In upcoming podcasts, I’m going to touch on sports and its impact on our dreams, our children, and our parenting. Dr. Boyce Watkins of Your Black World and Financial Juneteenth, breaks down exactly where I plan to go on the topic. (If you can’t see the video, click HERE).
Although many parents still claim, “grades before games” or “we just play to learn important life lessons”, my years as both an athlete, trainer of athletes, and kids who have played a combined 40 years (that is a lot of mileage racked up on my cars and body carrying folding chairs) tell me other wise. For many, when that child shows athletic skill that transcends the average, and whispers begin, “…they could even get a scholarship”, “scouts may be coming to the school to see them play…” and the goal changes.
As I’ve discussed before, the idea for us to homeschool our children came from one of my athletes. It was at that moment I learned that many athletes, like celebrities, get homeschooled to take advantage of personal training and coaching. For some reason, the “what about socialization” question goes out the door, and in comes the “you have to do what you have to do to get to the top!”
Now for parents of black athletes, they really must make a conscious effort to put each opportunity in perspective.
How much of our child’s life are you willing to give to the school?
Are you willing to let them do anything to your son or daughter, just because they promise them a chance to the professional level?
Is some coach promising to be “dad”, when YOU are the father?
What is your child focusing on right now, athletics or academics?
What will your child do with his or her life if they do not make it to the professional level?
So check out Boyce and his other projects as well, as I’ll be promoting more of his great work that continues to expand.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear any stories you have on athletes that you know that beat, or were beaten, by the system.
Dad’s, with all of the cheating that is going on in sports these days, how do you talk to your kids about this issue?
It’s hardly new. “Back in my day”, I wanted to throw a knuckler like Phil and Joe Niekro and a spitball like Gaylord Perry. Those were fun guys and Joe and Gaylord were cheaters, but hey, it was funny right? Did George Brett really mean to run Pine Tar that far up on the bat?
Come on! Lighten up!
Now this was before we really got serious on baseball cheaters like McGwire, Sosa, Bond (allegedly), A-Rod and the list goes on and on in that sport. But then there’s “Stickum” in football, anabolic steroids, growth hormone in almost every Olympic sport, blood doping in cycling, academic cheating from junior high through college for basketball and football players, car modification cheating in racing…maybe it is true, if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying!
So we really shouldn’t be tripping out about Tom Brady.
But this article in The Root breaks down that we do view and talk about cheaters differently, I highly recommend giving it a read.
Here are some of the highlights:
“If he were black, people would be calling him a criminal and saying that his behavior reflected some innate values. They would blame hip-hop, single mothers and the culture of poverty. If he were a black player, the conversation wouldn’t be about Goodell or the system but how the lack of a work ethic and morals led him to cut corners, to win “by any means necessary.” If he were black, the conversation would turn to affirmative action and how he was forced to cheat because he lacked the skills needed to excel at this elite level….Brady demonstrates yet again that whites are innocent … until proved innocent. Any evidence to the contrary proves that the system is flawed, that we have a miscarriage of justice.”
Dad’s when you’re having this discussion with your kids, do you unknowingly talk differently based on the color of the athlete?
It’s something to think about and it’s how we teach our children about so-called race, without ever talking about race in our homes. Then we proudly exclaim to the world, “I teach my kids that skin color doesn’t matter, everybody should be treated the same!”
So do you treat everyone the same in your actions and judgements on who’s a cheater and who isn’t? Perhaps this is a good discussion to have with ourselves first, and then our children as well.
When I was in my early 20s, there was one non-professional athlete that impacted my worldview like none other. The man, Dr. Harry Edwards. I was always interested in sociology and of course I loved sports, and when I learned of this field created by Dr. Edwards called Sociology of Sport, it was love at first sight. While God by His sovereign grace has me where I am today, if I could do everything over, I’d head to a school with a Sociology of Sport program to earn the academic credentials and attack the profession like Mike Tyson in the ring during his prime. I remember telling my mentor that I wanted to become the next Harry Edwards when I first went to see her about transferring into sociology and out of sports medicine. However, she knew what I would later find out, yet she didn’t crush my enthusiasm, and that was the fact that I’d never be worthy to even tie up his shoe laces, let alone fill his shoes.
I wish I could meet Dr. Harry Edwards. Whenever I find out that he’s done and interview somewhere, I’m on the hunt and all ears because I know I’ll become wiser after listening to this man. Now I just wish that we could hear more from him in our digital era, as it would be so much easier to have access to his knowledge. But then again, I wouldn’t be as proud as I am to have three of his great books, Sociology of Sport, The Revolt Of The Black Athlete and The Struggle That Must Be.
While we are proud of the stand the athletes like Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Reggie Bush and others are taking as they protest African-American men being gunned down in the United States by the police as if they were being caught in a Sundown Town of the 1940s, the protests are now being compared to that organized by Dr. Edwards at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. The Black Power salute by John Carlos and Tommie Smith set the bar high, created a new path, and must be something our children (especially those that play sports) never forget. My kids do not, as they have the poster right above the computer in our living room. My two oldest boys were given the John Carlos Story as Christmas gifts right after it hit shelves and when I worked with young athletes as a strength and conditioning coach, I even encouraged them to not just carry a ball, but carry a message. When you carry a message, you carry yourself with more responsibility as well. It’s a responsibility to hold tightly to the opportunity that’s been afforded to you.
I could go on and on, but that’s what made me feel encouraged about the discussion at ESPN by Jemele Hill, Chris Broussard and Stephen A. Smith. The discussion was on Athletes and Activism.
First, just the fact that one black woman and two black men can sit on a major network and discuss and frame what the black athlete is doing is quite an accomplishment. Yes I’m aware, as Smith and Broussard know first hand, that if they go too far out, the dominant-society will take them out to the woodshed. But just to at least be able to talk and teach, that’s progress and that is the kind of talk we have in our homes and at family gatherings.
Why? Because in 1968, here was the response by Brent Musburger (yes, that one), as described by David Zirin (if you don’t listen to the Edge of Sports podcast, you should) in The Nation in 2012:
“In 1968 Musburger was a restless, ambitious young sports writer looking to make his name. He found his opportunity when Smith and Carlos made their stand. Musburger didn’t see a demonstration. He saw a target.
“One gets a little tired of having the United States run down by athletes who are enjoying themselves at the expense of their country,” he wrote. Musburger then infamously called Smith and Carlos “a pair of black-skinned stormtroopers.”
Second, the athletes of our past dawned the “Scarlet P” for protester, called trouble-makers, said to have had bad-attitudes or received labels like above and were considered uppity negroes. In the case of John Carlos, he lost relationships that money could never replace. Yet, I’m hopeful that some of today’s athletes understand their power, prestige and privilege. Their brand is the trunk of the tree, and now they can have multiple branches (i.e. revenue streams) to feed that tree. So they are no longer beholden as much to the league or owner that believes if he lets him go for not being a “good boy”, that another owner won’t break the code and pick him up.
That said, I hope that athletes of today protesting are doing more than just sporting t-shirts, but I hope they are writing checks as well. I understand that a grown person can spend their cash any way they would like, but money gets movement in our Land of Milk and Honey. So if athletes can show all the bling on Cribs, I’m hoping they can put some skin in the game as well with some dollars.
So we’ve come a long way and I’m happy to see my kids take a strong stance on civil right issues at the age of 25 down to the age of 8. They know whether they carry a ball or not, I expect them to carry a message, and it’s those messages that I know will out live me and provide hope for so many of my upcoming generations as I have a feeling that they will still need to put on their gloves and continue to fight for justice years from now.