Generation Gap$

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: August 14, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — In spite of the seemingly astronomical odds, many Black athletes who have been able to play competitive sports at the highest level are awarded for their efforts with salaries and perks immeasurable by comparison.
Many take care of their immediate concerns of family and loved ones, but to some in the world of sports, the differences between well-centered young men and sense of purpose seem to fall into gaps few desire to climb out of — and those gaps swing from “back in the day” to “just the other day.”

Awareness is something local basketball icon Sonny Hill adamantly feels is lost on many of these young men. “We’re talking a serious lack of ‘home training’ here,” declares Hill. “Our community is the most devoid of that because of this disconnection between generations — and we’re not talking just athletes here.”

Hill, en route to the Basketball Hall of Fame, found the timing of the subject impeccable. “It’s funny you’re addressing this because nobody had to tell Earl Monroe to come back and do the Baker League.”

“Nobody had to tell Wilt Chamberlain to come back. ‘Dip’ (Chamberlain) donated an inordinately large amount of money to an organization called Operation Smile, to fix children’s teeth.”

Now Ray “Chink” Scott, the one of the first Black head coaches in pro basketball, will receive an award on the organization’s behalf.

“No one had to tell Oscar Robertson to come back and tell the tales he is finally doing in his latest book, ‘The Big O’. What we are talking here is a culture bereft of its identity,” Hill said.

Brenda Siler, national director of communications and marketing for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), says support from athletes has been constant — but names are not revealed.

“We have received financial support from some who wish that their names not be included in the process,” said Siler.

Further disclosure reveals some of those athletes who have helped leave a telling mark. “I can say that Michael Jordan, Donovan McNabb, and Hank Aaron have been consistent supporters of what we do. In fact, Aaron’s wife, Billye, worked for our organization for a time,” Siler said.

When asked how many are currently playing, Siler again suggested she could not reveal such information.

Siler also revealed another cultural flaw in the recent presentation of another donation. “The Harlem Globetrotters recently donated $250,000 to UNCF after their latest tour. But when you consider the Globetrotters have been around since you and I were kids — that tells you something.”

For better or worse, Hill contends there is a bigger picture younger athletes are missing. “The athlete is a derivative of us, as is the entertainer, the physician, and the postal worker.”

“We are collectively the culprits of our own experience, and that experience, as it is with Jews, Asians and Latinos, has been crystallized in the consistency of other ethnic groups to pass those cultural sensibilities on, but lacking with ourselves.”

“Home training is how to ascend to who you are, so in spite of the fact athletes should be giving back to Black causes, don’t just stop with them. Their (athletes) opportunities came on the backs of others before — how the hell can they forget that?”

“How many Blacks are supporting Black newspapers — or other Black-owned businesses? The dollar that used to circulate five times in the neighborhood now circulates maybe twice.”

“We (Black folks) have more wealth than ever, but we don’t share in the cultural, spiritual or economic bounty,” Hill added.