The African-American Athlete , in today’s world what do they actually stand for ?
It’s not a matter of being politically correct but a matter of doing what is morally right and in this millennium we have the African-American athlete standing tall , widely recognized in their chosen field of endeavor in the world of sports , but rarely do we hear them voice an opinion on anything outside of their chosen sport . During the era of Hall of Fame running back , Jim Brown , we knew exactly where Brown stood on a number of social issues , Likewise with Muhammad Ali , Lew Alcindor/ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar , Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson , Arthur Ashe and Lee Elder , Tommie Smith , Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Bo Jackson and John Carlos .
However, in this modern world of even more high-profiled visibility , or the internet , tabloid magazines and 24 hour cable new’ outlets , today’s African-American athletes rarely expose themselves a political issue , unless an agent has them there appearing for their very own benefit , in according them with even more visibility . Michal Jordan , Floyd Mayweather , Tiger Woods , Derek Jeter and LeBron James , perhaps the four biggest male athletes of the past two decades, to have been foisted upon the public with pristine images. Yet counter to this, we know, that all four had their issues , when, it came to their character . Jordan we know of his legacy within the NBA , but away from the court , his private life became a mess , a divorce that showed the former NBA great was just as prolific off the court, in terms of sexual exploits and proclivities , as he was renowned on the court for his feats. Rarely, however, was the player front and center on a political or social issue. Granted, as a philanthropist , he has donated millions of dollars and through his charitable foundation has helped underprivileged children with educational scholarships .
Mayweather , considered to be the best boxer of his generation , and arguably amongst the top ten greatest fighters of all-time . We know of the boxer’s extraordinary abilities , yet away from the ring this convicted spousal abuser , has all the appeal of a felon , who simply courts trouble at the drop of a hat. Floyd Mayweather, craves the limelight, above everything else , and by whatever means necessary , he will do what it takes to make sure that the public are cognizant of that. As to the fighter’s wish, to be socially active and voice his opinions on a litany of issues, well that has never been publicly seen .
LeBron James as a basketball phenomenon in high school , at St Mary’s high school , in Akron , Ohio, was lauded and placed within the public domain , far too early ,clearly creating a spectacle , where it made it extremely difficult for him to escape the glare of the spotlight. Questions and suspicions arose, when James made the direct jump from high school, straight to the professional ranks of the NBA , becoming the number one overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft , by eschewing the collegiate ranks . It was widely believed, that James and his family profited financially , from his amateur career as a high school basketball phenomenon. Yet , to this day , those questions have never been fully answered by LeBron James or any member of his immediate family , and it goes a great deal to the veracity of the claims , as to the hypocrisy of NBA Commissioner David Stern , and his own insistence to overlook those alleged improprieties.
James, as a global brand, is now reaching halcyon heights , with commercial tie ins to Nike Inc, the world’s largest sports’ apparel manufacturer , as well as several Fortune 500 companies , and the player has now become an advertisers’ dream and a doyenne of Madison Ave. Not since the days of Michael Jordan , has an NBA player become so marketable and with even more corporate sponsors on board, the LeBron James’ persona and brand, are now more highly visible than ever before . While, this remains, all so clear , on a number real social issues , we do not know where James actually stands . However , in recent years, having realized his raised high-profile , LeBron James has leant his name to a program concerning education issues , but specifically with regard to high school dropouts .
The greatest golfer of all-time , well that remains to be seen . Yet it remains abundantly clear , that Tiger Woods is, and will remain the most popular and highly visible athlete on the planet. He has yet to be truly challenged by any of his contemporaries at this stage of his career , albeit , that with the ascent of Rory McIlroy to the top of the World Golf rankings , we might now see a real rivalry that will captivate the world’s attention . With McIlroy’s recent successes , with 2 Grand Slam tournament wins already in his young and budding career. This may well be the time to truly appreciate the sport and specifically the events on the PGA Tour .
The divorce of Tiger Woods and his sexual exploits were well chronicled by the print and television media , and it has to be said , much of this , was of Woods’ idiocy and his own making . Having overcome that public embarrassment and humiliation , the golfer’s public act of contrition , believable or not , was something of a travesty , in so many ways , as this whole spectacle took on a life of its own. . Woods maintains his philanthropic efforts with regard to the education of underprivileged children , and their gaining access to tools by way of technology. All commendable and his Tiger Woods’ Foundation having raised in excess of $250 million and the foundation’s tie-in with Target , has been of great benefit to the recipients , as well as the retail chain and Woods , himself, in terms of keeping the golfer at the forefront of the sporting landscape, amongst athletes of color. From a political standpoint, Tiger Woods has never let his political affiliations be known publicly , and perhaps with good reason , rather than making himself political “ cannon fodder “ for the political pundits on both sides of what it must be said , are now groups , that are simply devoid of intelligence !
Woods maintains his philanthropic efforts with regard to the education of underprivileged children , and their gaining access to tools by way of technology. All commendable and his Tiger Woods’ Foundation having raised in excess of $250 million and the foundation’s tie-in with Target , has been of great benefit to the recipients , as well as the retail chain and Woods , himself in terms of keeping at the forefront of the sporting landscape amongst athletes of color. From a political standpoint, Tiger Woods has never let his political affiliations be known publicly , and perhaps with good reason , rather than making himself political “ cannon fodder “ for the political pundits on both sides of what it must be said , are now groups , that are simply devoid of intelligence !
As a four-time World Series’ victor with the famed New York Yankees , Derek Jeter’s career now reads like that of a modern-day hero , with the baseball player , often being called “ Captain America”. Being of biracial parentage has not been of a great hindrance to the seventeen year veteran of the Majors . His Turn 2 Key Foundation has fulfilled the player’s dream of giving back not just amongst his native community of Kalamazoo , Michigan , but also within city of New York and Tampa , where the Yankees use as their Winter base for their Spring Training schedule . The beneficiaries of Jeter’s foundation , once again are children who are at risk , while providing them with a safe haven , in after school literacy programs , and the learning of good etiquette.
Michael Jordan from his heyday with the Chicago Bulls , seemed intent on garnering the glory and wealth . Both he , and David Stern profited from their relationship greatly , with the league (NBA) seeing its revenues rise from several million dollars a year , wherein the past two decades , the NBA has now become a multi-billion dollar annual enterprise . The rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers , led to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson , respectively , where they had the fans enthralled. Yet , the exploits of Jordan and the Bulls and their dominance of the throughout much of the nineties , which heightened the visibility of the NBA and its brand , becoming a worldwide phenomena .
Jordan remains a formidable force away from the game , where his Jump-man 23 Brand , a sole entity within Nike’s sales brands, remains amongst the apparel manufacturer’s biggest revenue source. As a front office executive however , the former player’s failures have been well chronicled . As a spokesman on social issues , Jordan remains stoic and noncommittal , more so I believe , of not wanting to damage his branding and economic worth . As with any high profiled athlete . his philanthropic efforts are primarily geared towards children and their well-being .No matter how one would try to spin it , if children are the centerpiece of your efforts, the whole world simply tends to take notice . I could very well be mistaken, but Jordan may well take his pointers initially from what David Stern, and may well have felt it best , in the NBA’s interest , from an image standpoint. And about the only thing the NBA commissioner has ever felt worth his while has been to for the league to simply make money and not much else beyond that. .
From a political standpoint , the country may well have changed greatly , but in reality the perceived advancement from the civil rights’ era of the sixties are not as great, as many would like to believe . And an athlete who seeks to speak out politically on any subject is likely to be ridiculed by the press and fans alike . Conservatives feel aggrieved of their Republican Party’s poor showing in the Presidential elections , but I would preface this by saying , when your nominee is an uninspired choice, and his running mate, shows all of the character traits of an inanimate object , then there is not much more that needs to be said as it relates to , Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan !. That being said , the Democrats have regained the White House , with Barack Obama and Joe Biden gaining a second term , it has to be said the agenda set could very well define how Obama’s legacy will be defined . His initial term , was one of blunders, and a great deal of incompetence , and it looks as we could very well be in for more of the same with a second term now underway. An economy that remains stagnant , albeit that the President’s economic policy advisers (CEA) will seek offer Barack Obama a template for turning around the economy and hopefully taking it out of a tailspin , in spite of this idiocy that because the Dow Jones (DJIA) is now above 14,000 , the economy itself once again healthy. Speculation by brokers on Wall St and within the NYSE doesn’t indicate a healthy economy , and perhaps someone should remind these assholes of that fact , on both sides of the political aisle , as well as those within the print and television media .
It seems somewhat strange that four plus decades on from the civil rights’ era , African-American athletes would seek to remain quiet on a number of issues , presumably , as they have no wish to be viewed as flies amongst the ointment while a minority holds the highest political office in the land . Perhaps , I am mistaken , but I find today’s athletes , simply gutless , who would rather garner ta vast amount wealth , visibility and simply overlook the societal imbalances within their midst. Whereas, with such icons as Arthur Ashe , Lee Elder , Jim Brown , Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jackie Robinson , Bill Russell , Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith , John Carlos and Bo Jackson all had something valid to say, as to the plight of not only the plight of minorities in this country, but also being a voice for those who have simply been left out in the cold , without any real representation.
Fans may well find an athlete being politically outspoken, a detriment to society as a whole but were it not for the actions of Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson , where would the game of baseball and the African-American baseball player be , today ? Fans also seem to forget that Robinson also served his country as a war veteran and spoke of his experiences as being part of a segregated Armed Forces , yet when he played a game which became fully integrated whereas it would be almost a decade after the end of WWII (World War II) before the US Armed Forces became fully integrated , and where minorities were said to be on an equal basis with their Caucasian counterparts.
Arthur Ashe, the only African-American male tennis player to hold the # 1 ranking in the Men’s Open era of tennis was a socially active articulate spokesperson . Ashe , while all others sought to simply ignore the ignore the disreputable role that apartheid played in South Africa , in that country’s political climate for the better part of five decades , while the United States simply ignored the events taking place on the continent, rarely with the State Department or any administration seeking to cut off diplomatic ties with the country , during apartheid’s most infamous era , from sixties right through until the mid-eighties. All this from a country that has pride itself and set itself apart , as a moral beacon of light for the world to follow. There is a great deal that is great about the United States , but there also remains a great deal that is egregiously wrong with the country as how it views itself in the world and it’s continuing idiotic nonexistent foreign policy .
A tribute to the late , great , Arthur Ashe
The ATP sought to ignore Ashe’s calls for a boycott of the sanctioned events being held in the country , and it was not until major European sponsors sought to withdraw their sponsorship of events on the ATP calendar , did the governing body ITF and ATP seek to withdraw from sanctioning events , which would have far-reaching effects , when one bears in mind that the country was barred from competing in the Summer and Winter Olympics , by the IOC , because of South Africa’s political policies towards the majority of its population .
Ashe’s death, due to in an intravenous blood transfusion with tainted blood, leading to hepatitis B and then full-blown AIDS was something a shock to the world , but beyond his accomplishments on the tennis court , he will be remembered as a “ lone voice in the wilderness “ seeking to do what was ” morally right “ , when everyone else simply chose to ignore such a heinous issue . Apathy, I firmly believe, alongside ignorance and a sheer attitude of “not in my backyard” !
Picture gallery .
Do you believe it pertinent today for an athlete to make their voices heard and to use their notoriety to speak out, on a wide range of issues ? Or are you of the opinion that they should merely keep their opinions to themselves , rather than haranguing the public with their views ? Simply , chime in with a comment as you see fit .
Picture and slideshow details below.
(1) Jim Brown , Hall of Fame inductee , and social activist . Brown had a stellar NFL career before becoming a noted Hollywood actor and then transfixing himself within the political scene , raising social awareness to African-American issues as well as those among other minorities . AP Photo / Michelle George …
(2) Muhammad Ali , the voice of a nation and now suffering from Parkinson’s Disease . The fighter , a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam , has been vocal with regard to Islamic issues having converted to Islam as a Sufi Muslim . Prior to his debilitating and ravages of the disease , ravaging Ali’s body , he sought a dialogue between Muslims and Jews , through joint meetings at various levels within the Jewish and Islamic community, in North America , as well as the Middle East . Ring Magazine @ copyrighted material all rights reserved …
(3)Former NBA basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is seen backstage prior to a screening of his documentary film ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ at Science Park High School, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011, in Newark, N.J. Abdul-Jabbar , an NBA Hall of Fame inductee , has written several noteworthy books , as well-being a celebrated documentary film maker , has taught on the campuses of Native American Indian schools, across the country, as well speaking about their plight , in terms of alcoholism, prolific drug abuse and violence amongst teenagers . Apart from his philanthropic efforts in that endeavor , the NBA great is a noted historian , specifically as it relates African-American World War II veterans , having written an acclaimed book on the Tuskegee Airmen . The Lakers’ great remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points . The current active leader within the NBA is Kobe Bryant with 30,726 points . AP Photo/ Aaron Pryce … ….
(4) Bill Russell is seen here being given the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama . The NBA legend and Celtics’ great was a close confidante of Dr Martin Luther King and a staunch advocate of African-American rights during the civil rights’ era . A well-respected , and often called the greatest player ever to have donned a Boston Celtics’ uniform , Russell is the most successful player in NBA history , having won eleven championship titles with the Boston Celtics . AP /Photo/ USA Today/ Tomasz Marchinkoff …..
(5) A pivotal moment in baseball history ___ Jackie Robinson shakes Branch Rickey’s hand after signing his 1948 contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers . February 12, 1948 New York City, New York, USA . MLB.com archives @ copyrighted material all rights reserved …..
(6) Lee Elder , the first African-American to play at the Masters an invitation only tournament on the PGA Tour . Elder remained a leading advocate amongst his African-American contemporaries and successors such as Calvin Peete , Charlie Sifford and Pete Brown . The PGA Tour , as of today, has only one prominent African-American player of note , regularly playing on the Tour and he happens to be , Tiger Woods . Currently ranked #2 in the world , Woods’ effort , to see a rise amongst African-American players on the PGA Tour , has seen minimal success . Something of which , PGA Tour Chairman Tim Finchem , rarely speaks publicly about , and something of which , Tiger Woods rarely addresses in public . Golf’s ” dirty little ” secret remains hidden up to a point , its inner circle will remain in control by a group of aging middle-aged male Caucasians , who would rather see the “status quo” remain as is ! AFP /REUTERS/ Eric Gallagher ….
(7) Derek Jeter is seen here with his family , left , his mother Dorothy , center , his sister , Sharlee , and to Jeter’s right , his father , Charles Jeter. The player , a five time World Series champion , Gold Glove winner , with multiple All Star appearances for the New York Yankees . Jeter , through his Turn 2 Key Foundation , is a staunch advocate of children’s rights and in promoting educational avenues for at risk kids . AP Photo / Pete Wilson …..
(8) Rory McIroy, left , and Tiger Woods , the top two ranked golfers in the world , are now viewed as the future of the sport, whose global revenues now outstrips that of the NBA and NFL combined . From humble beginnings to a now estimated $490 million a year prize money , the PGA Tour, is now the most lucrative Tour of the , four major golf Tour schedules globally. Getty Images / Kevin C. Cox ….
(9) LeBron James (6) of the Miami Heat drives to the basket past Jeff Green (8) of the Boston Celtics during the game on January 27, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Heat would go on to lose the game 100-98 in a slew of scheduled match-ups played on Sunday , 27th January , 2013. Getty Images North America / Jared Wickheram ….
(10) On the dais , at the 1968 Mexico Olympics are the top three finishers from the Men’s 200 meters sprint Finals . Hands raised aloft are gold medal winner, Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos . The second placed finisher was Australia’s Peter Norman , whose son , Matt Norman directed a documentary entitled , ” Salute ” , which covers the events leading up to that significant moment in Olympic history . Smith and Carlos , though not members of the Black Panthers , whose clenched fist salute , is seen as a form of solidarity of the organization, raised their fists in support of the organization , but more so as they stated at the time , in support of the impoverished underclass of society , that were being mistreated by the US by the government and in support of those protesting against the Vietnam War , which was still in full swing. Yet somehow this was looked upon as being disrespectful of the US flag and national anthem . What might be even more disrespectful was the futility of fighting a needless war that led to the loss of so many lives without the United States earning a moral or Pyrrhic victory from the pretense of going to war to battle communism . AFP /Photo / Ron Wilson ….
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