Who Da Cap Fit
“Every Brother aint a Brotha, ‘Cause a Black hand squeezed on Malcolm – X’d the man.
The shootin’ of Huey Newton – From the hand of a nig that pulled the trig.”
Chuck D – Welcome To The Terrordome
More than any other year in recent memory, 2007 was a year where race seemed to be a factor in many of the headlines that involved Black Athletes. Not even three weeks into 2008, we have had our first “slip of the tongue” on record by female golf commentator Kelly Tilghman, who felt that her use of the word “lynch” in reference to a Black athlete would either go unnoticed by those that tune into the golf channel or totally ignored by the Black community altogether. Publishers of Golfweek magazine took it a step further and decided to place a noose on the cover of last week’s issue – not to denounce the comments that were made, but to in so many words ask, “What’s the big deal?”
Despite the outcry from the Black community, the target of Tighman’s comments, Elridge “Tiger” Woods saw it as nothing, just as eleven years ago he saw Fuzzy Zoeller’s “fried chicken and collard greens” comment as nothing. Tiger broke through the greatest of barriers; one I would dare say we accepted until NIKE made him the most marketed first-year athlete in history. We claimed Tiger as our own, and we thought the feeling was mutual, until Tiger declared himself an individual of all races. I personally felt like Woods used his melanin content to get just what he needed as a professional and in his moment of triumph he blew up the bridge built for him. The issue of whether or not Woods sees himself as a Black man is irrelevant at this point; it’s obvious that those in the golf community and beyond see him as a nothing other than Black. In the wake of the lynching comments, the consensus among whites was that if Tiger wasn’t offended why should the rest of us be? Soon to be followed by, ‘”Why do they (Blacks) always have to bring up the past.”
We don’t bring it up until we’re reminded of it.
Last year Serena Williams had a fan tossed during a tennis match because the fan yelled at Williams, “Hit the net like any ni**er would.” Although not much was made of this – but to Williams’ credit she did have the perpetrator tossed from the arena.
At what stage in your development is your pride as an individual compromised in exchange for your desire not to be seen as threatening? We’re viewed as a forgiving people and the worst that will happen is Al Sharpton and/or Jesse Jackson going on Larry King. We’ve run out of cheeks to turn. Our faces have been slapped and asses kicked long enough. Many of us who are trying to fight the good fight do so in spite of whatever mental and emotional scars we have encountered along the way.
We’ve taken the lashes for the Tiger Woods and O.J. Simpsons of the world because we know at some point that wake up call will come, you know the one that reminds you that you were always a ni**er – just one that could shoot a 65 or run the rock better than most. When their moment of clarity is realized they won’t acknowledge it publicly but their inner man will be humbled. This is bigger than them choosing to marry or deal with women outside of their race – the problem comes along when you forget essentially who you are and that it isn’t just about you. The prayers of those that died believing one day it would be better for their seeds fell at your feet and you stepped on them.
Here’s the rub – I don’t see a rallying point when incidents like this occur. If we can see the mistreatment or racial undertones taking root in a situation like I’m sure the fraternity of Black athletes can, why does the soapbox remains unoccupied?
It’s great that Black athletes give back to the communities in the cities in which they play as well as their hometowns. Some even head national charities and sponsorships – the message of giving back to the community has come across in a huge way and I’m proud of that. Even in times of national crisis the Black Athlete has been at the forefront of many situations, many of which go unpublicized.
However – when it comes to matters of race relations in sports, there is no one leading the fast break, hell, no one is even crashing the boards. There’s more excitement over a celebrity bowling party or some nonsense like that. They want to be seen but not SEEN. Charles Barkley is maybe the last athlete of significance that tried to hold it down. Charles did it in a way that let you know there was more to him than putting up 25 and 12 a night, he was fully aware the race machine was up and operational. Part of the problem was Charles’ employer, the NBA, had the most marketable athlete on the planet in Michael Jordan and if he wasn’t speaking out on anything political or socio-economical then no one else was going to; less they face a fine/suspension and a talk with David Stern.
But yet we could be heard humming “If I could be like Mike.”
In the wake of the murder of Sean Taylor, many in the media chose to look at the incident as something that Taylor had coming to him. One writer in particular -Washington Post journalist Leonard Shapiro -wrote in his column :”Taylor’s Death Is Tragic but Not Surprising.” “Certainly it would be terribly easy to rush toward some sort of instant judgment based on what we think we all knew about Taylor and the sort of life he once, and for all we know, still led,” Shapiro wrote. “But really, we know nothing at the moment, and until we do, may he rest in peace ought to be the operative phrase for this day.” Keep in mind Taylor was murdered in his home during a break in while he and his girlfriend and young daughter slept. His presumed past had nothing to do with what happened that morning.
Once again the outcry was great from Black journalists and community leaders but nothing from the people who spent more time with Taylor than anyone – his teammates. In losing someone you care about your defense mechanisms are heightened and when someone is trying to smear the memory of that individual, I would like to think your feelings for this person to kick in and defend him. Athletes in major cities are a close knit group, Taylor had friends on the Wizards, Ravens, Nationals, Orioles – maybe even the Capitals. The silence by Black athletes in response to Shapiro’s column and those like it would lead those of us that didn’t know better down a presumptuous road.
I chose the photo above because the four men seated were four of the most dominant Black athletes probably in history. Ladies in Gentlemen these were MEN! Bill Russell, whose life living in Boston as a member of the Celtics not chronicled enough, Muhammad Ali, whose life mirrors the Black Man’s struggle, Jim Brown, who my mom calls “The baddest man around.” and he may very well be and a young Lew Alcindor who is misunderstood more today than he was close to 40 years ago, but you can see his brilliance as a man when he speaks. They are surrounded by men Carl Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter, and John Wooten – who were there to support Ali as he gave his reasons for rejecting the draft. It is poignant in the photo the most well known athletes are seated – those that are not as well known are standing in a show of solidarity. Thirteen men who put their careers on hold and maybe even in jeopardy for the cause of one.
This my call to arms for the Black Athlete to stand up and be counted; the days of sitting by idly waiting for someone else to grab the reigns has to end. Where will we be when Sharpton and Jackson can’t make those trips anymore. We’re grown men and women trying to ride with the training wheels on. Hell – we haven’t even gotten on the bike. Look at the state of our people, when people look to heal many look to you before they look to the Almighty on a Sunday afternoon – I’m not saying that’s right but it’s the truth. You are our last line of defense. Our demise in the eyes of many is almost complete – but I refuse to die easy. The same way your family, neighbors and friends fell back on you to make it out of the ‘hood – I’m counting on somebody, anybody to step up. We in the Black media and other areas can’t do it alone, I’ve got your back, but I need your voice in the front.
This isn’t just a plea from myself -but from my Black colleagues in the media who are not able to speak out on some topics because of their respective employers. That makes them no less involved and no less Black.
Being able to write for TSF is more of a blessing than I could ever realize because there would be no way I could do this in some media outlets. Being here at TSF gives me a renegade mentality and Mizzo said one time we’re like superheroes in a sense. I liken us to the old Oakland Raiders, a bunch of castoffs no one wanted, but also a group of cats no one wanted to mess with.
As long as I keep that rebel mentality, I’ll stay hungry because there will always be something out there worth fighting for.