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A Professor Attacks John Madden

Quick—and without looking at your notes: Can you think of a difference between professional athletes and chattel slaves?

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A history professor at Dallas College sent a since-deleted series of tweets to interrupt what he characterized as the “veneration” of the late John Madden following the legendary coach’s death on Tuesday.

The professor wrote:

I have lots of opinions on John Madden. The creation of the Madden video game was not a great development for the U.S. It further glamorized violence and dehumanized Black athletes, helping to establish plantation cosplay that has grown worse in the era of fantasy football.

The video game distanced the reality of the violent sport from fans, and transformed human behaviors into artificial numbers and simulations. It glamorized athletes, using their name for profits while encouraging fans to disregard the humanity. Madden built a digital plantation.

Sure, there is a lot of significance to his life and his impact. But it’s pretty clear most of his accomplishments were not beneficial or healthy for athletes, (particularly) non-white athletes. John Madden made a life in football, one of the most violent and exploitative sports.

When your entire life is based on expanding and profiting off of one the of most violent and exploitative games, veneration is not exactly something that you deserve.

It is first of all urgent to observe that no one—not a single, solitary person—cared whether this professor had “lots of opinions about John Madden,” much less what those “opinions” were.

Second, consider the substance of the professor’s argument: Madden lent his name to a video-game series that depicted professional football. People get injured while playing professional football. The majority of professional football players are black. The Madden video game uses metrics to rank players. Slave owners in the antebellum American South relied on data of one kind or another to assess the capacity of slaves. Therefore—and this is a leap larger than almost any I’ve ever seen—Madden “built a digital plantation,” “dehumanized [black] athletes,” and “establish[ed] plantation cosplay.” Quick—and without looking at your notes: Can you think of a difference between professional athletes and chattel slaves?

Mourn, not only for Madden, but for one who would defame a dead man before his body hit the earth.

about the author

John Hirschauer is assistant editor of The American Conservative. He was previously a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at National Review and a staff writer at RealClear.

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