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Oct. 16, 1968, at the XIX Olympics, held in Mexico City, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, winners of the gold and bronze, bowed their heads to receive their medals. As “The Star Spangled Banner” begins, they raise their fists, clad in black gloves, and give the Black Power salute.


Their gesture was meant to bring attention to the conditions of Blacks in the United States. This act, since it went against the ideals of the Olympic Games, caused the two athletes to be expelled from the Games. The IOC stated, "The basic principle of the Olympic Games is that politics plays no part whatsoever in them.


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They say that sport mirrors life. The discipline, drama, hard work, ritual, sacrifice, strategy, the winning and losing in sport are all part of the human experience. On the other hand, the same elements and expressions of ethnocentrism, exploitation of the powerless, greed and racism that exists in society can also be found in sport.


Everett L. Glenn is a pioneering sports attorney and President of ESP Education & Leadership Institute. ESP is a non-profit organization established to deliver programming to equip student-athletes, in particular Black male athletes, with the tools to not only adopt an academic and life balance; but model it as standout athletes; advocate it among their non-athlete peers; and to use their influence among their peers to Remove Any Obstacles to achievement.  Prior to launching ESP, Glenn served as a corporate attorney with clients who ranged from Fortune 100 companies to government agencies, real estate developers, entrepreneurs and financial services companies. Glenn is a graduate of Oberlin College, and received his law degree from Case-Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Mr. Glenn is a member of the State Bar of Ohio and California. He is a sought after speaker and commentator on issues at the Intersection of Race, Sports & Money™.

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In the wake of the Colin Kaepernick controversy, and in light of recent developments in sports, I felt compelled to re-examine the age-old axiom.

Ethnocentrism?
It only took the NFL 83 years to address the lack of opportunity for Blacks in coaching, scouting and front office ranks. While the results are positive and mixed, the league’s diversity effort beyond hiring is limited to their signature event, the Super Bowl (week) and focuses on small and local (Super Bowl city) businesses. A few jobs, and even fewer contract opportunities.

Need more? Black athletes have almost universally been considered to be “naturally athletic” and their White counterparts credited for their “hard work,” “discipline” and “knowledge of the game.” Black athletes are naturally given the gift of great athleticism, and White athletes become great athletes through hard work, discipline and intelligence is about as ethnocentric as you can get.

Want sexism? You have to look no further than U.S. Soccer and the gender gap. Female players are paid less per game than men who play on the team and earlier this year women filed a lawsuit in an effort to address the discrepancy. While there are factors other than gender that drive the discrepancy, i.e. revenue from men is almost triple the revenue generated by women, the fact remains that women are paid less to play more games and have been much more successful than the men’s team.

Exploitation of the powerless. The NCAA’s economic model is based on the “revenue sports of basketball and football dominated by Blacks financing non-revenue sports dominated by White athletes. According to NCAA President Mark Emmert, Black athletes generate more scholarship funding ($2 billion) than any other source except the federal government.

What about the lingering and persistent college graduation-rate gap highlighted in the recent University of Pennsylvania study? Incidents of academic fraud are on the rise, most recently uncovered at UNC, Syracuse and SMU. The vehicle in many cases: so-called “paper classes” with African American Studies as the conduit.

At the same time, the Black student population on college campuses lags at schools that comprise the Big 6 conferences, a victim of policies ostensibly designed to eliminate race as a consideration in the admissions process. The same colleges who face challenges in increasing the non-athlete population on campus have no problem with the imbalanced population among basketball and football student athletes whose talent is exploited to support the economic interest of the school.

Racism? I know, how can pro athletes be the victims of racism when the 3 major sports are dominated at the player level by players of color and the combined average salary in 3 major sports is $3.3 million? Easy. How else do you explain the disparity in treatment of the Josh Brown and Ray Rice situations? Rice was suspended indefinitely and then released by the Baltimore Ravens. He plead not guilty to charges of domestic abuse and completed a diversion program for first time offenders. The indefinite suspension was revoked by a Federal Court . Despite his reinstatement, not a single team has been willing to give Rice a second chance. Josh Brown, a White kicker, was suspended for one game (rather than the new baseline of six) even though Brown’s ex-wife told police of more than 20 incidents of violence against her and her teenage son. How could the lack of cooperation of the ex-wife change the facts? Cutting Brown was never an option according to Giants’ owner Wellington Mara who was quoted as saying he “wanted to give Brown a chance, saying that domestic violence “is such a complex and emotional decision.”

The view is no clearer beyond the game itself, and the same owners who voted Donald Sterling out of their club for his racially tinged comments remain silent about the lack of any meaningful diversity in NBA spending. despite the record $2.6 billion per year the NBA will receive under its new TV contract. The NBA’s diversity efforts center on public service announcements during Black History Month and “opportunities” for qualified minority-owned, woman-owned and other diverse suppliers to participate in the NBA All-Star procurement process.

Then there was the near total lack of diversity in stadium construction opportunities. According to civil rights groups, Kaepernick’s 49ers team utilized a process reminiscent to the “good old boys network” to systematically exclude Blacks and other minorities from even being considered for participation on the $2 billion plus Levi’s Stadium. The fact that the team was nearly 80% Black and the minority population in Santa Clara County nearly 60% minority did not appear to make a difference.

The fact that the head of MLB, the NBA, NCAA and NFL are all members of the board of RISE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sport to advance race relations is like Donald Trump saying he’s going to make America safe through unconstitutional stop & frisk.

I applaud Kaepernick for having the courage to take a stand. I just find it ironic that a professional athlete, Colin Kaepernick or otherwise, would protest racial discrimination and lack of opportunity in society without observing the existence of the same elements in sport.

Sport is calling out society for soot on its walls when sport is thoroughly covered in it.

Sport not only mirrors life, it amplifies it, and the stand taken by University of Missouri football players that resulted in the resignation of the school’s president and chancellor amid charges they had done too little to combat racism on campus proves yet another way sport does mirror life.

There is power in unity and only by coming together can sport or society tackle the issues that challenge both.


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Sport Mirrors Life.

Always Has. Probably Always Will.

By Atty. Everett L.Glenn

"Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?