With the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments against the constitutionality California’s of same-sex marriage ban, it makes sense that this conversation would carry over in the sports arena.
Earlier this week, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo says he plans to be at today’s rally to challenge. He also said the NFL is ready to accept its first openly gay player, but that the MLB is better suited to take the lead:
Honestly, I think it will happen in baseball sooner than in football or basketball. The reason I say that is because I think there is less of a connection to religion in baseball. The religious roots are a lot deeper in basketball and football. With that being said, I think baseball players are more open minded.
He also thinks the NFL is ready because he sees things are changing:
Yeah, I think so. The locker room is changing, and you’re starting to see teams take a stand against discrimination, whether it’s the Niners (San Francisco 49ers) or the Baltimore Ravens. Also, we have a meeting next week — Athlete Ally (an organization that promotes equality in sports) and myself have a meeting next week, or some time in early April — with the NFL about joining Athlete Ally and inclusiveness in sports.
I’m not so sure about the change. Gay-rights have long been a battleground in the U.S., but that has not always extended to the locker room. Sports is, and remains a male-dominated, testosterone haven rolled up in a man’s power, strength, hetero-sexuality and talent. If sports is really about winning the game, does sexuality matter?
Regardless of whether or not they “come out” I do believe there are gay professional athletes in all the leagues. However, the dangerous nature of sports, particularly football makes it all but impossible for gay pro athletes to expose their sexuality.
I think homophobia is a mis-label given to anyone who doesn’t agree with the lifestyle. As those who are proponents of gay-rights come forward, they need to be just as open and receptive to those who don’t agree with it. It is possible disagree with the lifestyle and still support the player. I don’t care who a player sleeps with or chooses to love. I care about my team winning. Period.
I think we’re all a little too preoccupied with what goes on in other people’s bedrooms.
So what has Lolo Jones been doing since the London Olympics? Well, she’s decided to Do:More. Lolo Jones is a Degree woman, taking her love for sports and competition to the next level:
Like many of us, reaching a dream is about the journey, not the destination. We, like Lolo Jones, are women — Jersey Girls, who just Do:More. We are mothers, sisters, aunts, God-mothers, friends, CEO’s, wives, nieces and sisters.
When you hear of players getting contracts like the one that Ravens QB, Joe Flacco just received for $120 million, or the total endorsement deals of Washington Redskins’ QB, Robert Griffin III, not to mention the countless (and I do mean ‘countless’) multi-million dollar contracts that baseball players receive, you would think that the players are ranking in all the money.
Last week Forbesmagazine put out their annual billionaires list, and by looking at that list it’s no surprise who the real MVPs are. While players are making millions on the field, the owners are the ones making the billions from the corner office.
According to Forbes, here’s a list of the top 10 billionaires in sports, and honestly none of these names were a surprise.
#10 – John Henry (net worth $1.5 billion)
Boston Red Socks and Liverpool FC
#9 – Jim Irsay (net worth $1.5 billion)
#8 – Arthur Blank (net worth $1.6 billion)
#7 – Robert McNair (net worth $1.8 billion)
#6 – Stephen Bisciotti (net worth $1.8 billion)
#5 – Robert Kraft (net worth $2.3 billion)
New England Patriots
#4 – Jerry Jones (net worth 2.7 billion)
#3 – Bernie Eccelstone (net worth $3.8 billion)
Owns 5.3% of Formula One Racing
#2 – Malcolm Glazer (net worth $4.4 billion)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and EPL soccer team Manchester United
#1 – Stanley Kroenke (net worth $5 billion)
Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Rams and Premier League soccer club Arsenal
As you can see both football and soccer are huge revenue generators. The average fan forgets that sports is a business, and it’s big business for those who know how to play the game right. From sponsorship, to stadium ownership, to TV rights these owners know that it’s not just one thing that has the wide world of sports showing them the money; it’s a number of things combined. The more visible your team, the more the fans love it, the more companies see its marketability and the more money the team brings in.
The world of sports is no stranger to praising the advancement that African-Americans are constantly making. Whether its ownership, front office, agents or just an outstanding athlete, African-Americans know that none of what they have been able to accomplish at this level would be possible without the struggles, sacrifices and victories that many before them were able to make.
As Dr. King said in his I Have a Dream Speech, “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back”, and that’s exactly what African-Americans have done in the world of sports.
So today, I wanted to reflect on 20 of the most important and influential African-Americans in the sports industry.
1. Jackie Robinson
Courageously broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947 – a time when segregation was the social norm in America. Robinson’s impact and influence was so great that baseball has retired his No.42, and his name is evoked almost daily in sports circles. Not only did he break baseball’s color barrier, but he paved the way and became an inspiration for African-Americans in all walks of life.
2. Muhammad Ali
In the arena, arguably the greatest boxer in history. Outside the arena, a symbol of the controversial 1960s. Ali stood behind his beliefs and became a leader for racial equality and opposition to the Vietnam War. Among many things Ali changed how athletes dealt with the media and how the media dealt with athletes.
3. Jim Brown
He is best known for his exceptional and record-setting nine-year career as a running back for the NFL Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. In 2002, he was named by Sporting News as the greatest professional football player ever. He is considered to be one of the greatest professional athletes the U.S. has ever produced. Brown remains one of the strongest voices in the African-American community and continues to work with young people in life-skills and anti-gang campaigns. 4.Jesse Owens
Not only an inspiration for African-Americans but for all Americans when he won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in front of Hitler and his idea the blacks and the rest of the world were inferior to his “master race.” The Jesse Owens Award, USA Track and Field’s highest accolade for the year’s best track and field athlete, is named after him, in honor of his significant career.
5. Joe Louis
One of boxing’s greatest fighters, Louis is best remembered for losing and then coming back to defeat German, Max Schmeling in 1938 – before America’s eventual involvement against Nazi Germany in World War II. Legendary sportswriter Jimmy Cannon once wrote that Louis was “a credit to his race – the human race.”
6. Michael Jordan
Quite possibly the best and most famous athlete of any color to ever live. His talent combined with his charisma, intelligence and business savvy made him, perhaps, the most marketable athlete ever. The sports landscape – particularly how players are used to pitch products – changed forever because of Jordan. Now the majority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats; Jordan continues to have a billion dollar empire by being one of the only athletes whose name sells more than those still playing the game.
7. Wilma Rudolph
This classy track and field star won three gold medals at 1960 Olympics and became the chief reason why young black girls took up track and field in the generations to follow – an influence that remains strong to this day.
8. John Carlos/Tommy Smith
At the 1968 Olympics, these two track stars raised black-gloved fists during the U.S. national anthem at their medal ceremony to protest, in part, the poverty and treatment of black people in America. It brought the issue of race and discrimination into living rooms throughout the world in one of the most powerful demonstrations in sports history.
9. Arthur Ashe
Arthur Ashe, the only African-American man to win Wimbledon, was a staunch civil-rights supporter not only in America but internationally, including anti-apartheid causes in South Africa and the fight for rights of undocumented immigrants in the United States. He raised awareness of AIDS before he died in 1993 from complications of the virus contracted after a blood transfusion.
10. Hank Aaron
Despite death threats and harassment from racists, Hammerin’ Hank showed grace and class while breaking the Major League Baseball home run record held by Babe Ruth. To this day, Aaron continues to work as a baseball executive and ambassador to fight for the rights of minorities, particularly among baseball’s front offices.
11. Curt Flood
Comparing baseball’s reserve clause to slavery, this St. Louis Cardinals outfielder refused to accept a trade after the 1969 season. Although he lost his case in the U.S. Supreme Court, his groundbreaking objection led players to fight the reserve clause and eventually gain free-agency rights.
12. Tony Dungy
The first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl remains socially active and is out front on the causes of African-Americans, faith and family. One of the most beloved figures in sports because of his humility, class, honesty and lifestyle. You can catch Dungy talking sports for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, or at the signing of one of his latest motivational books.
13. Don King
Love him or hate him, Don King is one of sports’ most controversial figures, yet there is no denying this hair-raising promoter has had more influence over professional boxing than any other figure during the past 40 years. His influence over the days when fighters such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman were at the top of the sport ultimately led to today’s massive purses and pay-per-view events.
14. Althea Gibson
Before there was Venus and Serena Williams there was Althea Gibson. Gibson was called “the Jackie Robinson of tennis” for breaking tennis’ color barrier. She won five Grand Slam events in the late 1950s, then went on to be a champion of youth sports programs and other areas of public service.
15. Tiger Woods
On his way to becoming the greatest golfer ever, Woods, whose father was black, single-handedly has made the sport, once followed almost exclusively by middle- to upper-class white society, popular among all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. In 2010 Woods’s career was derailed with mounting public opinion, which has resulted in a failed marriage, dropping sponsors and an inconsistent golf game. Unfortunately Woods has not been able to make that comeback yet, but with each tournament we are keeping hopes held high.
16. Magic Johnson
Earvin “Magic” Johnson has helped revive the NBA and make it the popular sports it is today. More important, Johnson became one of the first openly HIV-positive celebrities/athletes and has since become a leading voice and contributor in HIV/AIDS prevention, safe sex and other social causes. Since the NBA, Johnson has turned into an exceptional businessman owning everything from restaurants, to banks, to Starbucks coffee shops. Johnson recently caught headlines when he sold his shares of the Los Angeles Lakes to put money into bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles, and join a group to bid on buying the Los Angeles Dodgers.
17. Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson was the first African-American to win the heavyweight boxing title. His victory over James Jeffries on July4, 1910, sparked race riots through the country. Johnson was once called the most famous and most infamous African-American on Earth.
18. Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the women’s heptathlon as well as in the women’s long jump. She won three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals, in those four different events. Sports Illustrated for Women magazine voted Joyner-Kersee the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th century, just ahead of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. And, ladies and gentlemen she did it without the performance-enhancing drugs that have ravaged track and field during the last couple of years.
19. Harlem Globetrotters
Founded in 1927, this predominantly black team has entertained crowds of all colors, races, religions and nationalities with its unique brand of basketball that mixes incredible skill and hilarious shenanigans. The team has played more than 20,000 games in more than 100 countries and remains a top draw wherever it goes.
20. Robert Johnson
The founder of BET (Black Entertainment Network) became the first African-American to own a major sports franchise when he led the group that acquired the expansion Charlotte Bobcats in 2004. Johnson has since sold his stock in the team to another amazing African-American and former NBA player, Michael Jordan. Other African-Americans such as Usher, Jay-Z, and Will & Jada Smith have all joined the ranks of ownership in major sports’ franchises.
An amazing weight has been lifted off the shoulders of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
According to the Associated Press, criminal charges won’t be filed against the 49ers wide receiver after an alleged sexual assault in a hotel after the team’s playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco’s district attorney said Friday.
After sorting through statements and other information submitted by the police, the district attorney saw no reason to charge Crabtree, whom had not be arrested or detained during this entire ordeal.
Now Michael can get to what he knows best and that’s preparing for football. The 49ers will take on the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans on February 3rd for Super Bowl XLVII.
The 49ers general manager, Trent Baalke, released a statement saying…
“Michael and the team can now put this behind us and move forward.”