Money, money, money, money… Money!
One of the realist songs I ever heard is, “For the love of money” by the O’Jays. It was one of those songs I didn’t quite understand until I got older. That song will always stay relevant because “money” is what makes the world go around. An obsession with money is definitely nothing new in American culture. Virtually all thoughts, decisions, and activities are usually made on the possibility of making money. If it weren’t for the lucrative earnings from professional sports, blacks would have never gotten the chance to cross over and participate in the then “white” professional sport leagues. Clearly, the same can also be said about musicians and other entertainers, but I prefer to stay on sports since I am a fellow basketball player.
Since American sports are a form of entertainment, and people pay for this type of entertainment, it is also a business. When you add in a sports franchise that’s also winning championships, that generates even more money for the owners. And to have a winning season and to win championships, you must have the best athletes to put your team in those situations. Over time, these athletes will gain popularity, riches, and the power to make the world their playpen. Of course, all those benefits didn’t happen overnight. With the help of WWII, the MLB (America’s first professional sports league) knew they were way overdue allowing blacks to play with whites. Owners couldn’t put it off any longer; the talent pool in Negro leagues was too great to continue to pass up. That didn’t mean everything went smoothly, but a change slowly started to take place. Today, too many well-established professional athletes, musicians, and entertainers are too concerned with being “marketable” to mainstream America. We all know “mainstream” is code for appealing to white people who have and spend money. As long as the majority of professional athletes stay silent and don’t take a firmer stand in important issues dealing with our government then they’re demonstrating what I call, “the million dollar slave” mentality. They’re more concerned for their own personal image than the symbolic image for the people who don’t have those same luxuries. In result, too scared of the repercussion from their fans, team owners (bosses), media, endorsement companies, with the majority of them being white. For sure it’s a tough predicament to be in but I’m afraid today’s athletes are not willing to do what their predecessors did for them to be in this situation, which brings me to my next point.
Don’t be like OJ
This past summer I watched a five-part documentary miniseries on ESPN called, “OJ: Made in America”. As Orenthal James Simpson’s college football stardom rose in the 1960s and then continued in the 1970s as an NFL player, it also overlapped with the increase in volatile tensions between the African-American community in Los Angeles and the city’s police department. What I found most interesting about his life prior to thekillings was that he was a man who had so actively avoided political controversy. Unlike Muhammad Ali, who had refused to serve during the war in Vietnam, or Olympic track runners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their fists in protest of racism at the Olympics, Simpson had never done such a thing; instead he preferred the comforts that came with the adoration of white America. In doing so, he was the first black athlete to successfully transition into a corporate spokesman. Of course it was OJ’s right not to go down that path, but what it demonstrate was that he didn’t know (he did), didn’t show (he definitely did), or didn’t care (three for three, Juice!) about what’s going on in the hood. Anyway, since OJ made it over to the other side and didn’t want to mess up his money, he was basically acting like a straight-up bitch. I don’t care how much money you make in your life, if your skin is black, it will always mean something as long as racism and racial injustice is going on in America so you might as well do something about it to help others.
Fast forward to present day, I’m starting to see pro athletes play the role of OJ but in their own way of course. Donating money to charities or putting on free basketball camps for inner city kids is awesome in the moment, but people expect that at the very least now. My question is, “What about the future?” There are bigger issues to address and to correct; progression is what we need! What if Jackie Robinson was like, “Glad I finally made it over to the MLB. Well, that’s enough change for the day.” Yes, I know it’s a tough position to be in, but athletes have to take a stronger stand, the same stand athletes before us made even though they had less money in their pockets. Besides MLK and Malcolm X, professional athletes were also one of the cornerstones of change in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. They weren’t afraid of losing endorsements because they didn’t have endorsements to begin with; OJ was more worried about that and you see where that got him. I’m not saying go all Black Panther on anybody, but once you get your moneybags, start thinking outside the box. I’m curious to see which NBA players will keep the protest going once the 2016-17 season begins; all eyes will be watching. LeBron James and Stephen Curry disappointed me by announcing they will continue to stand, but I have faith other big names will step up instead. If not, shame on you, NBA players, and in that case you might as well give the Clippers back to Donald Sterling too. America saw you make a group effort to put a change to that, what’s next?
My Various Calls to Action
How can we as a society continue to move forward with what Colin Kaepernick has started? For one, we have to convince all the uptight, radical Americans who faithfully watch Fox News to watch something more neutral, uplifting, and informative. I know that’s a tall order when the media continues to make Americans who aren’t in direct contact with blacks, Hispanics and other minorities day to day more paranoid, scared and misinformed on race issues, and in return, makes them naturally care even less about their livelihoods. From what I’ve been hearing lately, if this “All Lives Matter” slogan people have started in response to the “Black Lives Matter” moment, then there shouldn’t be a problem, right? We’re also going to need everybody to stop criticizing the BLM and its positive actions for change in a broken system. If not, everybody who keeps saying ALMis a hypocrite and truly disconnected from the real world and is the real problem facing each specific group in America. Humans all over the earth all suffer from bias in some shape or form. From whites, browns, blacks, tall, short, fat, skinny, gay, straight, Christian, Catholic, Muslim, etc. So when one specific group creates a movement and tries to speak out and protest on its personal struggles, then everybody should just listen to them. Why get defensive and downplay another group’s march for something important to them because then you’re not actually demonstrating that all lives do matter to you. Instead join in with BLM and show the world we will no longer accept this type of treatment for anybody.
Can you imagine if the NFL, MLB, NHL, WNBA, MLS and NBA all kneeled during the national anthem? Yeah I can’t either, but how amazing and powerful of a message would that send to Americana and others across the world? Media outlets and news stations would have no choice but to revise their scare tactics to their audience because this peaceful, joint demonstration spoke louder than their intimidating words ever will. Some news outlets would still find a way to twist it into something negative, but that’s expected of course. Bottom line, we’re going to need more white athletes, coaches, musicians, politicians, and celebrities to protest the national anthem. To keep speaking up and continue to remind the majority race of Americans to listen and look outside of their own lives and join in. Singer Leah Tysse, who is white, kneeled while performing the national anthem at a Sacramento Kings preseason game last week. It seems only natural for a race/gender/religion/culture of people to listen to their own when discussing or presenting persuasive information such as this. Open-minded people like Gregg Popovich, Bette Midler, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Josh Groban, Pink and even ice cream gurus Ben & Jerry’s have voiced their support of BLM but we need more to follow suit.
The killing of Terence Crutcher in Oklahoma was the cause of yet another chapter in the national media fascination on deadly force encounters between the police and unarmed suspects. For this hypothetical, however, we will substitute a normal person with a black or biracial Hall of Famer or current All-Star. They get racially profiled which means they pulled over in an area where the police didn’t recognize them, and because of that they’re on the receiving end of harsher for no deserving reason. Then “somehow” the police took their actions as not cooperating since it wasn’t exactly to their “liking”. Next thing you know, they’re shot, on the ground, bleeding out, and wondering why are they going to die in this way. It will be recorded and shared online for the entire world to see. Americans may finally be angry enough because the person killed resonated more and hit closer to home than a regular individual ever will. I prefer for that not to happen, but maybe this could be the way.
Police chiefs and government officials across the nation are not going to change these outdated police training protocols, systematic racist laws, and gun laws (just to name a few) on their own. That means we must treat this with more urgency, calculated tactics, and with bigger names leading the way. Politicians have to feel more public pressure from professional athletes, reverends, and other big name entertainers in America. They have the daily platform to call out these appointed elected officials in their weekly or post-game press conferences, in interviews on various television talk and radio shows. What I’m suggesting is that we have a revamped national town hall meeting. For one, it will force everybody into a public forum where they can’t hide. We include all the top athletes, musicians, actors, reverends, activists, psychologists, police chiefs, environmentalists, judges, presidents of the top 10 U.S. corporations, scientists, inventors, politicians and whoever else you can think of. Invite the presidents of NRA, NAACP, LGBT, and every other important acronym group out there. Have Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and even loose lips Donald Trump there too. Get Oprah out of retirement to facilitate everything because we all know this type of setting has her name written all over it. Broadcast it at the same time on all the major networks and for the entire world to see. Obviously, one town hall meeting isn’t enough, so we can break it into a five-night event so that we can speak about all the latest issues. It will be vital to show certain videos, statistics, and citizens’ involvement via social media. These conversations need to be done publicly and most importantly together so we can figure something out and keep the conversation going. We all know that each state has its own particular laws, so their needs to be local town hall meetings in each state too. In attendance would be white and black players from the top five professional sports teams in each state as well as the five highest elected state officials. At the end of the day, to make the ultimate change, it really comes down to one more aspect and it has nothing to do with recognition, wealth or authority.
When we voice our concerns to elected officials, if we aren’t voting, then our worries don’t really matter to them. If you don’t vote for what you believe in, then you cannot be upset when changes are not happening for you, in your community or race. As long as America has existed, there have been people who didn’t want blacks and women to vote. Several freedom fighters, united, made a strategy, executed it, and were finally granted the right for minorities and women to vote today. Those times may seem a long time ago, but they weren’t. There are still people today who don’t want us to vote because they know our vote is our voice, and voting is the only way to let our voices be heard. It’s not a gimmick, folks. When we vote, we are actually telling elected officials and lawmakers how we feel about education, public safety, Social Security, health care, and other important issues. When we vote, we are looking out for our kids and their futures, so we must preserve the honor of those who fought and died for this right to be passed down to us. If not, we are no better than the Americans who refuse to join us in fighting for our rights.
It’s not fair for white America to continue to consume black culture and our athletic abilities but then dismiss anything about it they don’t approve of. To selectively decide you’re not interested in the way he or she wants to enlighten the racial indifference in America. Our blackness is not something for you to manage and consume at a level you’re comfortable with, please keep in mind we don’t have that luxury, so why should you? All it really does is continue to remind black Americans and other minority groups how a good portion of white Americans are still insensitive and don’t care about what we’re going through as fellow Americans; that’s the most un-American thing of all.