The start of the NFL season has gotten off to a rocky start, especially for Black players. It seems like everywhere we turn a new Black athlete is being persecuted by the media, the franchise, the fans and the judicial system. By no means am I implying that shedding light on the players’ personal issues is not warranted or justified, but I am questioning the double standard on athletes of color. More often than not it appears the severe punishments they receive come from the judiciary courts, the teams and let’s not forget about the public judgment from the media and fans of the sport. I wonder if casting these players as unforgivable villains is benefiting them on an interpersonal level and providing a pathway for healing and change.
Throughout history, Black men have been the celebrated coon entertainers, problematic escape goats and the bearer of harsher consequences than their equal counterparts. There once was a time when ‘we’ covered and cared for the wounds of our own, choosing a position of innocent until proven guilty and quietly allowed them to deal with their struggles privately or in the house of the Lord, but, now it seems we are right along with the masses shouting “crucify him” and bashing/victimizing those who choose to remain by their side. Is this helpful, especially when there are very few Black people involved in the decision making process to begin with? Who, if not us, can understand their plight and shed some light on what might be helpful for them to change?
Let’s look at a breakdown of the decision makers in these misconduct cases. Perhaps seeing it broken down will inspire compassion, instead of persecution.
As you can see in the above snapshot the scale of support is unbalanced. I wonder how many of the decision makers in the misconduct cases are Black? Do you think the players are being judged fairly by their peers? I would say not. How can someone speak definitively on another person’s actions when they don’t understand where they are coming from or what they are going through? Most of these Black men who have been in the media lately come from backgrounds very few understand and are dealing with pressures most of us don’t understand. So, how can beneficial decisions be made that affect them,if there is an unbalanced deciding scale?
I feel in order to create balance, the team structures need more Black advocates for the players and the players could greatly benefit from more mental health services as a whole. These players in some cases truly start from the bottom, to be brought into a world where they are making millions with little or no training on how to handle themselves under pressure. If we were given these same opportunities how would we measure up?
I am sending out a call for a new kind of sports medicine, one where players aren’t tossed to the side at every infraction, but are handled with care and given an opportunity to have advocates and mental health professionals of color. These advocates/mental health professionals will have an opportunity to attest and affirm on their behalf. Perhaps with this kind of shift, players will be given second chances to be role models and inspire a race rather than be placed in a position to shame it.