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Articles > Samoans in the NFL: How Media Hurts the Community

May 14, 2010
by Val L. Jacobo

Asian Pacific Americans for Progress

Val L. Jacobo's blog

Wed, 01/20/2010 - 06:35

On Sunday, Jan 17, 2010, in the height of the NFL Playoffs, 60-minutes, a CBS evening news show aired a segment titled, American Samoa: a football island.

Reporting from American Samoa, 60 minutes news correspondent, Scott Pelley, profiled American Samoan current and past high school football stars to include the famous Pittsburg Steelers safety, Troy Polomalu.  Throughout the segment, Pelley used the growing number of Samoan athletes in the NFL to surmise an argument favoring a Samoan boy over any other "American" boy by an estimated 56%.  This speculation presupposes that Samoan boys born in American Samoa are not American, in spite of their status as U.S. nationals; it also purports a highly divisive narrative against Samoans in the NFL and in general.  Pelley employs rather bland centrist tactics by attempting to profile the Samoan race as a biological framework for football players.  He points out every obvious disadvantage he could muster against a people from impoverished communities on a small island and further describes young Samoan athletes as having some kind of physiological advantage. “You’re all born big” says Pelley to Governor of American Samoa Togiola Tulafono, as he parades the Governor down a nostalgic display of autographed football memorabilia from Samoan players and their teams.  Pelley is just short of an anthropological explanation, akin to that of Margaret Mead ‘s exploitation of Samoans, creating the conspiracy of a  “Samoan advantage” with scenes of boys climbing coconut trees (depiction of monkeys) and using machetes for household chores, a plausible image of a violent people, and pacifying any resistance with a tear-jerking conclusion on Samoans having a lot of ‘heart.’  Again, I note how Pelley’s narrative perpetuates racial stereotypes and divide.

What is most disturbing about this ’60 minutes’ segment isn’t so much the perpetual nature of subliminal hate messages against Samoans woven throughout a picturesque paradise island nor is it Pelley’s incompetent reporting of American Samoa noting, ”the only US possession south of the equator” (albeit other U.S. territories exist such as Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, of which there are many islands and atolls that the U.S. occupies as military testing grounds, etc in the Pacific)… rather, it’s the audacity of this privileged white male, having no indigenous context to report on an immigrant population such as Samoan Americans, insult the contributions of their forefathers and demoralize the importance of the continued struggle for inclusion.

Full Story:  How media hurts Pacific Island communities.