Here’s a thought: If Republicans are tired of defending themselves against accusations of racism, maybe they should stop saying things that are inherently, if not blatantly, racist.
Take U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, for instance.
On Tuesday, Paul attended the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ anti-trust hearing about the upcoming merger of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. The three-term senator from Kentucky said he was of the opinion that Congress had “no business” even questioning the PGA tour about the merger with the Saudi-backed golf organization. However, he didn’t appear to have the same energy for college basketball players who have the audacious nerve to—*checks notes*—make money off their own names and likenesses.
That’s right, folks. While Rand believes golfers should be able to get their money however and wherever they can, he thinks anti-trust laws in sports take something away from the world of college football by allowing players to monetize their “Name, Image, and Likeness” (NIL) rights.
And we haven’t even gotten to the racist part yet.
“Many of us loved watching amateur athletes that weren’t paid,” Paul said. “Now everybody that plays basketball in college is gonna be driving a Bentley or a Rolls. I mean, we’re gonna be seeing rap stars instead of basketball stars.”
Now, conservatives and other assorted white people will argue that Paul didn’t mention race and thus didn’t say anything racist. Those people will ignore that Black players account for nearly 60% of athletes in men’s college basketball and that the sport has, for decades, been largely associated with Black people in the U.S.
You know what else is largely associated with Black people? Rap music.
So, besides the fact that Paul appears to be pining for a time when white people got to watch Black people flex their athleticism for free (not that there’s a history of white folks’ demand for free Black labor or anything…), he’s also reflexively stereotyping young Black people just because they’re profiting off their own image.
Also, here’s a question: Are rappers the only people with money who buy nice cars?
Are rock stars, actors and otherwise wells-off people riding around in ’89 Hondas? Why isn’t Paul comparing the non-broke basketball players to Wall Street employees or young people with trust funds or—oh, I don’t know—professional athletes?
Do golfers not like Bentleys?
Anyway, Black people know why “rap star” was the first comparison that came to Paul’s mind because we’ve had enough experience in white America to speak fluent Caucasian dog whistle and we know coded language when we hear it. And since there’s no point in us arguing with folks who are going to be obtuse about it, let’s get back to Paul’s assertion that college ball players of any race should be disallowed to make any money at all while the NCAA generates about $1 billion a year.
(Lest we forget about the time Paul employed similarly racist dog-whistling tactics during his 2022 campaign against Charles Booker, a Black candidate, as well as during the Senate confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson, a then-nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court who also just happens to be Black. But I digress…)
Mind you, we’re not even talking about college basketball players being paid to play basketball—we’re talking about people being compensated for the use of their given names and their physical likenesses. Why should literally anyone allow a business to profit off of their name and image for free? Would Paul not be looking for residuals if some toy company started manufacturing Congressional action figures? (I just made myself laugh a little while imagining a miniature Rand Paul figurine with a cape around him that reads, “Super Mad.“)
One would think that members of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” party would be less inclined to limit the way young people can earn a living. Apparently, the American past time of profiting from free labor will trump those bootstraps every time.
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