Black Public Scholars

January 15, 2011

ESPN Panel on the State of the Black Athlete: How Did They Do?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

I was sitting in front of my TV set flipping through one channel after another, and I found something that both intrigued and concerned me: An ESPN special about the image of the black athlete. I was curious to see what they had to say about black athletes, especially males, since that’s something I think about nearly every single day of my life.

The panel consisted of Jalen Rose, John Calipari, Randy Shannon, Spike Lee, Robin Roberts and others. I was hopeful that the panelists would not succumb to the temptation of taking the paternalistic viewpoint that black male athletes are somehow destined to be ignorant and need to be told what to do. For example, unlike any other sport, men’s basketball and football are the only ones in which there are age limits before the athlete can become a professional. The reasons for these regulations are driven primarily by the argument that the men are too young to go out and support their families by doing what they do for the NCAA without being compensated.

 

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