Jimmy The Greek

While I’m not the type of person to sit around and watch sports commentary all day, all of the TVs in the cafeteria at work play ESPN around the clock. This has kept me abreast of all the latest sports scandals and related news. While none of our collections have extensive sports coverage, I did come across an interesting story, that while not coverage of a specific sporting event, is a piece of commentary on professional sports culture.

[caption id="attachment2296" align="alignright" width="300"]<a href="http://bostonlocaltv.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/barcode104215thumbnail.jpg">Boston Celtics Fan interviewed Boston sports fan interviewed about the racial divide in professional sports. Watch the full story.[/caption]

Jimmy Snyder, born Dimetrios Georgios Synodinos, and known professionally as Jimmy the Greek, was a sports commentator on The NFL Today, a pregame show that aired on Sundays during the NFL season. His role was to predict the outcomes of the games, something he was known for even before he started on TV, in his previous job as a bookie. He became a minor celebrity, so when a Washington, D.C. reporter spotted him while he was doing a story on the progress of African Americans in honor of MLK’s birthday in 1988, the reporter asked him for his opinion about the progress African Americans had made in professional sports. Snyder responded that the only area of professional sports that was not yet dominated by African Americans was coaching, and he was worried that, based on pressure from African American athletes and civil rights leaders, they might soon take over that arena as well. He also commented that African Americans are superior athletes because of the way their ancestors were bred by their slave owners before the Civil War. Upon hearing these remarks, CBS immediately fired Snyder. Even after apologizing for his comments, CBS refused to rehire him. Some African American civil rights leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, said that they thought CBS was being too hard on him. Other people agreed wholeheartedly with the networks’ decision.

Our collections include an interesting story that looks at a variety of opinions about the situation. WGBH’s The Ten O’Clock News did a story on the reactions of Boston sports fans to Snyder’s comments and subsequent firing. Christy George interviews fans at the Boston Garden, who give mixed opinions. She also interviews Celtics players Dennis Johnson and Mark Acres, and Celtics coach (and former player) K.C. Jones, who was one of the few African American coaches in American professional sports. The story gives reactions to both the comments Snyder made and the underlying racial divide in professional sports on which he was basing his comments.

There is still sports commentary that discusses race issues in professional sports. There are also still scandals over things that sports commentators say. With the ever increasing amount of sports coverage, it's unlikely that this is a trend that will stop anytime soon. This piece of news, cultural, and sports history gives us a look at the way similar situations were handled 26 years ago.