Encore Box: Harry Edwards The Conscience Of The Black Athlete

Updated: February 15, 2007

Encore Blackbox:


Dr. Harry Edwards is a Perfect Example

of a Black Leader in Sports who

after he goes to his Eternal Reward

Will be the subject of the most Glorious Praise. Even The New York Times will write an impressive obituary and a long list of African American athletes and other leaders will show up at his Funeral some to deliver eulogies others simply to pay Respects. First of all that event is far in the future. So Dr. Edwards do not get upset. We are trying to make a Point here that is all.

One Dr. Harry Edwards should appreciate

We should all be listening to him more attentively than ever right now. Symbolically at lest in the wake ( sorry ) of Historic SuperBowl 41 in which Tony Dungy and Lovi Smith faced off in the biggest sports event in the nation. While no one seemed to mention Harry Edwards during SuperBowl Week they should have.

Now largely retired throughout a long academic and writing career it has been Dr. Edwards constantly preaching the message of Black Athlete Empowerment. That African American success in Sports and all the even greater barriers to that success are all part of a larger movement in American life.

And most of all his often lonely message that African Americans in Sports should realize they have a larger mandate that just taking care of themselves. That taking any successes that America has grudgingly allowed them only because their talents made it impossible to do otherwise, that Black Athletes should appreciate that White America will attempt to bamboozle them into believing that identifying as African Americans or even worse using their success to assist other African Americans is the wrong that is WRONG thing to do.

Dr. Harry Edwards has been Moses

( if not the only Black Moses )

trying to lead Black Athletes

to a Promised Land far better

Hopefully we will do more Boxes on Dr. Edwards he deserves them but for today we want to concentrate on some of his insightful comments he made only days ago at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in honor of Black History Month. Here is what Dr. Edwards had to say …

Among other comments …..

” Fewer black baseball players are entering the major leagues because the inner-city ballparks have become too dangerous to play in while others do not live long enough to make it onto the field.”

And this comment ….

” Black high school athletes are choosing colleges based on their school colors so their families can proudly wear the team jerseys and other apparel without fear of retribution from rival gang members. Or young black football players are bulking up to dangerous levels with hopes of improving their college scholarship and professional prospects. ”

And this ……..

” The reality is that this is a massive public health crisis in our African American community,” Edwards said Monday night. “We are burying, disqualifying and jailing our athlete prospects right along with our doctor prospects, our nurse prospects, our lawyer prospects … This is only the tip of the iceberg when the infrastructure of the black community has collapsed.”

And this …..

” When institutions such as professional sports started to become integrated in the 1940s and ‘50s, the black community expected the process to be “two-way and total Instead, it was instituted as a one-way, individual process,” he said.

” Dr, Harry Edwards noted that blacks flocked to white hotels but not vice versa, prompting the black hotels to close. In a similar process, the white major leagues “cherry picked each player from the Negro League with either token or little to no compensation to the black teams involved … the Negro League totally collapsed,”

And ……

“The motive for integration in sports was more business than brotherhood, the same could be said for how black athletes were recruited into collegiate programs. This process resulted in a large pool of talented black athletes who became successful players in revenue producing sports; however, disproportionately low numbers comprise coaching staff, team physicians and equipment managers, as well as sportswriters and editors.”

“This foundation of black involvement in mainstream sports set the tone for how blacks would be perceived in pop culture through the decades, evolving from black men who sought acceptance and proved their worthiness to the more revolutionary and proud image of the black man in the 60s and ‘70s.”

And finally this …..

“It’s a multifaceted problem that’s going to take a multi-faceted approach, It’s going to take resources, it’s going to take caring, it’s going to take commitment on the part of society, it’s going to take commitment on the part of the black community, and I don’t see that happening.”

Only 75 people showed up Monday night to hear The Great Dr. Harry Edwards, and yes he did sound discouraged. Lest we forget it was Harry Edwards who called for an African American boycott of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and it is his leadership credited with the most famous act of defiance in Olympic history the Black Famous Raised Fist incident.

Most of all as a Sociologist and Professor and Scholar at the University of California at Berkeley until his recent retirement Dr. Edwards has been at the forefront of presenting the inherent relationships between sports and society most of all specializing in the African American experience.

Maybe Dr. Edwards pessimism is completely justified it might also be a mark of advancing age. One can wonder if he were 30 again would his outlook be exactly the same. In fact pessimism about African Americans and Sports in America is easily argued once you move beyond the success really only seen on the football field and the basketball court. Where else is the Black athlete thriving or African Americans anywhere in Sports. The dying sport of Professional Boxing ?

With no criticism of Dr. Edwards

indeed complimenting his Clarion Call

You might just as well say in a country

where the next President of the United States

might well be an African American

that Hope is still Alive

be it ever so Dimly

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