OPINION: 'This is Michigan' poster blatantly misleading and offensive
Recently I was trying to enjoy breakfast at a favorite eatery, a restaurant frequented by players and staff of the University of Michigan Athletic Department. The dÃ©cor is related to U of M sports. As I sat at my table, the 2011-2012 U of M men’s basketball team poster caught my eye.
The poster is dominated by two white basketball players wearing home uniforms underneath whose image is written “This is Michigan” -- the current slogan adopted by the University sports programs.
The two white players are flanked by two back basketball players, wearing the away uniforms, suspended in action and one-third the size of the white players. Beneath the slogan is a pictorial roster of the full team, the majority of which are black. I found the poster misleading, unsettling and offensive.
Rather than just accepting the discomfort viewing this poster created, I decided to go to the source to try to understand the motivation behind the way the images are presented. Thus, I contacted the U of M Athletic Department and was able to speak with the poster designer.
I explained the purpose of my call was to express concerns aroused by the poster and to try to understand the thought process that went into designing the poster. After a brief conversation, I was told the two white ball players were team captains and the decision for the design had come from the coaching, marketing and media department staffs. It was then suggested my inquiries should move up the administrative chain and I found myself leaving a message with the media department.
I got a call back from a media department representative with this explanation: the decision to go with team captain design was made by the basketball coaching staff. Further, I was told that I was looking at this matter too closely, as if my discomfort/disease was unreal. His tone became more clipped and dismissive as I pressed the issue and was told I was “trying to create a story.”
As if by way of explanation I was told that the “This is Michigan “slogan was used by all the sports teams and the football poster was cited as an example.
When I asked if the football team was predominately Black, the answer was yes. When I asked if the football team has black team captains, the answer again was yes.
Yet on the football teams’ poster, the decision was to go with a photo of a team helmet not the team captains. The representative seemed oblivious to the disparity.
I informed the media representative, as I had the designer, these decisions had not been fully thought through and failed to reflect an understanding and/or appreciation of the black community.
Even for me, a person who does not follow sports, the inequities here are blatantly evident.
This is Michigan! Really?
Charles A. Lewis