This is my cat “Africa,” the picture was taken by my daughter Ariel. Africa is sitting atop my desk alone side two books of tremendous magnitude. The first book, The Black Athlete a Shameful Story: “The Myth of Integration in American Sport.” (1968) by Jack Olsen is about college and professional sport and the Negro athlete. In his book, Mr. Olsen, suggest the Black athlete was but a pawn in the system of collegiate and professional sports. He suggested that although the negro athlete appeared content and appreciative in front of the lights, a caste system maintain racist classifications behind the cameras.
“Every morning the world of sport wakes up and congratulate itself on its contributions to race relations…It goes: Look what sports has done for the negro.” Jack Olsen, (1968) “The Black Athlete a Shame Story”
Olsen illustrates that although sport often received praised for its integration efforts, he however clarifies through numerous narratives from Black athletes and white coaches whom indicated nothing was further from the truth. Olsen warns the Black athlete was celebrated on the field or basketball court but received second-class citizenship off. For instance, the Negro athlete were warned not to date white women by white college coaches numerous times at different universities. The Black athlete that disobeyed this mantra found himself back in the ghettos by sundown. Thus, the professional Negro athlete fared none better as he was called ‘nigger’ in the locker rooms and on the field.
“What they did not realize was that the white american was able to compartmentalize his attitude about the Negro, to admire his exploits on the field but put him in the back of the bus on the way home.” Jack Olsen, (1968)
In such cases, the negro athlete remained silent as described by Olsen because he vision professional sports as the only opportunities to his upward social mobility. In Olsen’s view, not only was the Black athlete used only for his physical talents but after his college eligibility expired: he was shown the door without a degree and woefully unprepared for life.
It could be suggested the integration into collegiate and professional sport was but a small step up from cattle slavery for the Negro athlete then and now. I highly recommend you read this classic by Jack Olsen. You will effortlessly draw parallels to present day college and professional sport issues concerning the Black athlete.
We’ll take a look at the second book tomorrow: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave
The Invisible Dragon