Like many other Americans, I watched the NBA Draft on television. I was very happy to see that so many young stars, headed for bright futures in the NBA. Many of them are sons of former NBA stars, so they began to develop their skills at a very early age. I wish them every possible success.
At this point, I beg your indulgence to allow me to do some reminiscing. In the not-too-distant past, none of you African Americans would have been allowed to play professional sports in the United States. You could have been a boxer, but you could not have been a professional baseball, basketball, or football player.
There was no reason for any team to consider hiring you, since everyone knew that African Americans did not have enough intelligence, coordination, or athletic ability to become successful professional athletes. Some scholars wrote articles explaining that the pressure of them attempting to perform before large crowds, would cause nervous breakdowns, or worse.
However, there were some people who continued to insist that they just wanted an opportunity. So, in the 50s, the New York Knicks signed Chuck Cooper. The Dodgers already had Jackie Robinson, and Jim Brown was still in college. Of course, they did not have any African American managers, because as the then General Manager Buzzy Bavasi said on television, “They just do not have the necessities”. By the way, the Dodgers ﬁ re him for making that comment, since they did not want to go public with their thinking.
Jackie Robinson played his ﬁrst season with the Dodgers in 1947. Opposing fans throughout the United States wanted to kill him. Opposing pitchers threw at him and base runners tried to spike him. Jackie hung in there for himself and for you. He and his wife, Rachel, had bodyguards for about ﬁve years. It was not an easy time for them, but he did what he had to do, in order for you to have the opportunities that you have now.
A long time before Jackie, many of your ancestors had been forced into slavery. They worked all day, then they were shackled at night, to prevent them from escaping. They were beaten and tortured regularly and they could be sold or killed at their owners discretion. The Jackie Robinson of their day was a lady named Harriet Tubman.
She was a slave when she was born, but when she grew up, she fought for our freedom. She helped hundreds of slaves escape from Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. She escorted them to Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and Canada. Then, she would leave her place of safety, and do it again. There was a huge bounty that anyone could earn by capturing or killing her, and some of the slaves tried to betray her, but she outwitted them.
Happily, many of you now have the opportunity to earn millions of dollars, doing what you love to do, and at a very early age. So, this is a fun time for you, and we all wish you great success. However, one of the purposes of this article is to remind you of how much others have done to see to it that you have the opportunities that you have. With this information, we hope that you will be inspired to do all you can for yourself, and for those who will come after you. We are considering a “Tubman Trophy” for a female and male athlete each year, Please let us know what you think?
[John Randolph Rogers/Sports Editor,Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley Journal News. Email: Jorrogers@aol.com]