Originally published 7.12.11
â€œI freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.â€~ Harriet Tubman
Black professional athletes, I think this a great time for you to break the locks on your shackles. No, seriously.
I understand your passion for your sport. I grew up a self-proclaimed basketball-a-holic. I had a hoop dream. I wanted to be the next Vernon Maxwell, Reggie Miller, Michael Jordan, or Joe Dumars. My high school basketball coach would tell us we had a better chance of winning the lottery than making it into the pros.
He was right but that didnâ€™t stop me from watching the NBA on NBC and even the NFL on ESPN. I was a huge fan of the Houston Rockets until the owners busted up our back-to-back championship teams from the â€˜90s. Since then, my love affair with watching NBA games has faded. I didnâ€™t care much for football except playing it in the streets of Southwest Houston when we had apartment rivalries, but I still caught the Houston Oilers back in the day.
Today, I hardly know who plays for our local teams let alone the entire league.
When it was recently announced that the NBA and NFL locked out their players, I had many of my friends telling me they were very sad about it and didnâ€™t know what they would do with their free time. No, my friends are not on the payroll but they consider it their mental getaway from the weekly struggles of work and family. Some people even started posting on Facebook and Twitter that crime in America would rise if thereâ€™s no basketball or football games airing on television. Wow, itâ€™s really that deep for some? Are we that addicted to sport and play? Sorry, but do you really think they care about the fans? I donâ€™t. Itâ€™s all about greed, the money, the Benjamins, the dinero, the cheeseâ€¦you get the point.
Personally, I donâ€™t care but I thought about how this lockout presents a great opportunity for Black NBA and NFL players to steal away from their plantation owners that run their teams. While Blacks make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, Black athletes reportedly constitute 80 percent of the players in the NBA, 67 percent of the NFL and 9 percent of MLB. The sports industry is worth over $400 billion, and it is crazy that Black athletes are largely generating this revenue yet they are only, ahem, the slave labor force. How many Blacks actually own teams and have management positions? Thatâ€™s the proverbial needle in the hay stack.
During a pre-lockout press conference, NBA Players Association President Derek Fisher said “There’s still such a large gap. We feel that any move for us is real dollars we’d be giving back from where we currently stand, as opposed to where our owners have proposed numbers that in our estimation don’t exist right now. They’re asking us to go to a place where they want.â€
Without Black players there would be no games, therefore, I think itâ€™s time you all recognize your power and lock out your ownersâ€”fire your boss. Think about how many times you wanted to speak your mind and you hesitated out of fear of your slave masterâ€”excuse me, your owners. Youâ€™re walking on egg shells trying to avoid saying anything that upsets the LGBT community and you dare not speak out against the government. Thatâ€™s a big no-no, right?
What will you all do if youâ€™re locked out the entire season or even forever? I know youâ€™re saying â€œLord, please donâ€™t let that happen.â€
Why should you all not unify and marshal your resources. Instead of sitting by the phone, counting the days till the lockout ends, how about you all have your own meetings about launching your own league? Iâ€™m no expert in what it would take to start it, but Iâ€™m sure something could be done. Heck, we once had Negro Leagues before we integrated with White only leagues, so whatâ€™s the difference? Instead of possibly running to the CBA, how about running your own? Just a thought.
Many Black players don’t keep in mind that their careers won’t last forever. A lot of them, not just in sports but in entertainment as well, forget that one day they’re not going to be on top. How about partnering with groups aimed at establishing a connection between Black organizations, Black businesses and the Black professional athletes to help players maximize their personal development while becoming useful contributors to the Black community?
This lockout presents a time for serious reflection on this.
Do something for your own people. Not just a weekend basketball or football camp, but something with a serious economic and social impact. Black people need affordable, safe and clean housing. We have schools without books and urban districts shutting down. We have HBCUs struggling to pay their bills. Our people need employment. We need support for programs that will provide our youth with alternatives to violence year round. Every community recycles their dollars with their own people. Thatâ€™s not racism, thatâ€™s intelligence.
While your finances may look healthy right now, too often professional athletes end up broke at the end of their careers, and Black America loses out on your potentially valuable contribution. A report by Sports Illustrated noted that nearly 80 percent of NFL players are on the verge of bankruptcy two years after they retire. NBA players aren’t fairing any better, with 60 percent of its former players ending up broke within five years of retirement.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, in a major address on June 26, 2010 in Atlanta titled â€œWho Are the Real Children of Israel?â€, pointed out how Black entertainers, celebrities and sports figures have been exploited, dying broke while their managers and owners end up rich.
â€œThe old strategy was â€˜let them die broke,’ but today, they’ve developed a new strategy: â€˜Let’s make our Negroes richâ€™. I have a list of NBA owners…See it’s like a plantation; you’re just a piece of meat throwing balls in a hoop. â€¦ You’re a rich slave, you’re sharecropping again,â€ the Minister said.
You have to see that there is more to your purpose than just the gift of playing sports. Most people make a true difference by building something that will last beyond them. We all have a role to play.
Unlock your mind.
Photo Credits: Shay Malden