In the summer of 2003, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was America’s public enemy number one. He had been accused of a raping a 19 year old hotel worker in Eagle, Colo. and before any details of the case had emerged; people had already taken sides, usually along racial lines.
Bryant encountered jeers from crowds in opposing arenas throughout the 2003 04 season, although the accuser later dropped the criminal charges, while reaching a financial settlement in the civil case against Bryant.
Despite the fact that the criminal case never went to court, Bryant still found himself the most hated athlete in America and had to fight for numerous seasons to regain his positive image and lucrative endorsements.
Two time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers is the latest superstar athlete to find himself embroiled in a legal controversy because of an encounter with the opposite sex. A 20 year old student from Georgia College & State University recently accused the quarterback of sexual assault at a Georgia bar earlier this month. It is the second time in a short span that Roethlisberger has been accused of assaulting a female.
In spite of the similarities of the Bryant and Roethlisberger cases, the public outrage over the Roethlisberger case appears nonexistent compared to the Bryant case a few years earlier. However, one difference exists between the two superstars: Roethlisberger is White, while Bryant is Black.
Although Black Americans are usually accused of playing the race card when they shed light on racial inequalities, the double standard that exists between Black and White celebrities is so crystal clear that a blind a man could see it perfectly with 20/20 vision.
It is very possible that Roethlisberger is 100 percent innocent of the crime he is accused of committing, because many are aware that celebrities are often the target of false allegations because people see a pay day when they come in contact with them. However, the thing that upsets me is that when a Black celebrity is simply accused of a crime, America erupts into an uproar and when the accused is White they are usually given the benefit of the doubt in the court of public opinion.
The double standard is not simply reserved for athletes either. When singer actor Chris Brown faced charges for assaulting former girlfriend Rihanna, many radio stations banned his music, in my opinion in an attempt to ruin his once promising career. Nevertheless, Charlie Sheen faces a felony charge of menacing after a Christmas day dispute with wife, Brooke Mueller, according to the New York Times and despite the similarities in the Brown and Sheen cases, the latter is reportedly returning to work on the hit sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” while the former, although only 19 years old at the time of the incident, became the poster boy for domestic violence.
The double standard that Blacks and other minorities have had to overcome extends well beyond celebrity. We were taught at an early age that he we had to prove we were twice as good in anything in order for others to view us as equal.
Although, we believed we lived in a post racial America after the historic election of President Barack Obama, the double standard that existed before November 2008 still exists over one year later, just ask Bryant and Brown, who are still two of the most hated men in America despite similarities with their more loved White counterparts.