The Duke basketball team is one of the most polarizing organizations in sports. Entire documentaries have been produced about the hatred geared toward them. Usually, there’s one player who opposing fans direct their hatred toward and most times that player is white. Most famously, there’s been Christian Laetner, but Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer, Mike Dunleavy and JJ Redick have all faced intense scrutiny.
The most recent Blue Devil to fall victim to the history of hated white Duke players is Grayson Allen, who after a couple questionable trippings of opposing players, is drawing the wrath of fans and the media.
Former Duke star and current NBA player JJ Redick was recently asked about Duke’s history of hated white players and was very clear about who he says is to blame for the trend.
“I think it’s fine for an opposing fan base to choose a player to root against or maybe you dislike certain guys, my issue though is I think the media has perpetuated this white Duke villain myth as much as anyone. Grayson is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, Jon Scheyer is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met — never seen Jon Scheyer do anything dirty. Greg Paulus, one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met … And you know me too, I probably in a way brought on some of the animosity towards me with the antics, the smiling, the head-bobbing, the trash-talking, but to be honest with you, it was more in reaction to the hate that was already coming my way before I ever really did anything to warrant it.”
“It’s almost like every time there’s a player at Duke, the media says ‘oh, you should dislike this guy’. I can remember being in school my senior year, Greg Paulus was a freshman, and there were numerous articles that year, ‘Greg Paulus is the next hated Duke player’.”
“So the media I guess was choosing who we should hate. The media was saying like ‘this guy is the next guy’. And then the following year or the year after, whenever it was, it was Jon Scheyer — ‘he’s the guy you’re supposed to dislike’. And now recently there was an article in ESPN, and to be honest with you I participated in the interview and in the process of Dana O’Neil writing the article, and I thought the article was, it is what it is. She didn’t seem to kind of go off the rails against Duke or wasn’t as anti-Duke as some people might think it is. But she kinda said the same thing, like ‘now we’re supposed to dislike Grayson Allen — he’s the next in line’. Why though, why? Why does there have to be a next in line?”
Redick has a valid point. Most of Duke’s hated white players have only drawn the ire of opposing fans for simply being good. But I think it’s important to look at where I believe this trend started. During the Christian Laetner led years Duke’s dominance in the early 90’s, the Blue Devils were viewed as the squad that epitomized white privilege – Duke is a private school attended by the children of rich white families, led by “pretty boy” Laetner. They were the complete opposite of the Georgetown and UNLV programs, led by tough black kids, from tough neighborhoods. Black people and some blue collar whites, viewed Duke as the manifestation of social and economic injustice and the fact they were winning made it worst. Was that narrative fueled by the media, probably, but they didn’t create it. That was more of a reflection of the division that was and is going on in the country as a whole.