I was listening to a Stephen A. Smith’s special radio episode focusing on the black athlete and their place in American sports, when I heard Deion Sanders say a line that couldn’t be more reflective of the prominent black athlete in today’s society.
As many of you remember, there was an issue with Tiger Woods where a GolfTV announcer brought up lynching in referencing Woods during a nationally televised program. Woods expressed displeasure with the comments, talked with her, accepted the apology and more or less was done with the issue, without even inserting himself into the situation.
Many people wanted Woods to come out and truly express himself on the issue, bring light to the issue, and be a voice that said something to prevent the issue from happening again. Legendary running back Jim Brown vehemently expressed his disappointment in Tiger not speaking out. He iterated that point by saying something that I totally agree with, which was that, “[Blacks] have a tremendous responsibility… all of us have benefited from the blood, sweat, and tears of our forefathers
But clearly Tiger doesn’t feel that way about his role in society as a prominent figure and man of the ability to further the changes that have helped in him in his life. Surely, he has already done a lot by opening many of golf’s closed doors to many people. However, he hasn’t opened all of them, and even some of the ones he has opened haven’t been opened to everybody.
And that’s where Neon Deion comes in. Deion Sanders said on the Stephen A. Smith show that prominent athletes, like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Jim Brown, and many others, have a choice to make when they begin to approach the realms of fame. And that choice is simple. They can either choose to be “powerful or popular.”
Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods have chosen to go the route of popularity. Jordan said it better than anybody did, “Republicans buy shoes, too.” And that line of thinking is perfect for someone who is more interested in marketing a brand than changing the culture of society. And I respect him for that, because in many ways, he is changing certain aspects of society by being a prominent, black, successful businessman.
However, athletes, and really it’s any celebrity, are given the a social distinction that allows them to carry a loud voice in this nation, and they should use that voice to do more than sell $200 sneakers and $60,000 cars. No offense to Jordan and Woods, because once again, I have all the respect in the world for them and their accomplishments as a whole. Yet I can’t help but have more respect and more admiration for men who used their power to sell dreams, opportunities, and viewpoints every bit as much as they sold goods and services, if not more so. That’s why when you hear names like Jim Brown, Arthur Ash, and the like, you don’t just think of them as athletes with big contracts and endorsement deals, you think of them as powerful men who helped change the world we live in.
However, I understand that’s not Jordan or Woods’ responsibility. And I don’t think it should be, and as I said in the other article, I don’t want them to be anything they are not. But is it too much to address the issues that are thrown right in your face?… When someone is talking about you?
I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Yet I guess it’s too much to give when you’ve made the choice to be popular over being powerful.