History Should Prove To Artest, Others That He’s Fortunate To Play Sports As A Pro

By Gregory Moore
Updated: January 26, 2006

Earl Lloyd is pictured here signing his pro contract. Lloyd was one of several African Americans that became part of the normal landscape of the NBA during it's early years of integration.

Earl Lloyd is pictured here signing his pro contract. Lloyd was one of several African Americans that became part of the normal landscape of the NBA during it's early years of integration.

SAN ANTONIO – it still amazes me how athletes like Ron Artest (recently suspended)still think they have empowerment to literally be sore spots on the sports landscape. Whether you are reading today’s edition of the Indy Star or you are reading an older web story from ESPN.com or others, no matter how you look at it from the situation that Artest finds himself in, he’s in the wrong.

What makes matters worse is the fact that it seems that Artest isn’t the bit grateful for even having the opportunity to even be able to play in the National Basketball Association. But he isn’t the only African American athlete on the ‘pro’ level who thinks he’s above the rest or that he is somebody special.

I look at what Maurice Clarett and Terrell Owens have done just this past football season and I shake my head. I look at how so many other athletes at this level and even at different developments of the professional ranks have basically squandered away a dream that was made on the backs of individuals who just wanted a shot.

What I see in today’s sports world from many Black athletes who are now rich and famous is an attitude that goes beyond being ungrateful; it reeks of a social malfeasance that can only be defined as arrogance.

Yet if these players ever took the time to learn about the strides that African Americans made in sports, they might not be so quick or adept at trying to think that they are entitled to anything that they are feeling now. Maybe it’s time for the Black athlete to go to history class during the month of February and visit some of the stories that have long been forgotten by some mentors of their sport. Maybe it’s time to go to school.

THE NBA WAS ONCE A LEAGUE CALLED ‘NO BLACKS ALLOWED’ If I mentioned the National Basketball League, what do you remember from your history books? Well if you’re like me, probably little bit of nothing. But if it weren’t for players like Bill Jones, Shanty Barnett, Al Price and Casey Jones, integration may have never been on the forefront of professional sports because besides these four players being the first to integrate into the NBL in 1942, it took an owner willing to take a chance and buck the status quo system of segregation.

For those four players who were going to play in Toledo, Ohio that season, it was the owner of the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets and that gentleman was Sid Goldberg.

Goldberg’s daring move in a time when not even the Armed Forces were integrated was a bold decision that if made in the South, could have meant bodily harm or worse, being run out of business.

While it may be true that the Northern cities were more inclined to accept integration, albeit begrudgingly. Yet with Goldberg’s move and with that of the Chicago Studebakers integrating their team, the seeds of accepting Black players were being planted.

Some eight years later, when the NBL became the National Basketball Association, another seed of integration took place in Bean town. When Walter Brown uttered these famous words, “I don’t [care] if he’s striped, plaid, or polka dot! Boston takes Charles Cooper of Duquesne”, the die cast had been set and the mindset of White owners utilizing Black players on their teams became a reality.

What is a sad reality is the fact that for the Black players who are in this league, they don’t see the hard work that the first Black players put in. When I take a look at the picture of Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton signing a contract, what I see is a young man who is all about business.

I don’t see corn rolls, earrings and pants about to fall completely off his backside. When I read the story about how Earl Lloyd says that he didn’t have any problems with his teammates but that he had to endure a cruel world of bigotry outside the team’s confines, I wonder how would today’s NBA player such adversity?

What seem to escape many of our young players today is that in the National Basketball Association, it wasn’t to long ago that there weren’t any Blacks at all playing the game.

It has only been in recent times that we have had Black coaches and most recently a Black owner. So one would think that guys like Artest would have understood the significance of not acting a jackass and simply handle themselves with grace and poise.

OTHER SPORTS HAD PIONEERS BUT AREN’T REVERED MUCH Let me get off of the round ball for a moment and focus my thoughts on the fact that we have knuckleheads in other sports as well. Take the National Football League for instance.

Let’s put Lawrence Phillips, Rae Carruth and a few others on the shelf and look squarely at a young man who has God-given ability but yet he has allowed pride, vanity and just plain ineptness to understand business sense cloud his judgment as to who he is and what a great opportunity he has. At the top of my list are two individuals: Maurice Clarett and Marcus Vick.

When I look at a wasted talent, I see Clarett’s face. For almost three years, I have continuously tried to explain to just about anyone who would listen that Clarett didn’t have the goods; that he wasn’t the real deal. Well guess what?

As time goes forward, it seems that he has made myself and others out to be the great prognosticators or the bookie circuit. What has come to pass is the fact that Clarett was all talk and a lot of bull. You would have thought that if a young man ever had the opportunity to set history on it’s ass, that would have been Clarett.

Think about this for a moment and understand where I’m coming from. Let’s set the timetable back to when Clarett first said he was going to sue the NFL. From that moment forward, if Clarett was truly serious about his intentions, he would have been busting his butt making sure that he was in the best shape of his life, that his academic standing was at least sound and that he had a contingency plan just in case the first plan didn’t work.

Okay, let’s say that as things progress, he is dealt with the blow of not being able to be in the 2004 draft. Fine. If things were done differently, that would simply mean that Clarett would be working out with a trainer and he is in the best shape of his life still. He is every bit the strong ox that many thought he should be.

He may have even played a season of Canadian Football just to get acclimated to playing in the ‘pros’. Then when the 2005 NFL combine comes about, he impresses everyone to the point to where he is a sure fire first round pick. The rest, in my world of thought on the scenario, is history.

Yet that didn’t happen and we know why. Out of shape, not in the best frame of mind business wise and definitely full of the presumption that he’s the next best thing since sliced bread, Clarett bombed royally during his brief stint with the Denver Broncos.

He didn’t take the $400,000 signing bonus that the Broncos offered because he thought he could do better and when Reebok offered him a modest $50,000 deal, he thought that was beneath him. Well if I’m not mistaken, didn’t he come from being dirt poor? Didn’t he have this jacked up rap lawyer that almost did him as bad as Master P did Ricky Williams his rookie season? And if he was so great, where is he now? Oh wait, he’s sitting in the county lock up in Columbus for a serious crime and bail was set at $50,000. Bet he wished he had that shoe deal now.

Yet Clarett isn’t the only college football player who thinks that he’s all that and a bag of Fritos. Marcus Vick is the poster boy for being a brat who hasn’t earned a thing. Yes it is sad to say that Michael Vick’s little brother is a first class thug. Pulling a gun on three teenagers constitutes the title of a thug.

Going around thinking that you’re special, that you don’t have to follow anybody’s laws classifies you as a first class jerk. When you go around on a college campus and terrorize, scrutinize, bully and basically flaunt your family name, well that just makes you a complete jackass and you are destined for a fall.

Thus here we are with Vick, a kid that is talented but a kid who has been given everything he’s wanted over the past six years because of who his older sibling is. If anyone is wondering how he could go so wrong with the world in his hands, one just has to look at what he did in the process of his downfall.

I’m not going to harp on the fact that being Vick’s little brother should have been a blessing for Marcus because evidently it wasn’t. The pressures of being a Vick at Virginia Tech seemed to have compounded the demise that Vick found himself in.

Yet where is the humility that should be pouring forth from him for his downfall? Where is the contrite emotions that an apology to the school and his former teammates that should have come forth by now? It’s gone with yesterday’s trash, that’s where.

And yet these two player and so many others who have the chance at playing in the NFL take their gifts or talents for granted. They take their responsibilities of honing their craft and for doing whatever it takes to be a better player and person way too lightly.

Yet I wonder how these individuals would have faired if they were in the shoes of such players as late Johnny Samples or the forefathers who played in the American Professional Football Association, the league’s former name in the 1920s.

Just like the NBA in its early years, there weren’t very many Blacks given the opportunity to play professional football. When I went to do my research on this topic, I found out that between 1920 and 1933, the APFA had a total of thirteen Black players. Yet by 1934, when the league became known as what we know it today, the NFL, there were not any.

And let us not forget some of the darker times of this league’s history. In taking a few excerpts from the Wikopedia Internet website, one can read about how the league and some owners felt about having Black football players. One of the most disturbing quotations comes from George Preston Marshall: “We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.”

If these spoiled ball players who think that owners should cater to them truly understood how hard it was for players like Marion Motley, Bill Willis, Woody Strode, Kenny Washington and others had to endure when they were playing after the World War II era and during the 1950s and 1960s, maybe these players would have more reverence for what a privilege they have in even being afforded an opportunity to make millions for just a few weeks of play.

WHERE WE, AS A PEOPLE, ARE FAILING A friend of mine instant messaged me while I was putting this article together and she wanted to know what I was writing on. When I told her it was the fact that we have so many Black athletes who do not understand the historical significance of the Black players who came before them during some seriously troubling times in our society, she chimed in that it is because of several factors.

One of the factors that she so adequately described was the fact that there is a thinking pattern that reverts back to what is mentioned in the Bible itself when you do not adhere to principles of raising generations. She said that when you don’t raise up a generation properly, the subsequent generations would get weaker and weaker.

Now while I think I’m probably not interpreting this exactly as it should, let me see if I can at least bring some clarification. As I understand the parable of what she tried to explain, it is important that the previous generation to instruct the next generation on what must be done to preserve the lineage, per se.

What my friend brought to my attention is the fact that we have a generation of professional athletes, who are black, who do not know what it is to be in such a privileged situation because the generation before them didn’t listen to the parables of that generation before them. In essence as each ‘generation’ of ball players came into the league, they got weaker ‘mentally’ and thus became more arrogant as time went on.

I say all of that because with the advent of Black History Month coming upon us, with the NBA All-Star weekend being such big part of our culture with the hip-hop flavor and all, and with the NFL draft quickly approaching in April, I would hope that many of today’s younger generation of Black athletes look back at the history that is before them and learn from their respective pioneers.

After all it would only serve the Black sports world a great service if they did. After all, knowledge is power and without knowledge, you have no future.