College and professional athletes are a huge part of today’s society. There are multiple channels dedicated to all sports, all the time. Fame, money, and big egos are all big parts of the sports culture. With the money and fame comes the microscope. Everything they do or don’t do is always under close scrutiny.
As Lapchick says on page 456 after people hear that an athlete was in a fight people ask, “What makes football or basketball players more inclined to get into fights?” The average white fan just assumes that it’s always the athletes getting in trouble and most people think black when they think of football and basketball. Since the 70’s and 80’s the NBA and the NFL have been becoming more and more black dominated sports. There are not many white American born players in the NBA anymore. The running backs and the receivers in the NFL are almost all black. These positions are the most important outside of the quarterback. The quarterback position now is about half white and half black.
On page 460 Lapchick gives us the stat that 53% of white male Division 1 athletes graduate compared to 37% of black male athletes. The numbers are equally the same for women athletes. One of the many reasons for this, I believe, is that more black athletes go pro before they graduate. There aren’t many white college players who are good enough to go pro early. A good example of that is this year for march madness there are two outstanding freshman who could go to the NBA this summer and probably won’t go back to finish their education. They are both black and could probably be the top two picks in this summer’s draft. Their names are Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. There are not even near as many white college athletes that would be able to turn pro by this summer.
Whenever some people see a black athlete they think that that person is going to a strip club or club or just causing trouble. That is the very small minority of athletes and even white athletes do the same things. It frustrates me when people make assumptions about all athletes like that. I recently had the pleasure of meeting and talking with former NFL great Irv Cross (picture on cover page). He is currently the CEO of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Minnesota. Seeing him do the things he was doing with people and meeting and greeting everyone. It didn’t matter if they were young or old, white or black; he was telling everyone about how they can help change the lives of today’s youth. If people could just see more and more of these good examples they might change their way of thinking. If there were more celebrities and athletes like Irv Cross getting involved in their community it would make a real difference.
On page 461, Lapchick says that, “On average the media reported a story about a new sports figure with a drug problem every two weeks.” I find this to be just about right on. Players get busted in airport searches, traffic stops and in their lockers. Millions and millions of people use drugs every day. Its big news when athletes make mistakes, just like when a movie star spews racial slurs or cuts off their hair or leaves their kid on top of their car. When famous people mess up us as Americans love to see it and the media loves to show it.
In conclusion, I feel that athletes are targets. Some people are jealous and want what they have and others are just plain mean. Either way, athletes and celebrities have to be on their best behavior all the time. If you are a black athlete you especially better not get into trouble because there are some people out there that will love to take advantage of your mistake.
- Gallagher, Charles. Rethinking the Color Line McGraw Hill Publishing, 2007