New Program Helps Detect Coded Racism in Sportswriting

As at least a few of you on the site are aware, the 2014 NFL Draft was last night (Bueller…? Bueller…?), but what any casual sports fan knows like the back of his foam finger-wearing hand is that there’s a relatively limited lexicon that analysts use when describing the athletes up for grabs in the draft.

Words like “motor” and “instinctual” and “scrappy” are thrown around left and right, but what do they really mean?

Well, “motor” is a guy with endurance, “instinctual” is someone who knows where to be on the field and what to do during a certain play, and “scrappy,” according to this Deadspin article is “a meaningless, arbitrary, clichéd adjective that sportswriters use to describe baseball players they like. Often, these players are small, white, terrible at baseball, David Eckstein, or all four of the above.”

But how do we know that “scrappy” apparently means “white”? Is there an intrinsic connotation behind it? Did people just keep pointing at white people and calling them scrappy until the Pavlovian response was set in stone? Is this even really an issue?

Well, Deadspin may have come up with a way to help figure out the answer to that last one.

In their words, they “pulled the text from pre-draft scouting reports from (written by the infamous Nolan Nawrocki), CBS, and ESPN, split them by player race, counted the number of times individual words appeared using the Voyant tool, and then calculated the rate at which each word appeared per 10,000 words.”

Then they let their users search any word they could think of, input it into the interactive app and they were show the usage rate of the word.

Here are some of the things they [and I]  came up with:

Grit: It’s like scrappiness, only blacker.

White v. Black Intellect v. Instincts

On Leadership…

And here’s a nice reminder that Michael Sam is in the draft…

Oh the miracles of technology, pointing out subtle/subconscious racism one NFL scout at a time.

PS: Nerds Coders, this thing is on GitHub