Advancing the Dream

I wasn’t born 50 years ago so I didn’t attend the March on Washington or get to hear Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic speech titled “I have a dream” in person.  Like many of those my age I learned about Dr. King and his speech in school.

In school it was just enough to get you interested and then the teacher moved onto something else.  Thankfully, my parents taught me not only about Dr. King but made sure I knew my history and that I received more than an hour overview every year during black history month.

My parents let me know the importance of African-American history and to have an understanding and appreciation of what my ancestors survived and accomplished.  They also instilled the importance of education and treating people equally.  But more importantly to never use the color of my skin as a crutch for not trying to achieve my goals and to never let anyone judge me or refrain me for succeeding based on the color of my skin.

As we all are remembering the anniversary of the March on Washington I’ve taken some time to reflect on how far we – African-Americans have come especially in the world of sports.  It’s no secret that African-Americans have broken down walls in professional sports.  You immediately think of Jackie Robinson and what he did for major league baseball.  You think of Jim Brown one of the greatest running backs of our time and activist. Marlin Briscoe and James Harris the first black quarterbacks in the AFL and NFL; Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Bill Russell basketball greats and activists and of course the phenomenal Muhammad Ali.

There is still a lot of work to do and still a lot of walls to break down.  As the NFL season starts I wanted to take a look at the numbers – while 67% of all NFL players are black and 31% are white. A total of 74.8% of the NFL’s league office management is white and a full 100% of the majority owners in the league are white.  Currently only 12.5% of the head coaches are black and this year no African-American head coaches were hired in the NFL.

Then there is Riley Cooper who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles who represents the ugliness that we still need to overcome; while out at a concert he felt the need to spew hatred and say the N-word without even a thought.  Then after he apologized and went to “counseling” and now will start the season along with the rest of his teammates.  I guess if he had shot himself in the leg or had been cruel to animals he would have gotten a harsher punishment.

Even in the industry that I’m in there is still a lot more work that needs to be done.  Here are some startling numbers that were in the 2012 Associated Press Sports Editors and Racial and Gender Report Card by Richard Lapchick

  • 90.9 percent of the sports editors were white.
  • 83.9 percent of the columnists were white.
  • 86.3 percent of the reporters were white.
  • 90.4 percent of the sports editors were men.
  • 88.3 percent of the reporters were men

So what does all of this mean? It means we ALL have a lot of work to do – black, brown, yellow, white, gay, straight, young and old.  We have to be more tolerable, patient, understanding and open to change.

I would like to think my ancestors would be proud of what all I’ve accomplished thus far and even prouder knowing that I will never forget my past and do what I can to make a difference in the future.