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THE BLACK ATHLETE

The Relationship Between Sports and Activism in Black America


In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of hoopla made over the fact that black athletes have been using their platforms to speak out on issues of race and police brutality. One such athlete is a man who many consider one of the all-time greats in the sport of basketball. Yes, I am speaking of the one and only Michael Jordan. A few weeks back Jordan spoke out on police brutality and he never speaks out about much of anything concerning black people. For many people, Michael Jordan’s speaking out came as such a shock that many people tried to equate him with some of the great athletes and activist of our time. Now I commend Jordan for speaking out and at least saying something but I think it is disrespectful on so many levels to compare a self-centered Johnny come late like Jordan to likes of truly great men like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jim Brown just to name a few.

Men like Ali, Jabbar and Brown use their platforms at a time when there was a great risk for doing so. These men put career money and their status on the line while athletes like Jordan risk nothing really. Besides the speech Jordan put forth was watered down and half-hearted. He really didn’t risk anything or speak to the real issues of injustice and inequality for blacks in this country. What Jordan said was weak and lame in my opinion. His statements lacked any strong stance on the issues of race and it seemed to be said more to protect the lives of the police and not the citizens being murdered at the hands of the police. He almost seemed to be saying it’s not as bad to kill an unarmed citizen as is to kill a member of law enforcement. Jordan referred to the people who killed cops as cowards while only being upset about cops who killed unarmed citizens. I think it would have been better if he had said nothing.

Now on to some other things I find troubling about black athletes of today when compared to their elders who occupied the space before them. Today’s young athletes seem to give charity but the real effect of their given is not realized in the communities where most of these young men come from. I will use LeBron James as my focus; not because I believe he is a bad man but because I think he hasn’t really thought out how he can use his platform and money for the best interest of his people. Most recently James gave away 41 million in scholarships for young people to go to college. While I admire James for his willingness to give I believe he could have used that money to better serve his people. I don’t know if knows but right now many of our historic black colleges are in deep money troubles and if he had given that money to them he could have singlehandedly saved every black college for closing their doors.

They say 1000 young people will be able to go to college because of James’s charitable given, but just think how many tens of thousands of young people who would be afforded the opportunity to attend college if James would have consulted with his elders before making his move. Also, think of what it would mean to our young people to have the legacy of black college institutions preserved for generations to come. I won’t be as hard on James as I will be on other celebrities and entertainers because I believe James’s heart is in the right place. I think many black athletes want to do something to help but they don’t know what to do. I would suggest to them that they seek out their elders who have shared common ground with them. They should come to understand that the responsibility of their people is on them and it their duty to help the people. Note I said help not give handouts.

Black people from all walks of life have a duty to do what we can to better our condition in the world. I know that athletes and celebs can’t solve all of our problems but we should at least make them earn the right to be seen in the same light as our elders who have put everything on the line. I know Jordan and James can’t fix the world alone but they can use their platform and influence for the good of their people and maybe even help set black people on a course that leads to the liberation of our people. Some said to me: why are you so bent on downing these men and women of our race? I said because if we don’t push them to do right then we are losing a great resource for our people and wasting the gifts of these men and women. I believe God gives us rays of light in the form of people and I feel those with light must use the light to uplift their people. Black athlete we need your charity and support but more than that we need you to be an example and a leader. Why you? Because you my brother/ sister are in the place where you can be heard, so speak out and help us to build a new nation of black people.

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