Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Black Male Student-Athletes Owe Themselves, Forefathers More

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Black Male Student-Athletes Owe Themselves, Forefathers More

Article excerpt

THE TRAGEDY OF MAURICE CLARETT, THE FORMER OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL STAR AND NFL HOPEFUL, has long left the front pages and lead stories on radio and TV news. Clarett was sentenced to more than seven years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon. However, the tragedy lingers on in the Black community, as Clarett joins the ranks of a half-million other Black males in prison or jail in America. Moreover, he joins thousands of other Black male former athletes whose dreams of playing professional sports were shattered, leaving many of them lost, without hope and without the ability to function as everyday citizens. As the glory ended, many may have engaged in criminal activities that have permanently disenfranchised them from voting, finding meaningful employment and re-entering society.

Unfortunately, far too many young Black male athletes share Clarett's dream of playing at a Big Ten school and, ultimately, playing professional football or basketball. The dream of playing professional sports starts as early as elementary school. Coaches have a watchful eye on the schoolyard in search of the next super Black jock who will bring them and their institution fame and fortune.

It was never Martin Luther King's dream to open the doors of major universities for Blacks to just play sports. The dream was to allow Black students to attend the educational institution of their choice, without racism. It was to gain a quality education, resulting in more Black doctors, lawyers, teachers, scientists, engineers, nurses and other professionals. Playing sports was just a collateral benefit or an avenue to receive a scholarship, but not a career goal.

Black students, especially men, must understand that there is a debt to be paid to those who have sacrificed for them to have the opportunity to vote, attend college, live anywhere in the country and to travel at will. The debt is not paid by merely entertaining White fans by playing football or basketball. The debt demands that this generation of Blacks be in a position to assist the next generation to reach even greater political and economic status.

Not to marginalize the talents of Lebron James, Michael Vick, Chad Johnson, Dwyane Wade and other successful athletes, but the Black community does not need another professional athlete. We must instill in our Black males the dream of becoming the next Ronald McNair, Reginald Lewis, Kenneth Chenault or Ben Carson. …

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