Who Is To Blame For Black Athletes Going Astray?

By Joe Booker
Updated: August 20, 2006

Marion Jones

Marion Jones

TEXAS—It is almost impossible to watch the news without seeing a black athlete accused of some kind of crime. Who is to blame? There is plenty of blame to go around. You can blame the kids. You can blame parents, you can blame coaches, you can blame schools, you can blame state legislators, and you can blame the media and fans.

Even though others must take the blame for black athletes going astray, the athletes must take their share of the blame for their actions. They must take most of the blame for not attending classes and taking advantage of a free college education. They have choices and when they make wrong choices they should be prepared to suffer the consequences.


The adage “spare the rod and spoil the child” is true. Parents want to be their kid’s best friend instead of being parents. How many parents sit down and talk with their kids about right and wrong? How often do parents and their kids sit down and eat together? How many times do families attend church and pray together? Too often when their kids become celebrated athletes, some parents become obsessed with their kids’ athletic skill and ignore glaring educational and behavior problems. They look at their kids athletic skills as a way out. They fail to realize only a select few will make it in professional sports and most will end up dealing with the criminal justice system. There are too many black males growing up without a father in the house. Research has shown that the majority of black athletes that run afoul of the law come from homes without a father. Why will some parents— especially those who can least afford it– purchase or allow their kids to purchase $200 tennis shoes?


High School and college coaches are not old school anymore. Too often kids aren’t disciplined when they break rules. Prior to desegregation black coaches were both coach and father. They were old school. They cared about the well-rounded athlete—who would be a good citizen, good student, as well as a good athlete. I am often reminded of the late Houston Wheatley basketball coach Collins Briggs. Briggs would not allow a kid with behavior problems play for Wheatley. I was told by some of his former players that several players– that were better than most of the players on the team—were not allowed to play, because of character problems. This did not stop Briggs from winning over 10 state and 30 district titles. Robert Hughes Sr. the former Ft. Worth Dunbar coach became the all-time winningest high school basketball coach in the nation with his hardcore and old school discipline. Hughes once told me he did not adjust his style to kids, they had to adjust to him. Those did not want to adjust he recommended they attend another school. Today, too many coaches suck up to their star players and turn their head when the star athlete breaks rules.


Some colleges– more often than high schools– make a difference between athletes and the general student body. Some athletes are just that—athletes. They are athlete-students and not student athletes. Some colleges admit athletes they know their high school academic record show they don’t belong in college. They are not there to get an education. They are admitted, because they can help the school win and make money.

State legislators

When state legislators and congressmen took prayers out of schools, they also took good morals out of schools. When corporal punishment (removed when schools integrated), was taken out of schools, discipline was also taken out. Too many legislators have become too test conscious. It is no longer important how smart kids are overall, but how well they score on a once-a year mandated test. The pressure has caused some administrators and teachers to cheat. Too many of the mostly academically gifted black kids are taken out of their neighborhood schools and sent to a magnet school. It is not fair to take away the best in the community and expect the same results Close some of those magnet schools and send those gifted kids back to their neighborhood school. Rather than do that (send kids to their neighborhood schools) they prefer to close schools. Private schools do better, because they have smaller class sizes and no discipline problems. Legislators expect public schools that have as many as 40 students –in some classes –to be as successful as classes with 10 to 12 students. Athletes– like other students are caught in this trap. The below average students are hurt the most by large classes. The gifted students will learn in almost any setting.

I am concerned about a curriculum that is designed for college-bound students, even though the majority of students aren’t going to college and are not academically ready. Why do you think less than 30 percent of students who enter college graduate? Too many vocational courses –that prepare students for a trade have been cut. And people wonder why crime and unemployment are so high.

There are too many unnecessary In-services. I can count the number of worthwhile In-services that I had to attend. In many cases those In-services helped unnecessary supervisors justify their jobs. Money spent on those In-services and supervisors could go toward smaller classes, more teachers and better pay for teachers.

Media and fans

The media must take its lumps for some of the problems athletes have. Too often the media build athletes up bigger than the game. High Schools athletes don’t need to have a press conference to announce their college choice. Some fans are too obsessed with athletes. It is funny seeing high school kids signing autographs.