CHANGING THE RULES OF THE GAME
Gary Norris Gray- BASN Staff Reporter
Most of the rules enforced by the professional leagues were 80% geared for the restriction, reduction, or elimination of the African American players. These same players changed the game; these players improved their respective sport. African American players had to deal with society’s moral and social injustice, now have to deal with professional sports moral and social injustice. Black athletes have to deal with this in silence.
African American males are told at an early age to dress up in their Sunday best, do not interrupt a speaker, pull up those pants, put your hat on and walk straight, do not tell a lie, obey and respect their elders, do not make fun of people that are less fortunate, respect women, respect the police or people of authority, and to get a college education. Play to the best of your ability. African American men have had to do all of these things and are still not being accepted in the United States.
Somebody must have forgotten to tell the current President-Elect Donald J. Trump. This is what privilege encourages, misbehavior, disrespect, rudeness, and dishonesty. This man encourages xenophobia, misogyny and bigotry. This is what racism looks like and sounds like, America already understands and knows this. Mr. Trump has doubled down on his promises surrounding himself with individuals from the new cool political term; he has placed individuals from the Alt Right Movement in his cabinet. This is the code word for Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazi, White Supremacist, and White Nationalist groups. Apparently, this is what the United States of America and minorities will be dealing with the next four years.
In 2016 Donald J. Trump changed the way the political game was played. Mr. Trump stormed through the Republican primaries and then beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Donald never played by the rules and changed the American political landscape. The National Football League, Major League Baseball, The National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association all changed the rules of the game too. Mr. Trump was looking for a particular voter, bullying his way to the White House. The NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL searched for a certain player and bullied the ones they did not like.
Earl Lloyd became the first African American in the National Basketball Association in 1950 breaking a gentlemen’s agreement of not drafting or playing Black players. These 17 owners excluded Black talent and the question remains what to do with the NBA records before 1950? Do they count?
- In 1960 the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers had a seven foot center named Wilt Chamberlin. This future Hall of Fame star was on his way to a double-double season. He scored 100 points against my beloved New York Knicks in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The NBA had to put an end to this and expanded the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet so Chamberlin could not clog and dominate the middle of the floor. Remember the Minnesota Lakers also had a seven foot Hall of Fame star named George Mikan. Ten years earlier the league expanded the lane from six feet to twelve feet. Mikan did not score the amount of points that Chamberlin attained but the wheels were set into motion to stop the scoring giant.
- There was an unwritten agreement from 1930-1975 that no more than three African Americans were to be on the floor at the same time. The Boston Celtics carried out this invisible law until 1976. The Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets still try to promote white players from Eastern Europe. There are not many American white players starting in the National Basketball League today.
3. In 1967 a young man from New York City was jamming the basketball on other players’ heads for three New York City High school championships. He also took three NCAA Championships at UCLA The University of California at Los Angeles, on his way into the NBA record books, seven foot, Lew Alcindor-Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Jabbar made the NCAA enforce the no dunking rule called the Alcindor Rule in 1967, the NBA followed suit a year later. Kareem answered that rule with the beautiful Sky Hook shot.
4. The league responded with another change. The lane was clogged with seven footers. In 1980 the NBA instituted the three point play, opening up the floor. This is when a player can shoot 22 feet from the basket and it counts as three points instead of two. Teams like the Boston Celtics already had pure shooters that could hit these shots. This rule kept Caucasian, Eastern European players in the game of basketball. This was a reaction to Black player flooding the league. In 1976-1979 New York City fans were calling the Knicks the N****Rbockers because the whole team happen to be BLACK and losing.
In the 2014-2015 the game changed again and now pure shooters Black and white are cherished. The 2013-2016 Golden State Warriors with their Splash Brothers-Curry and Thompson broke all NBA 3-point records. Black players adopted the new style and are now thriving in the NBA. The lane has opened and players can now drive to the basket.
5. In 1990 the league instituted a dress code for all players. This too was directed at African Americans who dressed any way they wanted. The league wanted to clean up their act and blamed Black players for the dress code. The leagued wanted to move away from the “so called” Thug look.
6. In the same decade the league created the Flagrant Foul ONE AND TWO rule, again aiming at so called BLACK malcontents like Metta World Peace, Russell Westbrooks, and Draymond Green with the possibility of suspension and fines with each flagrant foul…How many flagrant fouls do Caucasian players have? How many white players have been suspended under this law?
Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall were the first African Americans in the National Football League in 1920. Pollard also became the first Black head coach it would not happen again until 1978 with Art Shell. The league band Black players between 1933-1950
- In the 1960′s the old (AFL) American Football League signed Black quarterbacks and middle linebackers something the NFL refused to do. Young football fans loved it and could see the difference between the leagues. The AFL threw long bombs and had trick plays from scrimmage for touchdowns while the NFL played ground and pound, three yards and a cloud of dust. The AFL drafted players from (HBCU’s) Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the NFL did not. That was broken in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s.
- The Rooney Rule. The league could see there was a problem in the hiring of African American head coaches and wanted to fix the problem. The Pittsburgh Steelers owners Rooney Family wanted to address this problem with a rule that at least one African American be interviewed for each head coaching job. It worked until the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions undermined and side stepped the rule by hiring inside their organizations. The league now struggles to enforce this rule today. Both teams were fined by the league but the genie was out of the bottle. Teams bypassed Black coaching potential with a quick interview then hired the man they wanted. Last year the Niners hired Chip Kelly one week after the Philadelphia Eagles released him and two years earlier the Buffalo Bills hired Mr. Ryan from the New York Jets six days after New York released him. This year six coaches were released, retired, or resigned. Next question will the Rooney Rule be enforced? Time will tell.
3. The league instituted new offensive and defensive rules after the merger to protect the players. In reality it was to defend against aggressive, assertive Black players like Oakland Raiders cornerback Jack Tatum, Lester Hayes, and Michael James Haynes. The league rewarded and praised these players for the same defensive tackles and hard hits in the 1970′s and 1980′s. The NFL has become a touch football game instead of tackle in 2016.
4. A player who is penalized twice in one game for unsportsmen-like conduct will be ejected from a game. The issue of players calling each other the N-word became the vocal point. This is the INCOGNITO RULE where a white linemen called a Black linemen the N-word repeatedly in the locker-room in Miami. Now we all know that brothers call each other this name with the double A at the end, as a term of endearment or friendship. The league wanted to end this but how does this work when you have a team named the REDSKINS, the vilest name in the dictionary. The Washington Football Club and the NFL are calling Native Americans Red N*****S in public with no regrets. ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox Sports are allowed to use this name but get upset when Mr. Shannon Sharp points out the hypocrisies on the Sunday CBS pre-game show a year ago. The league is not happy that Native Americans and African Americans are not agreeing with owner Dan Snyder and Commissioner Roger Goodell on this issue.
5. The suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady (Deflate Gate) two years ago compared to the suspension of Baltimore running back Ray Rice (Domestic Abuse) are like night and day, black and white. The Brady issue affects the game while the Rice issue was a personal issue. Before we go any farther nobody condones attacking any female anywhere. That being stated Rice never had a chance in the NFL. Rice was blackball from the league and never played another game. Tom Brady got a four game suspension and played a complete year including winning the Super Bowl. Mr. Brady did this while appealing his suspension. How does this work? This inconsistency continued this year in New York with placekicker Josh Brown being accused of domestic abuse against his wife. The Giants placed the issue on hold for a complete year. Ray Rice was never afforded this courtesy.
6. The league pooh-poohed both the Ben Roethlisberger- Pittsburgh Steelers and Brett Favre-Green Bay, New York Jets, Minnesota, incidents of alleged sexual transgressions. The league never really criticized or punished either quarterback. The question should be asked WHY? ESPN went so far as to send memos to fellow reporters not to say a word about Big Ben’s issues because the network was in production of a new show on their network.
7. The Washington Football Club ended the choreography six point celebrations after touchdowns with their FUN BUNCH crew and sub group called The Smurfs in the 1980′s. The Fun Bunch scored a touchdown in Dallas and proceeded with their touchdown dance celebration. The Dallas Cowboys were not pleased and proceeded to break up the party in the end zone, creating a massive fight.
Teams are now assessed a 15 yard penalty at the impending kickoff. This too was directed at African American players like Billy “White Shoes” Johnson-Houston Oilers, who danced the boogie in the end zone and Ickey Woods who did the Ickey Shuffle for the Cincinnati Bengals. The league lost its mind when Deion Sanders-Atlanta Falcons did his stroll through the end zone after a interception for a score. This had to stop.
Can anybody explain why the Green Bay Packers are allowed to do the choreographed Lambeau Leap into the stands year after year without a fine or suspension? Is this not a choreographed celebration?
The Rules state that if teammates had a pre-planned celebration it is a 15 yard penalty.
8. The Jeff Fisher Rule was intended for the mobile quarterback i.e. THE BLACK RUNNING QUARTERBACK. This new rule allowed the defense to tackle the quarterback once he left the pocket. It also restricted the mobile passer to the pocket and limited his addition to his team’s offense. This rule was put into effect in 2015 and was directed toward San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick after he torched The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers in a NFC playoff game.
9. The Roughing the Passer rule can be interpreted many different ways but it seems that African American quarterbacks do not get equal protection and enforcement by referees. Breathe on Aaron Rodgers-Green Bay, Drew Brees-New Orleans, Matt Ryan-Atlanta, Carson Palmer-Atlanta, and New England’s Tom Brady a yellow flag will come flying through the air. Andrew Luck-Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagle Rookie Carson Wentz have now joined this elite group of protected signal callers.
Meanwhile Black quarterbacks struggle on the field and continue to perform Cam Newton-Carolina, Russell Wilson-Seattle, Robert Griffin III-Cleveland, Jamieis Winston-Tampa Bay, Tyrod Taylor-Buffalo, and Colin Kaepernick-San Francisco, just fight for survival on the field getting pummeled week after week by rushing defensive linebackers. The first game of the year Carolina Panther Cam Newton received three blows to the helmet, not a yellow flag could be found. Newton had been hit 14 times in two years before a yellow flag could be seen. The question needs to be asked WHY?
10. Then there is the vagueness of the leagues personal conduct codes which few understand. DON’T GET ME STARTED.
There was a gentlemen’s agreement to not sign African American players until 1947. Bill Veeck of the Chicago White Sox tried but was rebuffed by fellow owners. The Brooklyn Dodgers-Branch Rickey signed the first Black player after careful screening. This player had to stand up to racial torment and white rage every day. MLB did not want the best player in the Negro League because catcher Josh Gibson would not put up with the racial nonsense.
The first African American to break the color lines is Jackie Robinson. Robinson would not be pleased with Major League Baseball today as the Black enrollment continues to remain stagnant with 83-87 African American players on team rosters in 2016. There are currently two Black managers, The Los Angeles Dodgers-David Roberts and Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals. The number has never gone above four Black field generals per year, remember there are 30 teams.
Some teams have a single African American player on the squad. MLB Teams carry 28 players until Aug 31. That’s 30 teams times 28, do the math that is only 8 percent African Americans. MLB tried hard to attract young Black stars with their RBI-(Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities) but these players cannot spend time in the minor leagues without earning a salary, baseball needs to fix this because these young men are the breadwinners for the whole family.
Then there is the issue of steroids and the hypocrisies of the game. Barry Lamar Bonds-Pittsburgh Pirates-San Francisco Giants got blackballed from Major League Baseball for using enhancing preforming drugs while Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun continues to play for the Brewers
There are so many unwritten rules in this sport it would take the rest of this page to write them all down.
This is the only game where you can legally cheat. Erase the batter’s box, scuff a baseball, throw a spitball, put pine tar on a bat, steal signs from the catcher or third base coach, and pour water on the base path to slow down runners or let the grass grow long to stop a ground ball hitting team or cut the grass short to make the ball fly through the infield for singles. It is the only sport that does not have equal dimensions in any ball park.
- Baseball and hockey are the only two sports where fights are permitted. In baseball players can run all the way from the bull pen to join the fray, try that in football and basketball players would be ejected immediately.
- Hit a home run, act like you have been there before, run around the bases quickly and go directly to the dugout. Please don’t show up the pitcher or catcher or the next time at the plate the stitches of the baseball might be engraved in your back or your butt. Why?
- Don’t steal a base when you are nine runs ahead as former New York Jets-Kansas City Chief head coach Herm Edwards stated many years ago “You play to win the game,” so why not steal bases, teams have come from behind to win.
- Do not over-celebrate anything on the field, doubles, triples, or game winning hits, just play the game. “Be a gentleman.” This stifles African Americans natural emotions for the love of the game.
- Pitcher Dennis Ray “Oil Can” Boyd of the Boston Red Sox was called wired,weird, strange, eccentric, and just plan odd. People were afraid of Boyd. Yet baseball fans loved Mark “The Bird” Fidrych who talked to the ball before pitches. Do you not think this was odd?
At the turn of the century a golfer unlike no other showed up on the golf course. Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods, a strong Black man won more majors faster than anyone in history. Mr. Woods open doors for African Americans in the Golf World. Tiger did something that no other golfer had done, weight lifting in training. This allowed Mr. Woods to drive the ball down the fairways like no other, golfers followed suit with their own weightlifting programs.
The sport has responded by Tiger-proofing their golf courses, expanding their fairways and widening their greens to make it more difficult for Mr. Woods to win by allowing other golfers a more forgiving course and a chance to taste victory.
Mr. Woods put golf into the spotlight and let the inner children cities experience the game for the first time. Male minorities took up the bag and took out the clubs to try to play this game. The boys have a long way to catch up with their Asian sisters.
Last, the emergence of Tiger Woods created the Golf Channel on most cable systems and allowed golf experts to educate the American public about their game.
Hockey is the one major sport that Black participation has doubled in the past 50 years, but they are still required by some NHL officials to play the white way. There are 40 Black players currently in the N.H.L. in 2016 a great accomplishment and the men of BLACK ICE would be proud. New Black stars enter the league with each new year, making the game faster.
During America’s Great Depression Herb Carnegie broke the color barrier of profession hockey. It is still a struggle for Blacks to put on any hockey uniform of the National Hockey League. The Winnipeg Jets currently lead the way with four Black players. The Edmonton Oilers had five players on the ice in one year. A record that still stands today.
In 1960 Willie O’Ree put on a Boston Bruin jersey to become the first Black player in the modern era. He also became the first disabled hockey player. Mr. O’Ree was legally blind in one eye and hid it from the Bruin organization. O’Ree is now the ambassador for the NHL in inner cities to attract minority youth to the game.
This is the only sport that incorporated Black input to improve and change the game. Black Canadians and First Nation/Native Americans played this game hard and fast unlike their white counterparts. The NHL had rules where the defensive players could not skate pass the red line. This limited the scoring chances and slowed the game. Black Canadians and First Nation-Canadians did away with this rule allowing the whole team to enter the attacking zone creating havoc for the goalie. This created scoring chances. The NHL would eventually adopt this rule.
The league would improve on this law by eliminating the two line pass from the blue lines.
Many older white officials of the league are still having problems with Black hockey players. They want these bigger, faster, and stronger brothers to play THE WHITE WAY, whatever that is.
Sports magazines continue the trend of blasting Black athletes with their yearly Most Disliked Athletes edition with Black athletes leading the list Wayne Simmonds– Philadelphia Flyers, Dustin Byfuglien– Winnipeg Jets, P.K. Subban-Nashville Predators, and Joel Ward San Jose Sharks,-Hockey, Kris Humphries-Brooklyn Nets, Blake Griffin-Los Angeles Clippers, LeBron James-Miami Heat-Cleveland Cavaliers and Kobe Bryant- Los Angeles Lakers- Basketball, Floyd Mayweather-Boxing, Tiger Woods-Golf, Terrell Owens-Multiple teams, Michael Vick-Atlanta Falcons-Philadelphia Eagles, Plaxico Burress-New York Football Giants, Ndamukong Suh-Detroit Lions-Miami Dolphins, Cam Newton-Carolina Panthers, and Dez Bryant-Dallas Cowboys-Football.
There are very few Caucasians on these lists Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals -Baseball, Tom Brady-New England Patriots-Football, Brad Marchand-Boston Bruins-Hockey. Forbes Magazine only had one white athlete on their list and that was hot head Kurt Bush-Race car driver.
Sports fans all over the country cheer for these Black stars night after night. If they win its o.k. if they lose they will be run out of town. How does this work?
JUST WIN BABY- This racist attitude permeates the sports world with ESPN, The Sports Leader leading the way. As long as these young Black athletes win for their owner, make money for the owner, win for their city, their country, and fans, its o.k., but if they speak out, become political, or start losing games they are shipped out the door, they become an orphan child. African Americans have to be supermen on the ice, field, diamond, or court while white players can be average.
Example, college football star Tim Tebow, the University of Florida quarterback played at Gainesville, Fla. with fanfare. Black quarterback Cam Newton would drive Florida to the 25 yard line and the coach would substitute Tebow to finish the Gator drive. Tebow would get the media attention while Newton would be forgotten. The question remained could Tebow play football? Does that ring a bell? Tebow tried his hand at the NFL; it did not work because he lacked the throwing touch to throw long passes.
So Mr. Tebow turned to baseball. This man has not played a single inning of baseball in 15-20 years yet his number 15 baseball jersey became the number one seller in the United States this summer. When the Cleveland Browns drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel, his number two jersey became the number one seller in America in 2015, The only trouble was the Texas A& M Aggie player had not played a down of football in the National Football League.
At the same time Americans burned Black basketball star LeBron James jerseys in two cities-Miami and Cleveland, burned Kevin Durant jerseys in Oklahoma City, and American Patriots carrying Confederate Flags burned San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick jerseys all over the country. This past summer Miami Heat fans repeated their actions burning their only superstar guard Dwayne Wade jersey. Question, when was the last time sports fans burned a white players jersey, ANSWER – NEVER. That is America’s showing its underwear of racism AGAIN.
The GREATEST of all times Muhammad Ali- was stripped of his World Championship Boxing title in 1967-68 because he refused to defend his country on religious grounds, which was within his rights to do so. America lost its collective minds, how could this young Black man defy the American government. This is the first attack on Islam and another attack on Black males. Ali was the spokesmen for many African American men. Ali had to be silenced. It backfired Ali became a world hero speaking out on the racial injustice around the world.
Mahumoud Abdul Rauf-Chris Johnson of the Denver Nuggets was Kaepernick before there was a Colin Kaepernick. Raul converted to the Islamic Faith in 1996 and refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner because he felt the song disrespected Black people. The Nuggets released him that same year. Rauf was a good player that came off the bench and scored points. It did not matter Rauf had to go, disrespecting the United States of America by not standing for our national song.
Colin Kaepernick is the most recent victim of America’s scorn as we return to 1968 faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive. Mr. Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers wanted to bring forth issues that African Americans deal with on a daily basis by kneeling during the National Anthem. He got that attention but he also received scorn from white Middle America.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos- These men struck a blow for Civil Rights in the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City with fist raised on the winner’s podium. The Black gloves and bare feet were symbols of Black American oppression and poverty and made the world notice. America took vengeance again by ignoring these two champions for 35 years. Making both of them persona non-gratis for years. This was the reward for winning the gold and bronze medals for the United States.
Professional teams were now getting involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The Phoenix Suns fought for the MLK holiday in their home state of Arizona. This team also made a statement against their states strong anti-immigration bill by wearing Los Suns uniforms on the Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican National holiday. The Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Portland Trailblazers joined them with their Latin uniforms.
It might be time for the Black athletes to evaluate their position in the sports world and how their influences can change the United States. Can Black Athletes invoke that change for America, without the political, social, or economic repercussion? We shall see in the coming years. The Los Angeles Clippers lost that opportunity three years ago in the NBA playoffs by not making a stronger statement on racism in their organization. Many African American basketball fans have lost respect for the “other” team at Staples Center
This is the plight of the African America athlete, to play the game they love or to make that political, social, and economic statement to make the United States a better country, a better place to live.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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