More Athletes need to speak up and stand up!


Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose made one heck of a public statement by showing up to a game wearing a t-shirt with the words, “I can’t breathe” on it before a Saturday game against the Golden State Warriors.   The shirt was a tribute to the late Eric Garner, who died at the hands of the New York Police Department.

Of course we know about the protests nation-wide against the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death.  ”I can’t breathe” were Garner’s last words before passing.

Derrick Rose is just one of many athletes to take a stand against police brutality, police terror and the mass incarceration of black men.  Millions of black people across America are consistently stopped, searched and questioned by police without probable cause, leading to more police interactions that can result in beatings, arrests and deaths.  The same black kid who might end up in handcuffs over a $5 bag of weed would never be bothered if he were a white frat boy on a college campus with LSD in his bookbag.  Why?  Because police almost never raid college campuses.

Five players from the St. Louis Rams came onto the field with their hands up in protest of the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. This is part of a long string of protests by athletes and entertainers, including Diddy, who recently called upon rappers to use their leadership role to convince black people to do something other than drink, smoke, pop mollies, shoot each other and waste all their money at the club.

Rose is also joined by LeBron James, who made statements this week about the recent incidents.  James encouraged other athletes to get involved and speak out about the many social problems being faced by our society, particularly those that impact young black men.

As I watch all of this take place, all I can say is “amen,” and it’s about damn time.  I can also say that Rose, LeBron and young black male athletes have become America’s worst nightmare.  For decades, the miseducation of black male athletes served the purpose of indoctrinating them into a way of thinking that was simple-minded, myopic, self-absorbed, materialistic and devoid of social consciousness.  This deliberate effort to keep our most powerful athletes and entertainers distracted occurred for the same reasons that Joe Louis was told that he would only be given a chance to fight if he ensured that he would never behave like Jack Johnson.

Jack Johnson

Big, strong, wealthy, famous, influential athletes are an inherent threat to national security and white supremacy.  Thus, there are always those who seek to constrain, misdirect, distract and mute these voices at an early age.  One example is in the film, “The Express,” where Syracuse star running back Ernie Davis was told by his white coach to avoid getting involved in the civil rights movement and to “do his talking on the field.”  All the while, the film portrays the outspoken Jim Brown (who was an even better athlete than Davis) as the “bad negro” because he refused to remain silent about the injustice all around him.

For too many years, we’ve been forced to deal with athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Charles Barkley, who seemed to feel that the life of a privileged, wealthy black athlete was entirely detached from the experience of most black men in America.  All for the sake of tap dancing for money, the richest and most powerful athletes in our communities have been misled into believing that being the silent, polite, apolitical negro is the way to be successful.  So, while a few of these men were living the dream, millions in their commuity were enduring a nightmare.


Barkley, Jordan and Kobe might be wise to realize that many of the “threatening” black men being beaten, arrested and shot by police are also as physically large as they are.  Both Michael Brown and Eric Garner were seen as threats by police, in part, because they were big black men.  The only difference is that, rather than being accepted as entertaining athletic specimens, men like Brown and Garner have been defined to be menaces to society.

So, like old horses shot in the pasture, uneducated black males who lose their athletic gifts are often marginalized in the same way as Eric Garner.  In fact, Garner was roughly the same size as Barkley himself.  Similar to Garner, Barkley once had a very serious altercation with police that could have cost him his life.  The only difference between Barkley and Garner on that fateful day is that one of these men was accused of selling loose cigarettes and the other was a millionaire NBA star for the Houston Rockets.  Had Barkley been a black man with no athletic ability, he would have likely ended up in a prison cell, hospital bed or a casket.

The reason to rejoice about the presence of brave and intelligent souls like Derrick Rose and LeBron James is that these men, like black athletes of the sixties, fully understand the capacity for black male athletic leadership that goes beyond being able to dribble a basketball in front of a crowd full of white people.   I also give Diddy credit for realizing that, unlike his perpetually muted and hyper-materialistic colleague Jay-Z, his purpose isn’t to simply stand in front of a crowd of white folks and call himself a “n*gger in Paris.”

You see, to get the world to respect and appreciate the humanity of the black male, black men themselves must communicate this humanity.  It’s hard to explain that you are a complex, sensitive, richly-composed human being who is worthy of dignity when you let some corporation market you as a one-dimensional “thug n*gga” or as some kind of big, black buck who carries a ball.  It’s difficult to justify the murder of a human being, but no one feels sympathy for a “thug.”


These athletes, by using their collective voice, are showing that they understand that power should have purpose, and that this purpose should be greater than buying another fancy car, a big house or winning NBA championships.  These men are meant to be as intelligent as they are athletic, as righteous as they are entertaining.  Their power can be used to lift the same community that made them into who they are today.  That’s what great black men do.

We are seeing, what I would argue to be, America’s worst nightmare, but black America’s dream come true.  We are witnessing the awakening of the black male athlete and entertainer, who is now finding that he was put on this earth for a purpose greater than entertainment.  Now that this power has been unleashed, sit back and watch this country change right before your very eyes.  These brothers are doing something special.

Article by Dr. Boyce Watkins 

42 thoughts on “More Athletes need to speak up and stand up!

  1. I was so proud to see the ones that did stand up, but there are far too many that aren’t. These million dollar negroes ain’t got two cents worth of balls. And please somebody put something in Barkley’s mouth.

    • Yeah that’s for sure. Most seem like they don’t have balls anymore. We need guys like Jim Brown that had guts! We used to have men like Ali that had dignity and self respect. Now we get Barkley in a dress?? WTF?? Yeah Barkley needs to sit down somewhere! I’m really getting sick of him!!

    • Why shouldn’t slavery be brought up into this situation? The “poor economic situations” “poor recreational situations” and “poor education” are all a result of slavery. The way black men are perceived… aggressive, intimidating… is a direct result of slavery campaigning. How THE HELL

      • … can Barkley say that he doesn’t know if slavery is the worst thing that has happened? Who is this guy? where did he come from. The Jewish holocaust has nothing on slavery becasue at least they were allowed to keepo their religion, culture and weren’t raped and brainwashed for GENERATIONS… GENERATIONS. I can’t stand it.

      • Yes I agree Empress. Barkley is an idiot! He doesn’t know what the heal he’s talking about. Over 25 million Africans died during the slave trade. He just wants us to forget the pain,rape and torture of our ancestors. This man is a FOOL! And a disgrace to ALL black people worldwide!

  2. Here’s some more cooning by Barkley and Shaq. Barkley calls Derrick Rose stupid for sitting out a few games. These guys are clowns! Rose doesn’t have to play if he doesn’t want to! Barkley and Shaq are sellout punks and ass kissers! I can’t stand either one of them! I applaud Rose for being his own man!

    • Hmmmm……you lost me on that one. I’m not praying for just random death and destruction. I take no delight in death of just random people. Unless these people are part of some elite devil worshipping group. Or some people that are trying destroy black people on some type of level. Then I could understand. Other than that,you kind of lost me a bit. You’ll have to explain this one to me.

  3. It’s great what Rose and James are doing, but Commissioner Silver is about to put a stop to this in 10…9…..8……

  4. Kushite until we have our own this mess will continue. This should show black folks we can control nothing if, we don’t hold on to each other. We need to be good to each other and build together. I’ve noticed things cone to a head every 50 years or so and this time we can’t be caught doing the same as last. We need to support ourselves.

    We need to unplug from this culture learn to do for ourselves and buy black only. Learn to save half of your money and learn how to invest in you and yours. DOAN tried to get us to do that for some it stuck for others not so much. We had before and we can have again. Without this can we ever expect to not see our men not brutally killed before us and our women folk not traumatized and mentally scarred from this.

    Make no mistake about this they are not just damaging us but future generations even if, we were to go to another planet they know and we have forgotten that cells hold memory. What was done to your ancestors and what they did is etched into your cells how could it not be as you are made up of the cells of your mother and father. They don’t have to touch you just cause you psychic pain by stressing you, putting your people in hopeless situations, and especially terrorizing women as we carry the children and they are bathed in out emotions and psychic energies until birth.

    Yet another reason why women shouldn’t be marching and out there fighting as it damages us all. Fighting is for men I’m proud of the ones that are answering the call and acting like men and not cowering in fear. It gives hope that more will do so in the future.

    • To add to what honeytreebee said, we do need to stick together. Sadly, there are some Black commentators who have some good points, but tend to bash Black women (Jason Black is an example). I have watched videos where Dr. Umar Johnson has slammed Black directors Spike Lee, Tyler Perry (whatever you think of him), and John Singleton. If you are supposed to be so pro-Black, we should not be slamming other Black people because of their gender and Black people whom you do not like who are not coons. That is why I greatly appreciate this article that you posted, because it encourages us to stick together and support those in our community who have our back.

      • I agree Courtney or people like Tommy Soto-mayor or whatever his name is. Black people are really diverse, from African immigrants, Caribbean Americans, South America and those of us that ancestors have been in the U.S since the early 1500’s and some date back to late 1400’s. We also don’t agree with each other on everything. Like I have no problem with homosexuality for example, and I love James Baldwin but some don’t see it that way. I think certain topics we can agree to disagree on, except one. Supporting each other in building our community and embracing our diverse/rich culture.

        I can’t fathom how ‘SOME’ people in our community hate on our community so much with terms like hood-wolf and hood-rat for example. The definition of those words are ridden with old stereotypes by White people from the days of slavery, Jim crow and even today. So it is great to see people like Andrew and Rose stand up for their communities and their culture. It is refreshing, but by no means am I saying not call people out. Like Kush has brought up; Charles was way out of line, Jordan quiet and Kobe as well.

        When I look at that photo of Kareem, Ali, etc it gets me going. That is what I like to see. Even back then we had a lot of differing views with Dr. King, Malcolm, Stokley, Baldwin, Davis, Mahalia Jackson, Rustin, etc, but they all had one thing 100% in common. A deep love and respect for their community, culture and people.

        We can go even further to W.E.B Du Bios, Booker T Washington, Ida B. Wells, etc. Though I am way more of a fan of Ida and W.E.B, but Booker made some good points in his day. I just think we need to focus on our finances and supporting each other; especially protecting our future (the kids).

  5. What gets me is that the police are criticizing these athletes so really you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I question why don’t people like Watkins himself speak up! Or the black people in the media and on the internet who just sit around bitching about Lil Wayne all damn day. THEY need to speak up or shut up.

    • Thank you. Very interesting viewpoint. But I think the fact the Watkins is writing articles this proves that he IS speaking up. He’s doing just that. So I’m a bit confused as to what you’re saying.

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