Fourth Down And Twenty Five Years To Go: The African-American Athlete And The Justice System

By Tony McClean
Updated: July 1, 2007
Fourth Down and Twenty Five Years To Go NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Over the past few years and months, the off-the-field transgressions of several African-American athletes including Adam “Pacman” Jones, Ron Artest, and others have become instant national headlines.

In the opinion of longtime sports attorney Donald M. Jackson, this trend is not happening by accident. In his new book, “Fourth Down And Twenty Five Years To Go: The African-American Athlete And The Justice System”, Jackson chronicles a startling trend of arrests and civil controversies involving African-American sports figures.

A former athlete as well, Jackson’s book gives an insightful, well researched analysis of the links between sports, wealth, race, the legal system and the media. His conclusions are non-traditional and very explosive.

“As a youngster in junior high school, I was struck by how many African-American players I saw that had these constant run-in’s with the law”, said Jackson. “As I got older and began to get more involved in sports, I began to pay closer attention to it.”

“I was seeing the same issues over and over again whether it be drug offenses or domestic violence. About 10 years ago, I began researching the issue as a whole. During that time, I came up with roughly about 1,500 or so incidents in that period.”

From youth leagues to colleges, from high schools to professional sports leagues, Jackson attacks these issues head on and dispenses blame where blame is due. Among some of the overriding factors were discrimination, selectively harsh treatment, outright racism, irresponsible conduct, and the breakdown of the African American family.

Jackson also stressed the level of recent incidents have increased since the aftermath of the O.J. Simpson case. “After the Simpson trial, mainstream media’s coverage in regards to African-American athletes has suffered a serious backlash.”

“When you look at the national media coverage of African-American athletes since then, there has been a significant change and perception.” In the book, Jackson states that the Simpson trial and it’s aftermath serves as a “watershed event in American judicial history.”

Jackson added, “While the (Simpson) case is illustrative of the ways and means by which the justice system is perceived by many in the African-American community to target blacks, it also resulted in substantial revisions in the matter that Americans of European and African descent view one another.”

“Fourth Down” gives a groundbreaking and exhaustive look into the links between athletic stardom, race, fame, money and the legal system. It also exposes the underbelly of the sports world and the all too common consequences felt by African American athletes that are all too often entirely unprepared to deal with the consequences of their stardom.

Jackson’s hard-hitting perceptions and comprehensive analysis is unflinching. While offering a basic “cause and effect” examination, Jackson has ideas on how these incidents can and should be dealt with before they come to fruition.

Given the recent times, Jackson’s book may be the one of the most important sports book of its time. It takes an honest and unforgiving look at a disturbing trend with the African-American and sports community.
This is a definite must-read book.