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The African-American Athlete

Rickey L. Hampton Sr.


Why Don't Black Ball Players Protest? 'Baseball Is A White Man's Sport'

It is amazing that Seattle Mariners Steve Clevenger is comfortable sending out racists tweets, but black MLB players remind silent about social issues.

By Sope Eweje, For The-African-American Athlete,

In 1950, Nate “Sweetwater” Clifton, Chuck Cooper, and Earl Lloyd became the first African-Americans to play in the NBA.

In 1946, Kenny Washington became the football player to permanently break the NFL’s color barrier.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson, who was Washington’s teammate on the UCLA football and baseball teams, became the first black player in the MLB.

Nevertheless, fast forward just 70 years and 68 percent of NFLers, and 75 percent of NBAers are black athletes. However, despite the tremendous growth in these two sports, only eight percent of the MLB is composed of black athletes.

Race in baseball has recently been brought back to the spotlight after Baltimore Orioles star Adam Jones commented on the series of silent protests against issues of racial injustice from professional athletes, set off by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the playing of the national anthem prior to his games.

“Baseball is a white man’s sport,” Jones said, when asked to comment on why no MLB players have chosen to emulate Kaepernick’s actions. “We already have two strikes against us already, so you might as well not kick yourself out of the game. In football, you can’t kick them out. You need those players. In baseball, they don’t need us.”

It’s a fair point for Jones to make. The smaller a group of people is relative to other demographics, the less powerful their voice will be against the majority and the easier it will be to take away that group’s voice.

Think about this: Seattle Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger was brazen enough to tweet that people protesting in Charlotte following the death of Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of the police should be “locked behind bars like animals.” Even though his team has since suspended him for the comment, the fact he thought he could say such a thing with impunity, but black players are too worried to speak against police brutality is telling.

In times past black players were actually much more outspoken, says Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker, one of two black managers currently in the MLB.

Dusty Baker

“I grew up in an era where dissonance and anti-conformity and anti-a-lot-of-stuff [were widespread], but now there’s more conformity for fear of losing your job,” said Baker. “Or people say things, but they’ll say one thing over here and they’ll say something else over there.”

Baker played in the MLB through the 1970’s, when civil rights and racial equality were at the forefront of every black American’s mind. It’s not surprising that black athletes of that time would feel more compelled to say something about the issues around them, but it is surprising that athletes of today’s society are more scared of potential repercussions than those that came before them.

During a time closely following the assassination of Martin Luther King in a country with rampant and blatant racial discrimination, speaking one’s mind as a black professional athlete was nothing, according to Baker.

But somehow, during a time when protests against racial injustice are becoming a norm and people are slowly opening their eyes to the issues we continue to have in our society, many athletes of color feel they must remain silent or risk losing NBA sponsorships, fans, or even their positions in their respective leagues.

To be clear, I do not mean to imply the existence of severe racial bias within professional baseball or any other sport; whether or not that is the case is besides the point.

The key issue is that there is something causing many athletes to refrain from commenting on issues that affect their families, their communities, and themselves; in my opinion that is a severe problem.

Considering the high regard with which we consider professional athletes in our society, their voices will be among the most important in these continued discussions of racial injustice. For more on Baker click here.

(Sope Eweje, hails from North Carolina, where basketball is king. He is a student at MIT, and is studying bio-mechanical engineering. You can contact him on Facebook (Basically Basketball) and Twitter (@basicallybball)).

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A Tale Of Two NFL Coaches: Kelly Shows Class, Ditka Shows Crass

San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly brilliantly explained to a reporter why he doesn't mind his players speaking out on social issues.

The great thing about the ongoing debate over the 'Star Spangled Banner' is you really get to see how intolerant some people are. Take ESPN's Mike Ditka for example. During a recent interview on a Dallas radio station, the former Chicago Bears coach went all in on Colin Kaepernick's decision to protest social justice issues by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Somehow, in his warped thinking, Ditka thinks Kaepernick's decision to protest is Un-American.

“I think it’s a problem, anybody who disrespects this country and the flag. If they don’t like the country, they don’t like our flag, get the hell out. That’s what I think,” Ditka said. “So if you’re asking me, I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick. He probably has no respect for me, that’s his choice.

“My choice is that I like this country, I respect our flag. And I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on,” he added. “I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunity. Now, if they don’t want to look for them, then you can find problems with anything, but this is the land of opportunity because you can be anything you want to be if you work. Now, If you don’t work, that’s a different problem.”

I am not surprised to hear this from Ditka, a staunch conservative who hate President Obama, and loves Donald Trump. However, Ditka is hardly alone in this thinking. But what is sad for people like Mike Ditka is actually how Un-American they are. People like Ditka are seeing the world change before them, and they simply don't know how to handle it. They are watching a new generation of citizen, and citizen-athlete, specifically black athletes, who are becoming more and more willing to speak out about  issues.

People like Ditka hate this. People of his ilk belong to a segment of this society that wants to keep blacks in their place. They believe Colin Kaepernick is a football player, and he should stick with talking about football. That's why another ESPN analyst, Trent Dilfer,  said Kaepernick should just stay in his place. "This is a backup quarterback whose job it is to be quiet and sit in the shadows,”  Dilfer said. “Yet he chose a time when all of a sudden he became the center of attention. And it has disrupted that organization. 'Shut up', and be the backup QB."

Dilfer doesn't get it, and what's worse is he doesn't even want to understand.

The other day a reporter seemed exasperated with San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly  because Kaepernick was answering questions HE was asked by reporters, regarding social issues, instead of football. A Santa Rosa Press Democrat reporter clearly wanted to go after Kaepernick for not talking football, and he tried to draw Kelly into as well. Kelly wasn't buying it. Watch him check the reporter in the video below..

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Tulsa Cop (Inadvertantly) Tells The Truth About Black Men, And That's Why Kaepernick Protests

The tragic death of men like Terence Crutcher (right) is precisely the reason athletes like Colin Kaepernick, (left) are using their platform to speak out about social justice.

“This looks like a bad dude....” _ an anonymous Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer in a helicopter, hovering hundreds of feet in the air, describing Terence Crutcher, moments before he was gunned down by one of three Tulsa police officers on the ground last week.

The above mentioned anonymous Tulsa police officer told the truth about the perceptions far too many members of law enforcement officers have of black men last Friday when he said that Terence Crutcher looked like a 'bad dude.'

Surely, you have seen or heard about the police shooting of  Crutcher last Friday in Tulsa. Video cameras plainly capture Crutcher, 40, and the father of four children, being fatally shot by a police officer.

The cameras clearly shows the moments leading up to the shooting. Crutcher has his hands up.  Understand, that 'hands in the air'  is an international sign of compliance or surrender. He is moving slowly. He shows no aggression whatsoever. He is unarmed. Again, there isn't a hint of confrontation from him.

But that didn't stop Crutcher from being killed.  For some reason, one of the three officers on the ground with Crutcher, whose car had stalled, decided to taze him. That action seemed unwarranted considering that Crutcher was not a threat. However, before waiting to see if the tazing had any impact on Crutcher, officer Betty Shelby decided to shoot him.  What is equally puzzling is how  the officers simply stood around for minutes before any attempt to render aid to Crutcher.

The coroner's report will say that Crutcher died from the gunshot wounds. However, in essence, he died because he was a black man.

If Crutcher had been white, he would be alive today. It is unfathomable to think those officers would have done that to a white man.

And that takes us back to the rare truthful moment. The 'he looks like a bad dude' statement made by the  officer in the helicopter. How could he possibly know this? He  was hundreds of feet in the air. The only certain evaluation he could have made of Crutcher is that he was black.

Clearly, the officer summarized that  because Crutcher's race, he looks like a 'bad dude'. It is no doubt that is how too many law enforcement officers, of all races, look at African-Americans. They see the absolute worst in black people. The stereotypes, and perceptions of the black community are baked  into their thought process. The fallacy that black folk are all violent, and living in horrid conditions, pours these misconceptions into their mindset.

The belief of this renders far too many officers  incompetent to see anything else when they look at us.

And it makes some of these officers nervous, fearful and biased. When racism is a part of their core upbringing these fears are escalated. In the meantime, it makes the life for black people, in particularly black men, dangerous.

A black man like Freddie Gray can be placed in the back of a Baltimore police van in handcuffs and die. He can be like Alton Sterling, who was pinned down by two Baton Rouge, La., police officers, in complete control of him, and die.  He can be Philando Castile in suburban Minneapolis sitting in a car with his girl friend, and four-year-old little girl in the back seat, and die.

There are literally dozens of more examples of black men dying at the hands of police, and only God knows how many perished before the age of the camera phone. These tragedies, and others like them, are why people stand up and speak out.

It is why Black Lives Matters marches. It is why Colin Kaepernick, and other athletes professional and amateur alike, choose to speak out. And where are these so-called patriots who believe in the values of America? They  crtiticize Kaepernick and others for expressing their first amendment rights, and refuse to stand for citizens like Crutcher when their  rights are violated.

I hear nothing but crickets. Actually,  I don't even hear the crickets.

Some of these people who criticize those who want to address the social justice issues in America, are nothing more than hypocrites. They believe in America's rights and values...until you do or say something they don't like. 

Every time a black man in America has an encounter with police, he knows there is a chance it could become deadly. I am confident Terence Crutcher thought about that last Friday. He seemed to do everything he could to survive. The only thing he couldn't do is change the color of his skin, and that was enough to cost him his life.

Terence Crutcher did everything he could.  The only thing he couldn't do was  turn his brown skin, to white.  His inability to do that cost him his life.


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