Do All Black Male Athletes Have To Be Thugs? Or, as X-ESPN Analyst Rob Parker said: R.G. III Ain't Black Enough
Earl Smith, PHD
Wake Forest University
Word Count: 908
African Americans have spent centuries being denied opportunities. This is especially true when it comes to the chance to get an education, the chance to own a home, to own a business, the chance to run for and be elected to political office.
Even in the world of sports, a world many Americans strongly identify as perhaps the most likely route to pursuing the elusive AMERICAN DREAM especially for African American males, was only integrated in the last half century and many sports (NASCAR, golf, tennis, hockey, gymnastics) remain virtually segregated white spaces today.
Even in SportsWorld - top head coaching positions are uncommon, managerial positions rare and ownership even rarer for African American men.
African American men who play sports at the college level have the lowest college graduation rates of all student-athletes.
Similarly, African American men have the highest rates of incarceration.
African American college athletes graduate at rates 20-30 percentage points lower than their White counterparts playing football and basketball. Only half of all players in the NFL have graduated from college. Less so in the NBA.
As ESPN's 30-30 film Broke details, many professional athletes are financial bankrupt within five years of the end of their careers. And, though there are plenty of examples of White men who end up broke, the majority on the list and featured in Broke are African American.
The NFL and NBA, leagues dominated by African American men, are plagued by violence (in the last several months Jovan Belcher shot and killed the mother of his child before committing suicide and Josh Brent (Dallas Cowboys) got into a car accident while driving drunk that killed his teammate Jerry Brown). Gun crimes are high (including Plaxico Burress who served time for shooting himself and Gilbert Arenas for bringing his gun into the Washington Wizard's locker room). Child custody and support actions continue among professional athletes. I note that Antonio Cromartie has not only fathered 10 children with 9 different women but he had to get an advance on his paycheck from the Jets in order to pay his child support. Terrell Owens is begging for work in order to pay his more than $30,000 a month child support to several different families, and former NBA star Dennis Rodman awaits a court ruling in the case of his delinquent child support payments.
Yet, when a player is not only successful on the field, but also stays out of trouble, has not been arrested, has not fathered children all over the country, and took advantage of the college education he could earn by virtue of his athletic scholarship, he is accused of not being black or at least not Black enough.
That's right, Rob Parker a former ESPN analyst said on Thursday, December 13, 2012 that Washington Redskin's star rookie quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin, III is not black enough. Why? Because he is articulate? As any college graduate should be. Because he hasn't thrown his money away buying a fleet of cars and homes with bowling alley's and jewelry (bling-bling) he can't afford? Because he isn't out shooting up the club or "making it RAIN" at 2 AM or beating up his fiance or fathering children all over the D.C. metro area with different women?
It is one thing for White commentators to continue to be captivated by this African American man who projects a different image than the negative stereotype of the Black Athlete (e.g. Cromartie, Burress, Dez Bryant), but when African American commentators also seek to confine African American male athletes to a box that is characterized by illegal behavior and insist that they behave as "thugs" in order to hold on to their racial identity then something is very, very wrong.
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