Sports are frequently thneed to be the ultimate meritocracy — the arena wright here, no issue the race or course of the player, the ideal will certainly climb to the height. Professional sporting activities leagues such as the NFL likewise feed off our hunger to belong to a neighborhood of fans, unfractured by the dividing lines of our culture and drawn together by the pure love of the game.

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But this colorblind promotional technique is belied by the race-based recruitment and also organizational techniques that the NFL, choose various other pro sporting activities leagues, employs. NFL scouting often relies on race-based evaluations of white and also black athletes, concentrating on white athletes’ intellect and also work ethic and also black athletes’ physicality, affecting determicountries of that plays in decisive positions like quarterback and also becomes the promoted face of an NFL franchise. At the same time, sporting activities media perpetuates the NFL’s dehumanizing metrics by evaluating players’ performances along racial lines.

Key & Peele addresses this facility facet of America’s sporting activities society in the sketch “Super Bowl Special.” As two sports broadcasters interwatch a racist guest hold, the sports segment shifts from weighing competing teams to revealing exactly how race is inextricably connected to sporting activities. This sketch sheds light on exactly how, even within a racially integrated sport, racial divisions still persist on the area.

“Super Bowl Special” is presented as a segment within a larger TV regime, hosted by two sports broadcasters played by Key and Peele. Returning from a commercial break, the hosts present Harry Peters, a white guest commentator that hosts his very own show dubbed “No, You Shut Up,” which parodies frequently contentious sporting activities conflict shows choose ESPN’s “First Take.”

“Super Bowl Special,” which airs on the fictional CCN network-related, draws on the stylistic conventions of ESPN’s sports commentary reflects. The set is oriented about a large desk that all 3 personalities sit around; the photo of the College of Phoenix Stadium, which hosted Super Bowl XLIX, hovers in the background, and also chyrons show up making use of the ESPN font. The video camera moves in the fashion of sports show broadcasts, via medium shots recording the hosts within the frame complemented by a more comprehensive swarm that slowly pans throughout the collection. Key and also Peele’s personalities both wear large suits via pincluded shoulders, and also Key wears a football championship ring to signal that he is a previous NFL player. These elements of mise-en-scene, cinematography, and costume automatically telegraph that we as viewers are being put in a acquainted landscape — a standard sporting activities talk present on a traditional sporting activities channel.

Key and Peele waste no time setting up the sketch’s major tension, as a traditional question around 2 competing teams and also their matchups quickly exposes Peters’s racial biases. Peters sets up the matchup by emphasizing the work-related ethic and also psychological abilities of New England’s white quarterearlier Tom Brady — “the hardest-working, the majority of intelligent player in the game.” Then, through a laugh to himself — as if he’s astonished by what he’s about to explain — he goes on to highlight the physical characteristics of Brady’s counterpart on the other side of gridiron: Seattle’s black cornerearlier Ricdifficult Sherguy, “one of the a lot of physically gifted creatures to ever grace the sport.” Words “creature” is specifically dehumanizing, as it directly contrasts Brady’s “intelligence,” a high quality that supposedly distinguishes humans from other “creatures.”


Peters’ descriptions of Brady and also Shermale are accompanied by portraits of each player. The portraits automatically comparison Brady’s and also Sherman’s complexions, as Brady’s image has actually a light backdrop while Sherman’s is dark. In addition, Brady’s pensive facial expression conveys thoughtfulness, Sherman’s intense stare frames him as fierce. When comparing him to Brady, Peters areas Sherman “on the other end of the spectrum,” alluding to miscellaneous dimensions of race (white versus black) and also capability (mental versus physical) that are taken into consideration diametrically opposed.

Another informing expression in the sketch is Peters’s concession that Shermale is “articulate,” a backhanded compliment and widespread microaggression, which means that, despite his Stanford education and learning, any kind of display of intelligence on Sherman’s part is especially remarkable. Though he never before clearly mentions either player’s race, the language Peters uses is a dog whistle to Key and also Peele’s characters; their deals with expush their skepticism prior to their voices articulate it.

As the segment progresses, the pace of dialogue speeds up, building alongside the stress and anxiety in between Peters and the hosts. Peters transitions to explain black defensive tackle Vince Wilfork as “a true freak of nature” and white facility Max Unger as “among the most keenly analytical minds in the league.” The video camera cuts to a reaction swarm of Key and also Peele’s characters, capturing mutual looks of shock and consternation as they tacitly acunderstanding Peters’s racially coded language.


The selection of these 4 specific players is strategic in revealing not just exactly how sporting activities commentary have the right to be racially biased, but exactly how football in itself harbors racial biases. Brady and Unger’s positions of quarterearlier and center are frequently thmust require a degree of intellectual acuguys, while protective line positions and also cornerbacks favor Shermale and Wilfork are perceived as requiring fewer brains and more brawn. These socially built qualifications intersect with a tradition of systematic racism that stereoforms black and white human being on and off the area.

The historically racist perception of African Americans as physical “creatures” with little mind of their own helped give increase to the stereoform of the “organic black athlete,” that has actually rate and also stamina however lacks in mental capacity compared to their white counterparts. Thus viewed disparity in physical capacity between white and black athletes, white athletes’ purported mental superiority and occupational ethic has been supplied to justify their participation and success in sports. Over time, sports leagues have internalized these stereotypes, influencing organizational decisions about that plays which positions.

“Super Bowl Special” sheds light on just how, also within a racially integrated sport, racial departments still persist on the field.

As an outcome of this flawed racial logic, “thinking” positions prefer center and quarterearlier are taken into consideration great fits for white athletes, while positions that supposedly need more physicality and also less intellect, like protective line and also cornerearlier, are assumed to be a far better fit for the “natural” black athlete. This mentality has actually long been embedded in sporting activities like footround, yet the language offered to define and justify these decisions has evolved to veil the racialized interpretation underneath. Peters, for circumstances, clintends he ssuggest “calls ’em favor sees ’em,” a expression coined by umpires to convey the impartiality of their calls. By evoking the language of an umpire, Peters insists that his very own assessments are completely objective and untainted by racial prejudice.

As the sketch progresses, the contrast in between Peters’s descriptions of babsence and also white athletes becomes even more and also even more excessive, also calling mixed-race quarterago Russel Wilson a “hybrid,” having both “brains presents.” This remark echoes the reactions of experts and spectators towards racially ambiguous athletes who don’t quite accomplish either end of Peters’s racial “spectrum.” Peters’s language becomes increasingly absurd, as he calls Darrelle Revis’s abilities “magical powers he learned from his grandma,” an allusion to the cinematic trope of the “magical Negro,” which Key and Peele have actually explored in past sketches.

But the sketch ultimately builds to a twist, in classical Key and Peele fashion, wbelow Peters likens white tight end Rob Gronkowski to a “silverearlier gorilla” — and also receives agreement from Key and also Peele’s commentators. This finishing adds a comedic wrinkle to the flexible nature of language and also just how the coded intent of one phrase can differ in between a white and babsence topic. For an outlier like Gronk, being dubbed a gorilla doesn’t conjure the racist caricatures that are applied to black athletes.

The last consensus in between Peters, Key, and also Peele sheds light on the slipperiness of language, and also how context have the right to transform connotation. While the sketch ultimately highlights the racist language that permeates the NFL and sporting activities media, its last twist adds unexpected levity without undermining the sketch’s urgent social commentary.

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Desi Carrasco (Cal ’21) is a twin significant in Amerihave the right to Studies and also Sociology. He is interested in developing a crucial perspective on athletics that considers its social dimensions and intersections via race, sex, and also course. He is additionally a sneakerhead and also sports broadcaster for KALX Radio, and also inoften tends to write a thesis on the role of sporting activities in Amerideserve to society.