Silent Discrimination In Sports

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: October 21, 2005

EL CERITTO, CA.—”They are just too young”. “They act too Black”. “They do not know how to handle all of that money”. Do these comments sound familiar? You may have made them yourself. Owners and fans have also made these comments regarding young Black athletes who enter professional sports world before they are adults. Recently action has been taken to eliminate the opportunity for teenagers to enter into the professional world of sports.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL) imposed an age limited on its membership in

2004. There is no doubt that this decision will have an immediate effect on African American high school and college athletes This is something America has been clamoring for; will this stem the tide of young black male high school and college athletes jumping to the professional level? These same young men can go to war and even lose their lives defending this country but they cannot make a living playing the sports they love.

The Professional Golf Association (PGA), Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), The National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and The World Tennis Association (WTA), have no such limits. We all know that most of these athletes are predominately white and are viewed as upper class citizens.

Then the question should be why is there a ban only on Major League Football and Major League Basketball?

Could the new sports world be catering to cultural imperialism? Or is this the ultimate in hypocrisy? Each year we see Major League Baseball becoming a “Whiter Shade of Pale”. Asian, Latino, and White players are now dominating baseball fields all over the country. While young African Americans are not throwing the little white baseball around the diamond.

In the field of golf the sixteen-year-old talented Michelle Wie announced that she would be giving up her amateur status. She has not won a single profession sanction tournament. The American press including yours truly heaped so many praises for this tall female fem-fatal. Wie made her pro debut October 13 –16 at the Samsung World Tournament in Palm Desert, Calif.

Nineteen years old Brittany Lang and seventeen-year-old Morgan Pressel are also on the links and swinging at golf ball every weekend. Will the LPGA ever impose an age limit? Probably not!!!.

The same can be said about seventeen year old Sidney Crosby who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. It has been stated and probably will be the next hockey superstar the next “Great One”, Wayne Gretzkey, the next Mario Lemieux.

Take a look at the history of tennis. For more than thirty years teenagers have entered the tennis world of sports.

Thirty years ago sixteen year old Tracy Austin and Chris Everett were the stars.

Twenty years ago a young Jennifer Capriati and Mary Pierce walked on to the courts. Capriati and Pierce had family and emotional problems that almost ended their careers. Because of their immaturity they were unable to handle their personal problems. Tennis still has not imposed an age limit.

Ten years ago Anna Kournikova a seventeen-year-old blonde bombshell from the former Soviet Union appeared. Many were captivated by her she was pleasing to the eye but Anna was unable to won a major tournament. She is the first millionaire not to win a major tournament.

Today, an eighteen-year-old Russian, Maria Sharapova is taking the tennis world by storm and last the Williams sisters are only two African Americans who have entered the tennis world at the age of 19 & 20.

There are a multitude of reasons many why younger football players do not enter the NFL. The game is faster and the players are bigger and stronger. The potential for injury is higher. So there is logic behind this ban and we all should support it.

Last year The National Football League denied two African Americans the right to play professional football both were under 18 years old. Both were stars at their respective colleges Mike Williams played for the University of Southern California at Wide Receiver, and Marence Clarrett Running, played for Ohio State University.

One year later Mike Williams now plays with the Detroit Lions.

While Mr. Clarrett, whom the Denver Broncos drafted is currently looking for another job. The Broncos released him during the NFL pre-season; Denver had too many running backs.

The ban in basketball seems illogical. The contact in basketball is not like that of professional football nor is there a big size difference. Players of any age could play together. Should this be considered a cultural ban?

Currently the NBA has also instituted a new dress code this year. A suit and tie or suit and blazer are now required.

After the attempt to woo hip-hop and cool with the inner city (Black) fan in the middle nineties. The NBA is taking action trying to clean up its image after last year’s black eye no pun intended?

But after the Ron Artiest Indiana Pacer brawl in Detroit 2004, Allen Inversion with his tattoos and his traveling posse, too many African American players wearing their DOO rags and big medallions on the court.

All of these new rules are aimed at the young African American player. The League wanted to change directions and become a business again.

The NBA wants the images of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Walt Frazier clean, quite, dressed down personalities. Sorry Mr. Commissioner you open the door.

Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a history of younger players.

The first group included Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, and Spencer Hayward in the 1970’s. The middle group included Allen Iverson, Coby Bryant, Kevin Garrnet, and Shaq O’Neal in the 1990’s. The last group included Carmello Anthony and LeBron James in 2000. All of these young men entered the NBA at the age of seventeen, eighteen and nineteen. This will come to a screeching halt in 2006 and will not be discussed again until 2012.

The NBA needs to defend its position with their new age limit ban. The NBA Commissioner David Stern and the Players Association have tentatively agreed to a six-year moratorium on players under the age of eighteen.

Could this be viewed as classicism, racism or both?

The positive side to this dilemma young is that African Americans male athletes might stay in school and get their high school and college degrees. The negative part is that the NFL and NBA have taken away the right of these gifted athletes to earn a living while using their talented to play in a sport that they love.

Could a Civil Rights lawsuit be far behind? Only time will tell.