I received a call a few days ago, and was reminded that Black History Month had come and was about to go and I hadn’t bothered to share my views on a few issues. My thoughts turned to the saga of Sam Lacy and I was satisfied that contributions to Black History were being made throughout the composition. However, the question was put to me about my opinion on why more Black athletes didn’t take up the banner for equality.
I guess my thoughts drifted into an area of Catch 22. Some athletes have tried to issue a wake-up call, and some have no clue. During the 1968 Summer Olympics, John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised black gloves on the medal podium as a silent protest for the lack of equality in America at the time. Since the White community was in fear of the Black Panther movement at the time, Tommie and John were hustled to the airport and sent home.
When the Masters Golf Tournament is being contested, Americans, Black and White, are glued to their TV. The fact that this was an all-White event was lost in the drama. Very few people know that a Mexican-American carried on a silent protest for years. Lee Trevino would not use the club house facilities. He kept his clubs in his car and changed into his golf shoes in the parking lot.
Lee Elder finally broke the color barrier, but soon became just a footnote in the history of the Masters. It wasn’t until Tiger Woods came along and rewrote the record books and sent architects scrambling back to the drawing board to design a course that would give him more challenges.
Some of our quality athletes have no clue as to who paved the way for them. Their main interest is in the money and prestige. Frank Thomas (The Big Hurt) once claimed he didn’t know anything about Jackie Robinson. And, on that note, I salute Orioles Manager Buck Showalter for tasking rookie Josh Hart to produce a handwritten page on Frank Robinson, whom he never heard of. Since Frank was the face of the Oriole franchise for more than a minute, I think this is only fitting.
There is a running blurb on Teddy Roosevelt at the moment. I don’t know the whole of the story, but I do know Teddy Roosevelt being the hero of the charge up San Juan Hill is a joke. Teddy was on Kettle Hill and when he decided to join the festivities on San Juan Hill only five soldiers responded to his order to charge. By the time he was able to regroup, the Ninth and Tenth Calvary (colored regiments) had the battle cleaned up.
There isn’t one among you who hasn’t heard the story of Adm. Robert Peary discovering the North Pole. However, the truth of the matter is that Peary arrived 45 minutes after Matthew Henson. Henson was a colored man, and you have to dig beneath the surface of the story to get the truth.
There are many of these stories of heroes, who in fact took a back seat to Colored men, but history is jaded and it takes years to uncover the real truth. So for that reason, I am afraid that many Black athletes would just prefer to do their jobs, get paid and go home.
“Sam Lacy – He made a difference,” returns next week.