Is This Australian Basketball Ad Racist?
Remember how back in January we were asking if this Australian KFC ad was racist? And almost a year ago we asked if this blackface skit on an Australian variety show was racist? Well, here’s round three—the latest advertisement for the Australian pro hoops league, the NBL, is raising eyebrows for a scene featuring a Black American player, Taj McCullough (pictured above) jumping in bed with a white couple.
Now, in defense of my Aussie brothers and sisters, these cases of “racism” actually fall more into the category of “ignorance”—the KFC ad is meant to represent their chicken is delicious, not that you should be concerned about being surrounded by a group of Black people (and if you are, just offer them a box of fried chicken and everything will be fine). The blackface skit, as bizarre as it was, was not done as a nod to 19th century racial stereotypes. (Please don’t take this paragraph as an excuse for ignorance towards racial issues though—in all cases the parties involved should have shown better judgement.)
With the case of the NBL ad there are a few issues to consider. Several years ago there was a case where an African-American import was found guilty for being an unwanted third party in a sexual encounter, so there’s the risk of sparking that memory in the minds of Aussie sports fans. This ad aired for weeks before anyone even noticed any potential racism, until three retired NBL legends (and who all happen to be African-Americans) offered their concerns with the commercial. So far they’re the only public figures to comment negatively on the ad.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Leroy Loggins, a Brisbane Bullets legend.
“Why would you show a black American jumping into bed with a man’s wife to promote basketball? I don’t even know how someone could think up a commercial like that. You would never see any other sport in the world, that takes themselves seriously, portraying a black athlete that way.”
Melbourne Tigers great Darryl McDonald said: “It puts black Americans in a bad light. That commercial has nothing to do with basketball. Nobody else would present their sport this way.
“It’s supposed to be in fun but not everyone will think the same way.”
NBL Hall of Famer Cal Bruton said he contacted Basketball Australia about the ad.
“They are treading a minefield of racism,” Bruton said.
View the commercial below—the scene in question is at the 0:28 mark.
Main picture: Catherine Cranston Photography.