Tag Archives: professional athletes

Respect in Motion

It’s finally happening!  The Washington Redskins national football team has decided to change their name by eliminating the term “redskins”.  This is a moment for which the Indigenous American community has been striving for years.  It comes at a time of national soul-searching for the United States – a period nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century where we are at long last coming to terms with a lifetime of racial injustice and inequality.

The alteration didn’t come from a moment of sudden spiritual enlightenment from team owner Dan Snyder who had said many years ago that a name change was out of the question; adding: “NEVER – you can use caps.”

Never say never, Danny boy!

Snyder bowed to social and economic pressures.  Several major corporations that have sponsored a variety of professional sports teams in the U.S. for years had vowed to pull their support if Washington didn’t change its name.  When you grab someone by the financial gonads, they’ll follow you with hearts and minds.

But society is also changing.  Despite the old guard claims that it’s “just a game”, American consciousness has seen that proverbial light in the darkness and gone towards it.  NASCAR, for example, recently banned Confederate flags from its events; a move that has upset many White southerners.  Again, the old guard is losing its grip on cultural relevance.

The word “redskin” is equivalent to slurs like nigger, gook, spic, fag, or politician.  It’s seriously debasing and relegates the Western Hemisphere’s native peoples to a skin tone (which many don’t actually have) as well as to a sub-human category.  In all fairness, some people of Native American ancestry don’t care either way.  They don’t view the term as derogatory or racist.  It’s just a word.  Of course, it is!  So is genocide.

Washington is now at a moniker crossroads.  Obviously, they’ll keep the name Washington.  But what to add to it?  Some have suggested “Warriors” or “Red Tails”; the latter a reference to the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) servicemen during World War II who went disregarded and underappreciated for decades.

I recommend the term “Monuments”.  It’s a direct recognition of the Washington Monument, but it’s also a reference to the structure’s form and size.  You know – a large, tall, long, hard, phallic-shaped emblem.  Since football is such a macho sport, I feel it’s appropriate.

Regardless of whatever name Washington adopts, the time is way past due.  And there’s simply no turning back.  Time doesn’t stop and it doesn’t retract.  It always moves forward.  So should we all.

“A Matter of Respect” (2012)

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Devon and Leah Sari Still: A True Father – Daughter Team of Hope

WCPO Devon Still and daughter Leah_1401905649321_5942107_ver1.0_640_480

With all the bad news surrounding professional athletes these days – as if there ever is any other kind of news surrounding professional athletes – I think it’s important to focus on Devon Still, a defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals. This past June Still learned his daughter, Leah Sari, has Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer, in her abdomen. The Bengals granted Still a leave of absence from team activities to tend to her. They cut him from the team earlier this month, however, but then, resigned him to the practice squad, which means he retains a paycheck and his health insurance. In order to raise awareness about pediatric cancer, Still coordinated a fund raising drive in which donations will be made on the number of sacks the Bengals make this season.

On September 8, the team announced it will donate all proceeds from the sales of Still’s jerseys to pediatric cancer research. Three days later they signed Still to their 53-man roster, since they had a spot available. As of now, they’ve raised in excess of $400,000. More importantly, Leah Sari has responded positively to an intense round of chemotherapy at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and has a major surgical procedure looming ahead. But, it’s great news.

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It’s just as good that there’s a father who places so much emphasis on the health of his child than he does on his career. But then again, that’s what the overwhelming majority of fathers do anyway, including those in professional sports. It’s sad, though, the media doesn’t place the same degree of attention on Still as it does the miscreants they claim populate professional athletics.

Thanks to fellow blogger Jueseppi Baker for highlighting this story.

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Fags in the Shower! Fags in the Shower!

Michael Sam hopes to turn his collegiate football career into a professional one.

Michael Sam hopes to turn his collegiate football career into a professional one.

The American sports world is all riled up again – and as usual, over nothing important.  Michael Sam, a 24-year-old senior defensive lineman football player at the University of Missouri, recently announced that he’s a practicing homosexual.  Sam has garnered a number of accolades for his athletic ability, including All-American Player and Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards.  But, his unapologetic admission to being gay has steered the conversation to a prospect more horrifying to many heterosexual men than erectile dysfunction and forgetting to order flowers on Valentine’s Day: there’ll be a damn queer in the locker room!

Professional sports in the U.S. is rife with unsavory characters and devious antics.  Like their counterparts in the entertainment world, career athletes seem to have a penchant for nefarious behavior in the public arena.  Former baseball player Darryl Strawberry had a long history of drug use, which – coupled with documented assaults on his first wife – eventually derailed his career.  Key word: eventually.  Despite his troubles, team owners and coaches kept giving him second chances.  His high batting averages appeared to gloss over the awful reality of his self-destruction.

The late Wilt Chamberlain, a legendary figure in basketball, once claimed to have slept with over 20,000 women.  His lawyer, Seymour Goldberg, declared that Chamberlain “collected women” the way some people collect stamps.  His nickname, “The Big Dipper,” came about because he often had to duck his 7’1” frame downward when he entered doorways.  But, the moniker obviously sported a more salacious definition when rumors of his romantic escapades began circulating in the media.

One of the most brutal stories of a professional athlete’s incorrigible behavior involves Rae Carruth, formerly of the Carolina Panthers.  In November of 1999, Carruth ordered a friend to murder his then-girlfriend, Cherica Adams, who was eight months pregnant.  Two years earlier Carruth had lost a paternity suit and, apparently reluctant to support yet another unwanted child, he tried convincing Adams to have an abortion.  When she refused, he allegedly planned to have her beaten up so she’d miscarry.  After that failed, he went further and set up the hit.  The two met for a date at a movie theatre.  They left in separate cars, with Adams following Carruth.  Another vehicle drove up beside Adams, and a man later identified as a friend of Carruth fired four shots.  Adams crashed and, despite her injuries, managed to dial 911 from her cell phone.  Doctors were able to save the 8-month-old male fetus.  Adams later scribbled notes for police officials describing the sequence of events and clearly implicated Carruth in the crime.  Carruth had told investigators he’d turn himself into police if Adams died.  When she finally succumbed to her injuries a month later, Carruth fled.  Fortunately, he was caught and convicted of murder in 2000, along with his three accomplices.  But, from the start, sports writers and Carruth fan were willing to give Carruth the benefit of the doubt.

In December 2012, Josh Brent, a Dallas Cowboys player, was involved in a drunk driving wreck that killed his fellow teammate and best friend, Jerry Brown.  The two had patronized a strip club and consumed large amounts of alcohol, when Brent lost control of his Mercedes.  Police officers arriving at the scene found Brent trying to pull Brown from the fiery crash.  A blood-alcohol test on Brent measured 0.18, more than twice the legal limit in Texas.  Brent’s defense attorneys tried to claim that his 320-pound frame could handle that much booze, which was roughly equal to 17 mixed drinks.  Amidst such trauma, however, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones refused to terminate Brent’s contract until after the trial.  But, the ultimate shame in this tragedy came when Judge Robert Burns announced Brent’s sentence – 180 days in jail and 10 years’ probation.

There are countless other stories of professional athletes abusing their wives or girlfriends; committing sexual assault; driving drunk; beating up friends and neighbors; and / or using illegal narcotics.  But, if you listen to the rhetoric over Michael Sam, you’d think his sexuality was as criminal as those of the aforementioned athletes.  In professional sports, it’s apparently okay for a man to beat the crap out of his wife.  In fact, many people just seem to want to shove that under the rug of illicit behavior.

But, said athlete admits that he’s gay?  Well, suddenly he’s crossed the line.  We can’t have that.  We can’t have any fags in the shower.  The same argument has been used before in the U.S. military.  It was a basis for the compromise over the pathetic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy enacted in 1994.  Until it was repealed in 2011, more people were booted out of the military for being gay or lesbian than for being fat.

In the narrow minds of bigotry, some transgressions are inexcusable.  Homosexuality is among them.  Unless Michael Sam has forced someone into a sexually compromising position (and that’s almost always an accusation, especially towards gay men), people should focus more on his athletic abilities and his difficult upbringing than his sexual predilections.  He lost one brother to gun violence; another brother has been missing since 1998; and two more of his brothers are imprisoned.  At one point, he and his mother lived in her car.  Sam is the first member of his family to attend college.  It’s unlikely he decided to pursue a football career so he can scope out guys in the locker room.  Anyone who visits a locker room (or public restroom, for that matter) to pick up dates needs to get their ass kicked anyway.

Here’s another thing: men look at one another’s genitalia in the locker room.  Every man does; if he denies it, he’s either lying, or he’s dead.  It’s not a stare, or a gape; it’s just a casual glance to see if they measure up.  Every man is concerned about his penis size at some point in his life.  And, every woman is just as concerned about her butt and hip size during some internal squabble with her internal self.  We humans all just want to be – and look – normal.  Being gay or lesbian doesn’t cross the invisible line – but, staring does.  And, that’s just not going to happen very often.

Personally, I’m not a football fan, so I’d never heard of Michael Sam until this faux issue arose.  And, I certainly don’t plan to follow his career should be become the first openly-gay professional player in American football history.  I have more important concerns.  So should everyone else.

Local Dallas / Fort Worth sports anchor Dale Hansen tells it like it is.

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