The Los Angeles Times is under fire for an article accompanied by a tweet it ran Monday morning, just hours after Sports Illustrated’s cover depicting Serena Williams as the 2015 Sportsperson of The Year, appeared online.
The article polled L.A Times readers’ on who they thought should win the SI distinction: Williams or the SI.com online readers’ poll favorite, American Pharoah, horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. Not only did the magazine pit the first solo black female athlete to win the award against a horse, its photo team went one step further by creating an image that placed tennis superstar Williams and American Pharoah side by side.
Readers were livid.
"They had the nerve to create an actual factual poll with Williams on the left and the horse on the right as if this was a legit thing that should be discussed," wrote Kyra Kyles, Editorial VP of Ebony.com in an OP-ED.
“For a century, racism has diminished recognition and reward for black American athletes’ accomplishments. For much longer, black women have been treated like — and referred to as — mules and brood mares. A reputable American news source should have been able to discern why what may have seemed a lighthearted poll on its face would be deeply unsettling for any black reader who grew up hearing about her history in this country," wrote Washington Post freelance writer Stacie L. Brown.
The incident is being compared to the life of black Olympic champion, Jesse Owens, who was resigned to racing against racehorses to make money. Even after winning four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, racist American policies stood in the way of living the life of a revered athlete.
L.A. Times didn’t take the tweet down but did issue an apology and changed the headline and photo.