From Jackie Robinson to Texas Western, many racial breakthroughs have taken place between the lines. Athletes have historically been able to capture the attention and admiration of fans and unite people while tearing down prejudice at a faster rate than ever imagined. Unfortunately, for each ground-breaking moment there were horrifying moments in which players, coaches and fans crossed the line and reminded us how far we had to go.
Here are top five racial lowlights of the last 20 years.
1) Rob Parker, ESPN commentator, calls Robert Griffin III "cornball brother."
On December 13, 2012, Parker took shots at Robert Griffin III after Griffin made comments stating that while he was African-American, he did not want to be defined personally or professionally by race alone. Parker insisted that while Griffin was black, "he wasn't really down with the cause. He's not one of us." The most infamous moment came when he referred to RGIII as a "cornball brother," which can be defined as an African-American who chooses not to follow racial stereotypes. Parker listed Griffen's conservative views and marriage to a white woman as evidence of his "cornball" status.
Parker was suspended and later let go by ESPN.
2) Racism abounds on the soccer field.
Racism and soccer have gone hand-in-hand since the very beginning, so it was difficult to pick just one incident. The video above offers a refresher course.
Luckily, in 2013, we finally received a serious response from FIFA. Bulgaria and Hungry have been fined, $38,000 and $43,400 respectively, and will forced be forced to play in empty stadiums during World Cup qualifiers due to poor fan conduct. Racial abuse has run rampant throughout much of Europe and is finally receiving the kind of notoriety it deserves.
3) Fuzzy Zoeller insults Tiger Woods after 1997 victory.
After the 1997 Masters Tournament, Fuzzy Zoeller commented on Tiger Woods' surprising victory. A tradition at the Masters is that the winner gets to select the Masters Champions Dinner the following year. Here's what had Zoeller say:
"He's doing quite well, pretty impressive. That little boy is driving well and he's putting well. He's doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it, or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve."
After his comments went national, Dunlap and K-Mart ceased sponsoring Zoeller.
4) Spanish National Basketball team takes a picture in poor taste in 2008 Olympics.
The entire national team posed for a picture leading up to the Beijing Olympics. Speaks for itself.
5) John Rocker, relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, disses the Yankees, Mets, everyone.
When asked by Sports Illustrated in December on 1999 if he'd ever play for the Yankees or the Mets in New York, Rocker replied:
"I'd retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing... The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?"
These comments would follow Rocker around for the remainder of his playing days, adding a burning hot spotlight to what was once considered a promising career. Rocker would be out of work within four years.