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The conflict of “righteousness” & the conscious athlete
Here we are in the year 2016, and the latest trend in sports has been ‘to kneel, or not to kneel’. Since my last blog post, Cam Newton, doubled down on his GQ comments, and the NBA is currently mulling over options to handle the latest trend of the political athlete. LeBron James, all-star forward of the Cleveland Cavaliers, says he supports what Colin Kaepernick is doing, but he WILL stand for the pledge of the allegiance.
To be honest, these athletes are in a hard place. I will defend LeBron James for remaining neutral on police brutality, because he has donated lots of money to Akron, Ohio – by the millions. I wish more athletes were like LeBron to give back to the communities they came from. LeBron has donated over 40-41 million dollars to the cause of disenfranchised youth. Words are eloquent, kneeling before millions of angry American citizens shows gumption, but money can be the most effective way of making change happen. I commend LeBron for that.
The athlete is conditioned to be focused on his or her brand. Once your athletic skill elevates you to an elite status of ‘Superstar’, you are expected to be not only the face of corporate brands, but the torch bearer for the community that fostered you. For better or worst, the dreams they’ve strode to reach become reality, and ‘the hood’ becomes an afterthought. Being conscious isn’t on the top of these athletes list, because they have ‘made it’. You have white people who work under your payroll, and kiss your ass to get an appearance at their event. The white people who you’ve once assumed were so powerful, don’t appear as intimidating, when their yearly salary doesn’t amount to one of your regular game’s pay. Your reality becomes the same of those in your tax bracket. Symptoms in the black community can be adduced to class discrimination. Race is an illusion. If you want something bad enough in life, you work hard for it like I did. This becomes your mindset, until: the career is over, the taxes are unpaid, the money is low, foreclosures and repos commence, and reality sets in.
These athletes aren’t bred to be political geniuses. I don’t expect some of these guys to be Muhammad Ali. Every athlete may not share the passion of the latest political tragedy. Every athlete shouldn’t kneel because they are black and feel coerced into being “conscious”. Frankly speaking, it is far easier being a ‘sell-out’,’Uncle Tom’, or safe negro, than deal with white fragility – and the backlash that follows. Make white people upset, you will lose endorsements, be on multiple national media websites and tv programs, get called ‘nigger’ on social media and be the target of alt-right internet nazi’s. Make black people upset, they will call you a ‘coon’ or ‘tom’, then you’ll become a meme on social media -no loss of endorsements, no media frenzy, no major websites or tv programs verbally assaulting you. It stinks that it is this way. However, it is a fact. On September 26, 2016, it was opening media day for the NBA, and I saw caucasian media personalities stick a microphone in front of a 20 year old black athlete’s face and ask him about the national anthem [I was no where near as conscious at that age]. I felt perturbed by the gall of the media to ask a young black athlete that question, when they would never ask a non-black athlete that same question. You have white quarterbacks that are superstars in the NFL who whole-heartedly disagree with Kaepernick on kneeling before the flag, but offer no solutions to police brutality themselves. If those white quarterbacks spoke out against police brutality, I believe the conversation becomes more interesting.
I will leave you guys with this interesting dialogue about race with Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless. It’s about 20 minutes long, but its worth it.