Mis-Education of Black Children

I played at University of Washington. I fully understand that athletics can be beneficial.

I played at University of Washington. I fully understand that athletics can be beneficial.


Nine years later I am back at the UW. Not as a coach or a professor. I am a cook, although I love cooking this wage doesnt pay well. If I would have emphasized academics more I would not be in this position.

Nine years later I am back at the UW. Not as a coach or a professor. I am a cook, although I love cooking this job does not pay that well. If I would have emphasized academics more I would not be in this position.

The African American community puts too much of an emphasis on youth athletics.  Sports build character, and teach life lessons that kids can use throughout their life.  However, playing sports should be secondary to academics.  In the African American community this is far from the case.

I hear and see it all the time, more African American parents and family members attend their kids sporting events than non-athletic school events.

Sports have always been more than just games to African Americans.  Historically, racial discrimination made it impossible for African Americans to compete with their White counterparts in intellectual fields like Law, Medicine, and Education.  Declining employment over the last forty years is also a major reason for the over emphasis.  Lack of opportunity in other areas has parents pushing their kids in sports with the hope that they are fortunate enough to receive a scholarship and possibly play in the NBA, or NFL.

Structural barriers have caused African Americans to view sports as not only entertainment but as a means to survive.  

The idea of black athletic superiority was born during the time of the First Black Heavyweight Boxing Champion Jack Johnson.  The idea only grew some years later when the great African American sprinter Jesse Owens shattered Hitler’s idea of “Aryan Racial Superiority” by winning four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Every black athlete from 1890-1970 represented not only themselves, but all black people.  Every victory for African American athletes especially those against white competitors strengthened the belief of black athletic superiority.

What starts to happen is African Americans themselves buy into the racist idea that they are naturally gifted and superior to whites in sports.  The success of African American athletes de-emphasizes academics in the black community.

Images portraying African American men playing sports and the media’s irresponsible infatuation with an exaggerated false perception of one aspect of black culture only perpetuate the idea of black athletic superiority.  This idea leads poor African American families to believe that sports are the best option for their kids to escape poverty.

I am not by any means telling parents to not encourage kids to follow their dreams of becoming sports stars.  I am however, saying that kids should be pushed harder in academics.

Some reject this idea.  My question to them would be.  Is it really wrong to want to provide kids with other options outside of the sports sector? Is it really that bad to want kids to go to math camps instead of basketball camps or why not both? Is it wrong to want kids to aspire to be lawyers and doctors rather than football players and basketball players? Often times we hear black people talk about having little to no power in fields that actually influence change.  The over emphasis on sports within our community is a major reason for this problem.

We have to train our youth to maximize their intellectual potential at the same time encouraging them to pursue any dreams they may have.  As adults we have to create an environment for our youth to be successful academically.  Academics should be looked at as a priority while sports should be looked at as extracurricular activities.

When a kid plays sports, if he really wants to be successful, his parents have him playing basketball all year around. They push and try and find the best teams for him, they look for the best coaches and are willing to work extra in order to get a child what he needs to be successful at his sport.

There are two elements that play a part in whether or not a kid will be successful that a parent can’t control; height, and athleticism.  Predicting a kid’s height is nearly impossible, I was told by a doctor, rather my mom was told I would be 6’4″ and I’m 6’10”.

Why don’t we push our kids to go to school all year around?  Why don’t we try and find the best tutors, get extra jobs for things that will help our kids excel in school? The chance of getting a masters degree and getting a job is way higher than getting to the NBA or NFL. If you really think about it, it takes less effort.

We encourage our kids to do the impossible, if they don’t grow, or they don’t develop any more than what happens?


Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule would be a perfect way to measure whether or not kids would have more success in the classroom if more of an emphasis was placed on academics.  Gladwell claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

I am convinced that more African Americans would pursue higher education if this theory was applied to a program that monitored kid’s academic progress.  Kids who show athletic talent can and should also apply this theory.

If I was a coach I would encourage my kids to work out and become the best ball players they can be.  I would also encourage the players to put even more of an emphasis on academics.  I want kids to have 10,000 hours of academic training before they have 10,000 hours of athletic, and more specifically basketball or football training.  Kids have nothing but time, if the African American community truly wants to bring about change this has to happen.

How can we not see that the majority of us that play sports do not make it?  The majority of us do not end up rich.

As much as the black community emphasizes sports you would think that we were the main ones profiting off of these billion dollar businesses, referring to the NFL, NBA, and the NCAA.

African Americans make up the majority of players in both basketball and football collegiately as well as professionally.  There have only been two majority owners in the NBA, and there has never been one in the NFL.  There are African Americans who have become limited partners in both leagues.  The NCAA does nothing for the impoverished communities that they are recruiting about 50-55% of their black players from for both basketball and football.

The black community is allowing the exploitation of young black males, by not preparing kids to take advantage of a free education.

We are sending the wrong message to kids that don’t play sports.  Where are the programs in place for the kids that don’t develop physically, or the ones who never had any interest in playing sports.  Carter G. Woodson said “No man knows what he can do until he tries.” Right now we are not encouraging our kids to try and be great at anything but sports.  RETHINK

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  1. 1

    Hello Anthony,

    You have stated it exceptionally well and with far more credibility than I. You write well and I can only hope your very valid points of view are read by all. What you are expressing is not new but it is extraordinary BECA– USE you are among the very few (perhaps only) ex-athlete expressing them.

    You are absolutely correct about parents needing to take more of a decisive role is pulling their children away from the expectations of athletic showmanship. Parents have been pre-conditioned by the clownish sports commentators on the 6:00 O’clock News as well as short-sighted school teachers and over-paid administrators and also the next-door neighbor who see Black children not as having the intellect to become doctors or lawyers or engineers or scientist, but bound to the physicality of sports. Its not that far removed from the expectations inherent in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade 500 years ago. “They make good slaves!”

    The biggest disappointment I have personally and professionally has not been the narrow expectation Black parents have in their own children, but the laziness of college and university faculty who act more like cheer leaders and water-carriers for the Athletic Enterprise that agents of knowledge and change. Some college presidents… or those very few who did not fear to tread, lost their jobs trying to control the power of the Athletic Department. hence the message was sent not as a welcome challenge but one of wimping out. Faculty voices which self-serving grow loud and are celebrated for stating the truth about racism and inequality and war only grow silence at the slightest mention of the ongoing exploitation of student-athletes. Such disproportionality of young African American men being over-represented in the big-money sports programs vis-à-vis hardly visible in the disciplines of math, science, and even the Liberal Arts would be a disgrace to a third-rate dictator in a developing country. But not here.

    I congratulate you on taking up this cause. Its David against Goliath and the ugly giant is winning, but you’re making him (them) know you’re a fighter.

    Again, excellent article.


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