By Jae Jones
It is no big secret that the Black athletes of today are nothing like the athletes during the 60’s and 70’s. Athletes today do not even think the way Black athletes of the 60’s and 70’s had to think.
Unfortunately, many of them have been pre-programmed to think a certain way. Athletes such as Muhammad Ali, Spencer Haywood, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mike Warren, and many more paved the way so the Black athletes of today would not have the same struggle, but rather would have had a louder and more profound voice in the fight. However, many younger athletes are not utilizing the the power or opportunity.
The 60’s and the 70’s was the era during which you saw activist athletes, people protesting for what they believed in and against what they felt was wrong. No, you will not see the athletes of Modern America doing these things. Somewhere, along the way, African-American history seems to not be reaching the younger generation as it should. The struggle of the people is losing its voice, and no one is willing to put in the work to understand it and keep it going.
Poor History Material Related to Black History in Classrooms
As the older generations die out, it is easy to understand how some of the history of the Black community die out as well. The way historical stories were often told by older generations is no more, and in many cases, the new generations have no idea there is even history that they should know.
However, this is where proper education need to step in. All children have a right to learn about their heritage. In many cases, knowledge is feared. The system fears that the more Black people know about their heritage, then the more likely that Black people want to take action and become activists.
The educational system is creating this problem. It is not that Black people just don’t want to know about their roots, but rather the lack of exposure to African-American History at the very beginning of the educational process. The system gives athletes a false sense of security, which leads to the impression that everything is alright in White America. How can these Black athletes help others progress in the future, if they have no idea of their past?
Raised in Pre-Planned Environments
Black athletes are expected to carry and present themselves in a certain way. They are told to choose their friends wisely to avoid trouble so that they will not be dismissed from the team. Often the childhood friends from their same Black community are no longer the ones they should be associated with. Therefore, their friends become predominantly those who are also on the team, which can be difficult if the majority of the team is filled with White players.
They are put under the wing of the athletic department, and everything changes from there. Even when they go off to college, they are quickly pulled in by the athletic department and sheltered until graduation. Most of them only participate in activities that are approved, most often, by [white] professors, coaches, trainers, advisers, friends, not to mention the [white] girlfriend.
Upon moving into the professional ranks, the white handlers continue in the form of agents, lawyers, accountants, managers, financial investors, and more. By living in this pre-planned environment, they lose their identity. They no longer know how to identify with the Black community.
I’m Not Struggling Why Should I Care?
It is very easy for Black athletes to lose sight when they have made it in the world. They often feel that they are not struggling, so why should they worry about the troubles of others. They have everything they want, and they find the troubles of others too depressing and embarrassing to even think about.
Although many of them probably came from a less than perfect childhood, you would never be able to tell it just by looking or talking to them. It is important that older Black athletes start sharing their stories more. More Black sports figures need to understand the true meaning of being a Black athlete, and thus, Black role model, in today’s world. Hopefully, the message will carry on to many other generations to come.
Can’t Get Fined By the League
Many Black athletes are afraid to speak out, because they fear they will be fined by the league. They do not want to lose endorsements, and they definitely do not want to lose income or become blackballed from working as a spokesperson for a major company. Many times, even if you find black athletes who are not afraid to speak out, they often are taking a chance of being blackballed. Many influential, racist individuals own major sports teams. Just think of the cost if one of these players had spoken out about being treated unfairly, or about seeing someone else being treated wrong.