Black athletes bought, sold, and traded

Brittney M. Walker | 11/17/2010, 5 p.m.

Dare we not forget the solemnly shameful, yet strangely glorious past of American history, when Africans were stolen from their homes, stripped of their languages, religions, cultures, and families; when countless ancestors perished over the Atlantic in the bowels of grand ships, locked in chains and human waste; when Black people were bought, sold and traded.

Our Black skin, divinely crafted bodices, and innate ability to "just do it" better than the average uncolored man has reminded America of just how great people of African descent really are, how hard we work, how passionate we fight, but also how long we have suffered.

Dr. Frances Cress Welsing teaches the world that everyone wants to emulate us, from our beautifully sun kissed skin to our arguably genetic superiority. But since they can't, they enslave us, and although chattel slavery is no longer legal, the land of the free and home of the brave finds other ways to enslave and exploit the Black people.

Back in 2006, a Black sports journalist published a thought-provoking and quite disturbing piece of literature that likened the Black athlete to the American "Negro" slave.

William C. Rhoden, New York Times columnist and author of the provocative "Forty Million Dollar Slaves" turned Black Americans' attention to a disguised form of slavery called professional sports.

Albeit these pros make large sums of money, Rhoden points out who the real beneficiaries are in the industry.

He says athletes are just world-class slaves, working on the plantation, with no control of anything. All they do is play the game and move from plantation to plantation as the "massa" says so.

In the prologue of Rhoden's provocative discourse, he had a conversation about the title with Bob Johnson, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, who happens to be an African American. Questions arose about the seemingly contradictory phrase, "40 million dollar slave." How can anyone be a slave making that kind of cheese?

In the same interview, Johnson eventually agreed that sports could be perceived as a plantation.

"Do the players see themselves on a plantation? I think they do, in that all of the owners are White. That creates the dynamic. The owners are White, the coaches work for the White owners, and the industry is run by White commissioners. Anyone who exercises power over them is White, and they feel or believe that the owners are taking more value out of them than what the owners are putting in," Johnson said in the interview.

During chattel slavery, Black people were forced to tire themselves in sports. They were forced to demonstrate their fine athletic abilities by being entered into Saturday night sports to entertain the White folks. White masters also placed wages on their slaves. Claud Anderson, Ed.D writes in "Black Labor, White Wealth" that enslaved Blacks were often entered into a hunting contest called, "Coon Hunting." A rebellious or stubborn enslaved African was covered with a scent, released into the woods, and hunted by dogs and White people.

"For Blacks, there was a direct path from the cotton fields to the athletic fields. While a Black person was despised for his color, most were respected for their endurance, strength and athletic abilities," Anderson writes. "The Black man's role in athletics was symbolized by the Harlem Globe Trotters. Integration led to the demise of the all-Black basketball league in the 1940s. Major league White basketball teams eventually hired a few of the Black players on a quota basis.