Football Players: Modern Gladiators?

10 Sep

I went to the UNC versus Rutgers game today at UNC. It was hot, fun and UNC won, so it was all good. However, having been at the Hampton versus Florida A&M game on Thursday I was struck by the difference in the crowd, racial difference of course, what else would I be noticing? At Hampton the crowd was probably 98% black. At Carolina it was probably close to 90% white. I am sure that it is my own prism that made me uneasy as I watched the mostly white crowd cheering for the mostly black teams.

I could not help but think back to when a good fighting slave would set a master back big bucks. I also could not help wondering how much of the athletic prowess of young black men is responsible for the fear and view of them as violent that so many whites cling to? If they are that strong and fast surely they must be dangerous.

Going even further I wondered how many of the white folks in the stands cheering wildly for the black men on the field would be happy to see them at their family Thanksgiving dinner? I am not white ( duh) so perhaps I am doing  white folks a disservice , but knowing what I know about race and racism in America I cannot help but have these questions surface. I imagine they would throw me out of Kenan Stadium if I started asking white fans, ” What would you think if Hakeem there started dating your daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter?” , but I would love to know!

Are they only modern gladiators, to be cheered on Saturday and treated differently on Monday when they are not wearing their pads and the music is not playing and no pom poms are waving?

And, this is not something I would only like to ask Carolina fans. I would equally like to ask white Ohio State fans–Braxton is cool for a son-in-law, right?, Georgia fans, University of Mississippi fans, Wisconsin fans and Stanford and Oregon and all the other white universities that field teams with large numbers of black players.

I would also like to ask black fans a similar question about the white players. Would they be welcome at the family Thanksgiving dinner table? Race divides us in America in ways that most people are so used to they do not even see. Churches are, for the most part, still very segregated, so is housing,  so is education. There is more likelihood today that a black kid will be attending a school that is predominantly black or minority than there was in 1972.Recently my cousin posted on FB that an issue of a magazine dedicated to “American heroes” of 9/11 does not have a single black person represented. This led to my statement that Americans frequently do not associate the term ” American” with blacks. Except for athletic references when is the last time you heard a black person referred to as an “All American girl/boy?” I will answer that question for you… never! Same with ” the boy/girl next door.” We are not generally chosen to represent the country or the ideal young man or woman, that is reserved for our paler folks.

Don’t believe me? Close your eyes and think the words “cheerleader, mayor, girl next door, All American boy” what did you see? No fair changing because of the previous paragraph!

So, I have to wonder if athletics is bringing us closer since we are all cheering for that multicultural team or driving us father apart because of the way we view the athletes as human beings off the court/field/arena, or not having any impact at all.

So, the next time you see them flash those faces up on the jumbotron at your local stadium ask yourself this question, ” Could I pass the dressing and cranberry sauce to that individual without  any problem?” If the answer is ” No” report to your nearest social justice professional immediately for therapy!:-)

PS. I have an Asian American daughter in law ( she does not play sports but is a mean Zumba teacher!) and a white son in law  ( he did not play sports either, but is seriously smart) and I love them both.  So my answer to the question above is “As long as it is bipedal, loves my child , has not been convicted of a felony and is of average or better intelligence, welcome to the family!”

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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


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