Looking For Black Sports Hero’s?

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: December 8, 2004
DeMarcus Beasley

MIAMI, FLA.—I read with interest, the recent column of one of my esteemed BASN colleagues, Gregory Moore, entitled “The State of African American Sports Is Now Officially In Need Of A True Hero”. Lamenting the recent negative coverage of some of our most respected athletes, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery et al. he concludes that there is no one to save the Black sports community.

I respectfully dissent.
(By now readers of this site have come to recognize me as the “Soccer Guy” so you know where this is going.)
There are plenty of Black American athletes that the Black community can support, cheer for and even emulate. They are proud to represent the United States of America in international competitions, give back to their communities and hardly ever end up on police blotters or drug suspension lists.
And they can play.
At the highest levels of their sport.
They are members of the United States Soccer Team, the men I like to call Soccer’s Buffalo Soldiers.
They are men like Eddie Pope, a UNC grad who had it written into his first professional contract with DC United that he be allowed to fly back to Chapel Hill to finish his degree. He played very well in two World Cups, the biggest sports stage there is, and turned down professional contracts in Europe to stay home. During that time he’s help lead DC United to 3 championships, garner a Defender of the Year award in his 2nd year as a pro and start the Eddie Pope Foundation which has not only introduced the game to more Black kids but taught them the importance of education.
They are men like DaMarcus Beasley, the young speedy winger who turned pro at age 16 as a member of MLS Project 40 (where the players train as professionals and earn a stipend for college if they choose to pursue it), spent several years with the Chicago Fire and earned his way onto the 2002 World Cup team where he ran circles around the heavily favored Portuguese. His friends who mocked him for playing a “White” sport as a kid, now cheer for him as he continues to represent the United States in its quest to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and watch him play all over Europe as a member of famed Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.
They are veterans like Columbus Crew defender Tony Sanneh, back in MLS after a six year stint in Germany where he, like DaMarcus is now, played in the prestigious Champions League and Cobi Jones the former college walk-on at UCLA who has played more games for the United States than any American player and represented at 3 World Cups.
They are up and coming players like Eddie Johnson of FC Dallas who, after doing some growing up, earned his way onto the current National Team and has scored 5 goals in his first 3 international appearances, They are players like the young phenom Freddy Adu who’s stated goal in soccer is to win the World Cup with the United States.
So what are you saying, Dixon, that soccer players are perfect?
Not at all. You can point to Roy Lassiter who once served a 30 days jail term for driving a getaway car in a college dorm burglary. But he turned out all right, I suppose. He ended up his MLS career as the all time leading goal scorer in the league and still holds the record for most goals in a season with 27.
In my humble and perhaps biased opinion, there are plenty of Black athletes who can save the Black sports community. They work just as hard as some of these more high profile athletes do, for less money & less fame with the added responsibility of helping the world’s most popular sport grow in a country that considers it “foreign” (forgetting of course that golf isn’t an American sport either). Add the fact that their own community considers what they do, “White” and one gets a sense of the almost Sisyphus-like effort they labor under.
Yet they continue to do it for the absolute love of the game.
De La Soul once said, “You cry keeping it real/ yet you should try keeping it right!”
These guys ARE keeping it right and are representing us on a bigger stage than Barry Bonds, Ron Artest and Randy Moss ever will. THESE role models are the international face of the Black American sports community and its time we start supporting them with the passion we do Latrell Sprewell and Kobe Bryant.
The role models are out there.
Are you ready to embrace them?