Why is Athletics Still a Matter of Black and White?

By Off the BASN Wire By Adonica Shaw
Updated: May 16, 2005

IRVING, CA.—Black athletes are capable of making well-informed decisions about their career and educations.

They have a sense of morals, values and character.

And I’m starting to feel this way, although it is the politically correct thing to say, even though some people are not quite ready to believe this statement.

Sports fanatics, team owners and athletic administrators have questioned athletes’ credibility and educational understanding for years.

This is the unspoken theory that hides in athletics—that just because you are black, you are either not smart enough, or too smart for your own good or have automatically inherited some type of magical strength.

And the truth is that whether you are black, white, purple, green or yellow with stripes, you can have any of these traits.

It’s not to say that there aren’t people from any race who don’t fit the negative side of these negative constraint.

OK, so now that that is out, I think it’s safe to examine why or how these notions actually carry weight, and what bolsters these beliefs.

In an 1997 issue of The New Pittsburgh Courier, Kenneth Shropshire points out that whites have a 95 percent ownership stake in professional basketball, baseball and football teams. And yet, when confronted with programs intended to diversify their front offices, many teams resort to the familiar refrain of merit-based excuses: “There simply aren’t enough Black candidates” or “Blacks don’t know how to network.” Shropshire writes, “While more subtle than the racist comments of an A1 Campaign or a Marge Schott, this approach has the same effect: it stigmatizes and excludes African-Americans.” There aren’t enough candidates?

This statement forces me to ask whether there are candidates. Do they mean candidates who have come forward, or those who want to come forward, but were dissuaded from the position because of the pressure from the athletic administration? Another example is an article written by Joseph Washington of the Sun Reporter in April 1998.

Washington writes, “The Boston Red Sox provide the perfect example of a Major League Baseball team which has not only failed to hire a diverse workforce, but failed to protect one of the few African Americans from acts to racial harassment on the job,” Washington added, “Yet when contacted about the situation with the Red Sox, Major League Baseball [executives] held up the club as setting the standard for the rest of the league in terms of minority recruitment and advancement.” Are teams failing to diversify to keep black candidates from wanting to pursue a career within that team, or are they doing this solely from ignorance or negligence?

Regardless of the reason, I’m amazed at the reasoning behind the explanation.

America has had a civil rights movement, a feminist movement and, hell, even an antiterrorist movement. Do you mean to tell me that amidst all of these things, we still cannot move beyond black and white?

If we continue to admire our athletes based on their color, then we have trivialized the essence of sports itself. We are missing out on athletics. I’m sure that Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron dealt with the same issues, so that things can be changed and move forward.

But it just seems so hard to do so when we still have coaches saying, “There’s no n—– in him, in the 21st century.” I propose a solution, or perhaps a subtle suggestion to solve this problem: Why don’t we begin to make opportunities equal on both sides?

Even if 95 percent of ownership is white, why hasn’t there been a program implemented to introduce the administrative policies to the athletes who they feel aren’t qualified?

Why can’t there be an understanding in all of this?

And I do not want to close without saying that although this article does seem to side with the underprivileged, it is not to say that athletes aren’t part of the reason that this type of mindset has sustained itself.

When you, as an athlete, are open about wanting to go to college only to get to the NFL, you unknowingly relinquish your right to be upset when you are turned down.

I suggest, along with Bill Cosby, that something needs to be done within the communities.

People don’t need to be so quick to run to sports to get into the league.

Knowledge is power.

It enables you to perform beyond the court or the field. It validates your intellect and your ability to be an asset within athletics beyond making a shot, because when you’re hurt and your NBA dreams won’t pay the rent, your knowledge of the system in which you live will, and that always counts for something.