Swimming In White Waters Cullen Jones

Updated: January 7, 2007



Here we go again

bashing the White Sports Empire

hey we will NEVER stop

until it gets better

meaning FAIR

Swimming is just one more – if out of season – example. Swimming is unfortunately one more “perfect’ example of the paradox of America and American Sports. And champion swimmer Cullen Jones proves the point.

What caught our attention right now is that since it is also the off season for Cullen no big national or international swimming competition in the middle of winter although there could be…..

Anyway African American Cullen Jones is using some of his time admirably criss crossing the country speaking in schools and elsewhere telling Black kids there is no reason they can’t do what he did. But today believe it or not we are not here to praise Cullen. Rather to make a different point.

And expose a Dilemma

for Black athletes

Cullen is basically delivering a feel good message. Empower yourselves Black youth. For sure that is laudatory and not subject to criticism. But without being aware of it Cullen Jones has fallen into a Trap one admittedly there may be no way out of. At least not if he wants to make the Big Bucks and keep endorsement deals like his $2 Million Nike contract.

The problem is feel good messages African American athletes with rare success like his or Shani Davis in ice skating are perpetuating a myth. That a Black kid has anything better than a long shot statistical potential to ever become a champion swimmer or ice skater. Or golfer. Or archer. Etc.

If successful athletes like Cullen Jones aren’t willing to couple their feel good messages to Black kids with hard hitting messages to and about White Elites NOTHING is going to change.

Indeed it would be far better – if still ineffective – for Cullen to make one sharply worded appearance before a Congressional Committee attacking the systemic racism of exclusion in sports like Swimming rather than deliver 1000 feel good messages in front of African American school kids.

Without telling them the Truth

But Cullen Jones is not going to do that Shani Davis is not going to do that and God KNOWS Tiger Woods is not. Because they are right it is not good for #1. The trap is ubiquitous. Any Black athlete with a rare success in a Sport where African Americans are not abundant risks a whole lot.

Not that African American athletes in football or basketball stand up for Fairness. And the few who have get “labeled” and no personal good comes of it for them. So why ever expect someone like Cullen Jones to be brave when he is the ONLY African American he will ever see in trunks at a swim meet.

Of course as we note endlessly there is only one exception to this pernicious rule. Tiger Woods. Woods has the fame and the power and the financial success to literally say anything he wants without any bad consequences at all. Tiger Woods could do more than anyone in history for Black athletes ….

But he never will and that is

disappointing beyond Words

Back to Cullen Jones. There are 300,000 Americans at all level who compete in swimming from pre-teen through Olympic level. FAR LESS THAN 1% ARE AFRICAN AMERICAN AMONG THE 300,000. Far less than 1%.

While we are not criticizing Cullen Jones for all his good work exactly if he doesn’t make these kids aware of the barriers they face and pointedly tell them the sport of swimming is unfair to them ….

……… at best one or two kids among all these audiences might someday be inspired to become champion swimmers themselves. So what just to be rhetorical. Better that his speeches inspire thousands of African American kids to grow up wanting to change Sports for themselves and their own children and get motivated to become lawyers and business people and government officials dedicated to making changes in Sports. Because …….

It is only if our nation is FORCED to face up to the apartheid that exists in most Sports in these United States – unless America’s Power Elite are forced to look at themselves and admit the absence of African Americans does not fit the image they want to cultivate for themselves nothing will change.

So Cullen Jones yes

criss cross America

telling your story of

swimming success to

audiences of Black kids

it sure feels good

just don’t kid yourself

or us that it will change


Whenever you want to reach us with comments or better yet an idea for a topic for the Box ……. blackbox@blackathlete.net