The Field Negro education series continues.
h/t to Michael Harriot.
“Recently, Black athletes have faced an enormous amount of scrutiny for their untoward behavior. They have continually sullied the regard and expectations of the virtuous masses of the noble, patriotic public by showing contempt for the spectators, fans and America itself. As such, we have assembled one of the whitest teams since (insert hockey team name here) to create this definitive code of conduct as both an instruction guide and a manual for how Black professional athletes should represent themselves, their individual sports and their country.
If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play a professional sport, you must show eternal and unmitigated thankfulness. Remember that your career probably has nothing to do with the genetic lottery you were likely born with, years of hard work, sacrifice or dedication—it is because they let you play. For this alone, you must display unwavering loyalty.
Do not trouble your likely concussed brain with the knowledge that you are but a commodity that will be eventually discarded to a human scrap heap when your injury-ravaged body and mind have run their course of usefulness. Do not despair over the notion that the NFL combines, the NBA draft and the MLB trade deadline bear an eerie resemblance to slave auctions. You are not a slave. You are a commodity.
Yes, there is a white man who technically “owns” you and can pass down his ownership to his sons and daughters, but still … be grateful. Even if he—as Donald Sterling did—parades his girlfriends through the locker room to admire your naked body while you’re in a shower. Remember: You are not a slave.
Don’t Expect Second Chances
You must remember that everyone gets a second chance in America. Well … almost everyone. There is a specific algorithm too lengthy and complicated to spell out here that determines whether your crimes will be forgiven. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—who has been taken to court by two different women for rape—was suspended a total of six games (reduced to four) in 2010 and kept his Nike contract. In 2007, Michael Vick was suspended indefinitely for animal abuse. Therefore, according to our calculations, a White rapist is better than a Black man who kills dogs.
We promise, however, that you will be afforded a second chance for any misdeed (depending on your age and after a thorough examination of your knees, a restructuring of your contract, and a contrite press conference where you sit meekly like a newly returned runaway slave and apologize to the owners, the fans, the white people who were offended by whatever you did, and the fugitive slave hunters for wasting their time and energy retrieving you). Wait … I’m sorry. Did I previously say you weren’t a slave? We’ll revise that paragraph.
Always Show Poise
Because Black anger is the third-scariest thing on the planet (trailing only behind the Zika virus and Black boys with BB guns), athletes of color must remain poised at all times. John McEnroe was “fiery” and “passionate” when he threw tantrums on the tennis court, but Serena Williams “threatened the entire game of tennis” when she had a public outburst on the court against a foot judge.
You are not allowed to show any disappointment, as Gabby Douglas did, lest the way you slump your shoulders and not put your hand over your heart be interpreted as anti-American or, even worse, a “silent Black Lives Matter protest.” If this happens, do not remind your critics that most people do not put their hand over their heart for the anthem (that’s for the Pledge of Allegiance), and for heaven’s sake, do not point out your teammate’s public tantrum when she lost the bronze medal on a tiebreaker in the previous Olympics. She is White. They have a different code of conduct.
You should also be aware that it is not just anger or disappointment that fans find unacceptable. Too much Black joy will also get you reprimanded by the self-righteously indignant, as evident in this letter to Cam Newton calling him a negative role model for dancing after touchdowns. See how much better he acts now?
Do Not Mention Race
Please be reminded that in post-racial America, sports is colorblind. Therefore, you must never mention race. Even if the owner of your team, Donald Sterling, has a history of discrimination against minorities. Even if the general manager of your NBA franchise disseminates a report describing a Sudanese player as “having a little bit of African in him” and continuing that the player would “have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.” Even if the fans in the stands call you “n–ger” as they did Jackie Robinson. Even if they remark that “if it was ’75, we’d skin you alive,” as they did Serena and Venus Williams at the Indian Wells tournament. Even if your Philadelphia Eagles teammate threatens to “fight every n–ger in here.” You probably can’t even see this link to the video because America does not see color.
Race is too upsetting for the delicate American stomach. Wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts initially got WNBA stars fined and threatened by their police security. Derrick Rose’s “I can’t breathe” shirt made him a pariah. The St. Louis Rams organization apologized when its players exited the tunnel in the “Hands up, don’t shoot” stance because it apparently gave America the bubble guts.
How to Make a Statement
No one has ever said that athletes should not protest, but it is imperative that Black athletes know the specific boundaries for making political and social statements. If you would like to support something, you can wear an armband, take a picture in a hoodie for Instagram, throw your warmups in a circle during warmups or scribble a Bible verse that vaguely references your stance on your shoe. That’s it.
I know you may have read some other books or manuals that spoke highly of nonviolent protest, but those books are published to assuage white guilt. The writers don’t mean it, which is why we didn’t include those lies in this book. Martin Luther King Jr. is the only person ever lauded for nonviolent protest, and only after his brains were splattered outside a Memphis, Tenn., hotel. If you decide to protest nonviolently, remember that Muhammad Ali had to give up three-and-a-half years of his career and face the possibility of five years in prison for refusing to fight in Vietnam. (His funeral in June was spectacular, though.) You must be aware that no effective protests by a Black man have ever been accepted with open arms.
We have issued this manual to various athletes in hopes that you will all pass it around. You must remind yourselves that if white America embraces you, the world is your oyster. Your soul may be a cold, empty void of nothingness, but you’ll have all the money, cars and white adoration you can handle. If you wrap yourselves in dollar bills and turn up the heat in your mansions high enough, you might be able to sleep comfortably at night.” [Source]
Yep, just ask Michael Jordan.
Although, if we are going to be honest, it didn’t work out so well for Tiger Woods.
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