Monday, January 23, 2017

Stop calling the NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo a "Greek Freak"

Stop calling the NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo a "Greek Freak." The term "freak" has a long history in the United States of dehumanizing persons. And in the context of Greek political and cultural identity (who is entitled to Greek citizenship and who belongs to the Greek nation), the ascription "Greek Freak" to Giannis makes him an aberration. It renders him a non-normal Greek. This in the context of the political struggle to integrate the children of immigrants in Greece as political equals. It is astonishing that there is no iota of self reflexivity in media and popular culture which uses the label to sensationalize this incredible basket ball player. Stop calling Giannis a "Greek Freak." The label is damaging at so many levels, in so many different ways.

Postscript: There has been a most productive exchange about this question on my fb page where i too posted this note. Based on the discussion, here is a tentative framework to think this question: the sports industry markets Giannis as unusual, an amazing wonder, a spectacle; this commodification may be associated with what is measured as his unusual physique (an object of study and fascination). Important to note that "freak shows" were operating under the same principle. Clearly an extensive analysis of the wide range in the uses of the term and context of use is necessary.