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Sending A Message With True Impact Through Sports

Sending A Message With True Impact Through Sports
  • Scott Engel

Athletes Can Send a Truly Impactful Message With Unique New Routes

By Mike Damergis

Teams are spending millions of dollars of guaranteed money on mediocre QBs, yet Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned

Freedom of speech is the greatest gift we have as Americans. To honor our flag and the veterans, who have given so much, is the least we can do as a sign of respect for their bravery and courage in battle.

Our freedom to express how we feel and the way we think separates us from the rest of the world.

It’s been almost 250 years since we fought for our independence from England for the right to speak, write and worship in the manner and fashion we want as citizens of the United States.

But to think that all people are treated equal in this country is the furthest thing from the truth.

The Mexican employee working in the kitchen of a restaurant does not have the same opportunities as second, third or fourth generation white American.  The black teenager in the South Bronx does not have the same support as the average white teen in New Rochelle, N.Y.

To think he does is not genuine.

Immigrants came to this country for a better life – Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Greece, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Most recently places like Albania and Russia as well. Many of these people left their country under horrible conditions, as my grandfather and grandmother left Asia Minor under the atrocities of the Turkish government, but they had a chance to escape alive.

That says two things:

1) Life from where they came from must be awful

2) America gives you the opportunity to be what you want if you work for it

But the African man and woman didn’t have a choice. Sold into slavery from their own kind to European Slave traders, they came to this country unwillingly to say the least.

It’s been over 150 years since the Civil War, but racial tension still exists.

To deny the fact that the system and society has failed the black population is ignorant. Not only has the white population failed, but the black as well.

During the 1950s and 1960s urban blight left many inner cities barren as White America moved to the suburbs.

It was a new world of strip malls and highways that made life possible outside of the big city.

This may have not been the North vs. the South, but it certainly separated white and black.

Culturally, the white kid in the suburbs had a vastly different experience from the black or Spanish boy growing up in Harlem.

This was reflected in music over the years.

Motown was a completely different sound from Elvis Presley’s Rock ‘n’ Roll of the ’50s. In a way, Motown help unify society because most white teens just liked the music. They didn’t care what color the singer’s skin was.

When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947, Dodger fans ultimately only cared that Brooklyn would beat the Yankees in the World Series, and didn’t worry if it was a black man that helped get them there.

A decade earlier in 1938, 70 million Americans listened on their radio as boxer Joe Louis defeated German fighter Max Schmeling for the heavyweight championship of the world. The victory over Schmeling was really a win of Democracy over Fascism as Adolf Hitler’s Germany threatened the known world.

America stood united under Louis’ win 80 years ago – black, white and anything in between.

Race, creed or color really didn’t matter when it came to music or sports. Louis, Robinson, Billie Holiday, the Supremes – they all cut across racial barriers.

Music and sports was a unifier and not a divider – until recently.

The question is why?

Rap music changed things.

The average white audience felt separated from the lyrics, unlike the experiences with Freestyle or House Music of the 1980s or Motown decades earlier.

Rap has an angry sound and to be “bad” meant money. You needed “street cred” to be accepted in the ‘Hood. Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls lost their lives over the East-West Coast rap rivalry, but were (and still are) glorified by their audience.

Basketball star Kobe Bryant was never accepted into the black community because he was thought of as “too white,” spending part of his childhood in Italy while his dad, Joe Bryant, played pro basketball. In 2003, Bryant was charged with rape. Suddenly, he had street creBut what is being glorified – violence and drugs or is it just an expression of life in the inner city?

Either way, once an athlete or musician “makes it,” he or she distances themselves from their roots physically.

Former Mets outfielder Bobby Bonilla talked about being from the Bronx, but was living in Greenwich, Conn., after signing his multi-million dollar deal.

A song may be written about life in Compton, Calif., but now the artist lives in Beverly Hills.

The average black, white or Spanish person want the same things for their family – a good home, a sound education for their kids and a good job.

But disconnect comes when it relates issues of race.

In the instance of Colin Kaepernick challenging the system, which some have compared to Mohammad Ali in the ’60s, is a tricky slope. It would be naive to think that police don’t target young black males, which is based on their criminal science.

But I think the issue is that athletes don’t put their money-where-their-mouth is. Athletes flush money down the toilet on cars, jewelry, drugs, the nightlife and strip clubs when it could be going towards something good in the community.

Imagine if one percent of all NFL salaries are matched by team owners, and poured into the inner city – what amazing things could be achieved?

Instead of taking a knee, wear an armband to signify your cause and start building community centers and hospitals.  Create labs with educational resources and have meals so impoverished kids can get off the street and have a place to go where they feel safe. Fund scholarships for students that do well in school. Bring in retired athletes as role models. Cease and desist the vulgarity of using the “N” word and truly understand its genesis. This term shows a complete lack of respect. If blacks don’t show respect to other blacks, then no other person respects you.

This issue has divided a country and created tensions in locker rooms like that of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I agree with the message. just not the way it was delivered. The method has become clouded and the meaning unclear.

As Americans, we need to address all the causes of this disease of racism, not just one. But that will take whites, blacks and Latinos to take a good look in the mirror – they might not like what they see.

Mike Damergis is the author of “The USFL: The Rebel League the NFL Didn’t Respect But Feared“.