Why does the media treat Anthony Edwards and Cade Cunningham so differently?

Anthony Edwards is doing something special right now. He’s shot 39.8% from three since Nov. 17, 2021. His shooting efficiency was the biggest criticism of his game coming out of college, and that stretch gives me hope he can leave that criticism in the past.

It looks like this year, Edwards is finally getting the respect he deserves. After an up-and-down rookie season — a season in which he took his fair share of bits — big questions about his game still loom. As J. Kyle Mann of The Ringer expressed in this video, “Was Anthony Edwards worthy of the first overall pick?”

Worthy is a fun word to use. But so far in Edwards’ career, he’s had to prove it. He had to prove he should have been drafted on LaMelo Ball, prove he can score effectively, even prove he loves basketball. There has been a constant current flowing against Ant. Through it all, he held his head up, a smile on his face, and did his thing. Right now, he’s proving it.

Why so much criticism of Anthony Edwards? He is praised all the time for his physical gifts. Praised for speed and power, the things his body can do. However, a lot of people don’t trust his wit, which Ant is well aware of since he entered the league.

“I’m smarter than a lot of people think. I just look like that,” he said.

It is an admission of an unassailable truth. In our society based on white supremacy, black men, especially dark-skinned black men, are considered unintelligent and less than – until they prove it.

For black athletes, the focus is often just on the things they can do with their bodies. We all know the stereotypes. I find it disappointing that the major narrative surrounding Edwards is that he is an unpolished athlete. Yes, he has some skill development that he needs to take his game to the next level. But what about the skill development he has already done? He catapulted himself onto the fast track to stardom in just a season and a half, regardless of enemies along the way. Make no mistake: Anthony Edwards is one of the most promising young players in the league.

This year’s No. 1 overall pick, Cade Cunningham, entered the league hailed as a “franchise-changing offensive orchestrator with fluid scoring skills, versatile defense and winning mentality” by Kevin O’ Connor. Conversely, in O’Connor’s 2020 Draft Guide, he described Edwards as a “killer goalscorer who can create space with his dribble and make hard shots from anywhere on the pitch, but his decision-making leaves much to be desired”.

The words we use are important. There is not a negative word about Cunningham in O’Connor’s outlook summary. Is Cunningham missing warts entirely from his game? Even LeBron James entered the league with questions about his shooting. Cunningham is “smooth” and a winner. However, Edwards has “bruises” but lacks “decision-making” ability. Here we see again that Edwards’ body is praised while his brain is criticized. We also have here a connotation of violence. I have to wonder why O’Connor chose to use the word “bruise” rather than “powerful” or “dynamic”.

Now. I’m not here to say that Edwards’ performance in college showed he was a sure thing. But the difference in language surrounding the two is curious. ask yourself, Why is Cunningham going to be a star in the eyes of so many reviewers, when Edwards has had to battle so many critics? This dichotomy between Edwards and Cunningham is an example of colorism. Cunningham is light-skinned, while Edwards’ skin is dark. These things are subtle but composed to create a culture steeped in racism.

I’m not here to talk down Cade. I’m just pointing out that he didn’t reach statistical milestones from an efficiency standpoint that would lead me to believe that he was, without a doubt, “more worthy” of the No. 1 overall pick than Edwards. In fact, Cunningham is outclassed by two other recruits in his class: Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes.

Here’s how Edwards and Cunningham compare across 31 career games:

Another key difference that needs to be considered when comparing Ant and Cunningham is that the latter is currently on a team that has little interest in winning games. The Detroit Pistons are in full rebuild mode and would like to get the best draft pick possible.

Last year Wolves had a must-win season gone wrong. Their draft pick belonged to the Golden State Warriors unless it fell to the top three. Flat lottery odds made the prospect of tanking unpleasant. Not to mention the fact that Wolves already had two All-Stars on their roster. We can quibble about D’Angelo Russell’s All-Star injury replacement later. Still, the bottom line is that there was immediate pressure on Edwards to be the type of player who can help win the game of basketball.

It’s certainly not fair that so much undue criticism has hit Edwards, but that’s the world we live in. Colorism is a nuanced form of racism that occurs within and beyond the black community. Whiteness, and its closeness to whiteness, is the gold standard in America. The darker your skin, the further away you are from whiteness. Proximity matters.

Some, who are unwilling or perhaps afraid to see the world as it is, might point to the fact that LeBron James and Michael Jordan – who are not light-skinned – are perhaps the best basketball players. most revered of all time. Those who wish to deny the existence of colorism or even racism as it exists today will consider these two players as the ultimate rebuttal against that idea.

Those who are tall can transcend the need for closeness to whiteness, just like LeBron and MJ. But if greatness is the only thing that can defy the shackles of racism, then we have a serious problem. This is the classic case of the glass ceiling. The most successful black people in their craft shatter that ceiling and seem to rise above the white supremacy that traps us all. But they are still black.

The truth is, denial of colorism is denial of the degree to which racism and white supremacy are taking hold of our nation. From the time black Africans were forcibly brought to this country, a preference for fair complexions emerged. Many of the fair complexions we see today are a direct result of the horrors of slavery. Black female slaves were repeatedly forced to engage sexually with their masters or overseers. The lighter-skinned offspring from many of these despicable acts were not only closer in whiteness of complexion – they were related.

Uzogara, Lee, Abdou, and Jackson wrote in their “Comparing Skin Tone Discrimination Among African American Men: 1995 and 2003”:

Lighter-skinned slaves were generally mixed race and favored by white slave owners. These lighter-skinned slaves were frequently sired by white slave owners (usually from non-consensual sex with female slaves) and were therefore privileged unlike black slaves, lighter-skinned slaves were spared by the physically strenuous work outdoors and instead took up domestic jobs indoors. like the household in closer contact with whites.

American society was built on the foundation of slavery. The hatred, the atrocities, the pain have never been forgotten. We don’t see as many cruel acts of blatant racism, but the slave culture had a direct influence on the way we live today.

In post-colonial America, colorism persists. The “paper bag test” has become common practice for this form of discrimination. The title may be obvious, but let me explain. Hold a paper bag against your skin. Are you lighter or darker than this paper bag? This measure was used to perpetuate the further stratification of dark-skinned blacks and their lighter-skinned counterparts.

I write this as a mixed man myself. My mother is white and my father is black. My lighter skin tone and maternal closeness to whiteness gave me opportunities for higher social status. I recognize that. And I recognize the impact that colorism has on the way we see the world.

Anthony Edwards will have to struggle with colorism throughout his career. He has already proven so many people wrong, and I have no doubt he will continue to do so as he develops his game. But we all need to understand that the way we talk about him and other players in the dark-skinned NBA must go against colorism. We have to praise them for their skills and intelligence, not just their looks. Because let’s not forget, Anthony Edwards knows he could be the best at anything he thinks of.

Comments are closed.