In Denver, taking shots at the Oakland Raiders is as much a pastime as hitting the slopes during the winter. So it came as no surprise that prior to Sunday’s Oakland-Denver game, the Denver Post ran a piece detailing the recent declining success of the Raiders under the leadership of owner Al Davis. And Davis, writes author Jim Armstrong, has lost “it”:He doesn’t look the part these days, but Davis was the driving force behind what once was one of the most successful franchises in sports. No, really, we’re not making this up. An 80-year-old man confined to a walker once ran circles around the competition.
Of course, Davis is not a player and doesn’t actually need to “run in circles” to effectively do his job. And it’s not clear how using a walker keeps Davis from success in the front office.
Armstrong’s comments – and a related front-page picture showing Davis using his walker – are part of a bigger cultural narrative that suggests sports are not a place for people with disabilities. It’s especially prevalent in the United States, where images of athletes with disabilities are rarely published or broadcast. The end result is a constant stream of images that define the ideal athletic body: a powerful, heterosexual, able-bodied male. The text and images in the Davis story help normalize this idea, and further suggest that whether it’s on the field or in the front office, sports are reserved for the able-bodied.