Is Price's death newsworthy?
On the DL
Is the death of an elite athlete's sibling
worth our time?
Yetunde Price, the eldest sister of tennis
stars Venus and Serena Williams, was shot and killed early Sunday
in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, an area renowned for its
gang violence. Following an alleged dispute with local residents,
Price was shot in the chest. Everything unfolded about a mile
from the tennis courts where the Williams sisters were first
noticed for their athletic prowess.
Her death is no doubt a tragedy for her friends
and family and it could quite possibly affect the performance
of both Venus and Serena. But was it really newsworthy? The
National Post ran the story on the front page of their sports
section. The Globe & Mail ran it on page four of sports.
The shooting of Price was reported in much
the same way the death of Michael Jordan's father James was
reported in the mid-'90s. In that case though, Jordan was close
to his father, who had mentored him through much of his early
career. Everyone already knows the tennis fanatic in the Williams
family is Mr. Williams and while Yetunde sometimes acted as
personal assistant to the sisters, it's doubtful her role rivaled
that of James Jordan.
Even if she was a role model and mentor for
the sisters, what makes this event newsworthy? If the shooting
was reported on the chance the on-court play of either sister
is seriously affected, then it seems somewhat premature. A story
could've been formed after either sister withdraws from an upcoming
tournament or after one plays poorly and leaves the court in
The recent death of Bobby Bonds - the father
of Giants superstar Barry Bonds - also received coverage in
the sporting press. However, Bobby Bonds had himself been a
star athlete in his own era and the coverage of his death did
not make the front pages. So why is this case so different?
Perhaps it is sensationalism once again at
play in the mass media. The old adage of "If it bleeds,
it leads," has crept into the sports pages, as it did with
James Jordan and as it most notably did with the entire O.J.
Without trying to be too insensitive about
the whole issue, would it not be fair to say that if Ken Huckaby's
sister was hit by a bus the proverbial heart of the sporting
press would not skip a beat? What if Sebastian Janikowski's
brother-in-law was killed in a parachuting accident? Clearly,
it would be business as usual.
Maybe I could look the other way if it was
a dry time for professional sports. Far from it however - the
scandal surrounding the Oscar De La Hoya fight alone would be
enough to write about, not to mention Jamal Lewis breaking the
single-game record for rushing yards. Even the upcoming hockey
and basketball seasons would be a good substitute.
How will the death of Yetunde Price affect
the Williams sisters, tennis and sports in general? Only time
will tell. For now, we're left with a crime-sports story hybrid
that is focused heavily on the former while largely ignoring
the effect on the latter.