing even the hint of sexually-oriented material while embracing an ultraviolent game — only the latest variant of this sex-is-bad/violence-is-okay dynamic (and this is coming from a huge NFL fan).

Instead, take a look at the picture above. What do you see?

- There’s Nicollette Sheridan. Tall, blonde, fair skin, dreamily beautiful. A white woman — very white.

- There’s Terrell Owens. Athletic, muscular, aggressive, outspoken, dark skin, handsome. A black man — very black.

So we have a scene depicting forbidden love between a very white woman and a very black man, culminating in the woman, naked, literally throwing herself onto the man.

Forget about the context, the potential audience, and the desired effect. Ask yourself instead: Would people be this up in arms had Sheridan stripped down and jumped the bones of Brett Favre, Tom Brady, or Brian Urlacher, all prominent white players?

You could say race has nothing to do with it, that the unease has to do solely with the injection of overtly sexual material into sports programming. Especially considering the past year’s parade of broadcast missteps, including the NFL-specific Janet Jackson Super Bowl flap, it would seem reasonable that the furor is colorblind, focusing on the risque material.

I don’t buy it. This is America, and the image of a black man and white woman getting it on is going to evoke just the kind of reaction we’re seeing here. ESPN’s Jason Whitlock made joking reference to the “Mandingo” aspects of the situation, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the heart of the entire controversy.

Others see race being a major factor in this story, including Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy. Dungy sees it in a slightly different light, though, considering it a poor reflection on black athletes in wake of the Kobe Bryant media circus:

“I think it’s stereotypical in looking at the players, and on the heels of the Kobe Bryant incident I think it’s very insensitive. I don’t think that they would have had Bill Parcells or Andy Reid or one of the owners involved in that,” he added, a reference to the coaches in the game.

Ultimately, this will blow over. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this was the desired effect ABC had the whole time, garnering even more publicity for its programming. And for me, it’s just another example of the fairly inane pregame wrapping that’s been featured this season on MNF and its sister show, ESPN’s Sunday Night Football. But I doubt I’m the only one who’s seeing this knee-jerk reaction in a racial light.

UPDATE (11/19/04): In a nod to all the extra hits I’m getting from visitors seeking a video clip to this MNF opener, here you go. (Thanks to Off Wing Opinion for pointing the way to that iFilm link.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/17/2004 10:19:45 PM
Category: Football, Society, TV
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5 Feedbacks
  1. haha. I love that photo with Owens. He is da MAN! l have an avatar of that photo with her droppin the towel… thanks for droppin in the site btw.

    Comment by trench — 11/18/2004 @ 05:15:42 AM

  2. Unfortunately, I believe you’re right about the racial issues. I had a conversation with a good friend of mine about the situation and made the same Breet Favre/Tom Brady comparison as you did, and he agreed that there wouldn’t have been such a big deal made about it.

    Comment by blunted — 11/18/2004 @ 07:57:04 AM

  3. […] 2005 DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES & MNF: ORIGINALLY MADDEN I know we all remember the Terrell Owens-Nicollette Sheridan “Monday N […]

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    Much as Monday Night Football and Terrell Owens taught up almost four years ago, you simply cannot put a black man and white woman together in American media and not have people go (pardon the pun) apeshit.
    But the image is stirring up controversy, wit…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 03/28/2008 @ 03:37:45 PM

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