The inaugural National College Football Playoff Championship game on Monday between Ohio State and Oregon is a hot button topic, and not solely for what's about to unfold on the gridiron. The NFL has seen it’s fair share of intense controversy this year, and while much of that has to do with the individual actions and personal lives of the players, there is also a lot to be said about the culture of the sport and the attitudes of the people in charge.
In Nick Cannon’s new five episode animated series, “Football U,” the shots are called on a wide variety of issues currently bubbling up for America’s favorite pastime. The main character, Coach Pebow, is both fun loving and totally socially unaware. His good intentions are so riddled with unconscious bias that they are harmful. When he is praising the players on his team, he has a pre-written line for each of them, contingent not on their race, he says, but on the type of pants they are wearing… “because you can always tell someone’s race by their pants…”
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It’s hard not to watch “Football U” and feel kind of gross. It’s so obvious that Coach Pebow is biased (whether he knows it or not is still up for debate), and yet he is the person speaking the loudest. He is still the guy in charge. And maybe it’s uncomfortable to watch because, well, it’s kind of true? He's that guy who gets away with saying whatever he wants because of who he is. Sound familiar? Yeah, probably.
Series creator Nick Cannon was not just inspired by football, but also the long running history of cartoons commenting on the cultural zeitgeist.
"For 'Football U' I was inspired by the Miami Hurricanes, the bad boys of the U,” said Cannon. “I created the show because I felt we needed something edgy in the animated space. Growing up on ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Family Guy,’ and ‘Beavis and Butt-Head,’ I wanted something for same type of vibe but in the sports space.”
Sometimes it takes laughing at a cartoon to see how quickly hidden biases can slip by and perpetuate without our consent. “Football U” is an important reminder that the way we treat people -- even star athletes -- matters. Everyone is biased in some way or another, and everyone is capable of unlearning those biases, and changing the way they -- intentionally or unintentionally -- treat other people.
To learn more about bias and what you can do to fight it, head to LookDifferent.org