His name was Christopher. Christopher, who also went by Chris, enjoyed sports. Chris grew up to love football, baseball, and boxing but, most of all he enjoyed football. One day, Christopher asked his football coach, Mr. James, what would life be like without black athletes. He knew that there were many races and ethnicities that played sports but he really wanted to know what life would be like without the contributions of black athletes. “Coach, since I’m an athlete, I wonder what would life would be like without black athletes in general.” He said. His coach thought about the question for a moment. ‘Let’s go check out the Athlete Hall of Fame board down the hall and figure out an answer to your question.”
Christopher and his coach walked the halls of Cass Tech until they reached the Athlete Hall of Fame that showed tons of African American athletes that contributed to our lives. The Athlete Hall of Fame included actual items such as boxing gloves, a football, track spikes, a golf ball, a baseball, a tennis racket, and a basketball. The sports items were included so everyone who passed the Athlete Hall of Fame could get a glimpse of what was used to play the sport.
First, Coach James began to talk about boxing. “ See boxing is a sport where two people, who usually wear a pair of some type of protective gloves, throw punches at each other for a certain amount of time in a boxing ring.” As he continued to talk, the boxing gloves disappeared. “Where’d those gloves go?!” Shouted Chris. Jack Johnson, a black man, was the very first black heavyweight champ. He was the first man to actually prove to a white man that a white man isn’t better than a Negro, especially in a boxing ring. A long with Johnson, Muhammad Ali had also contributed to the world by becoming a true cultural icon when he refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, and was forced to give up his love and gift.
As coach and Chris continued to check out the Hall of Fame, the moved onto football. “So what about football?” Said Chris. “I’m sure you know enough about football”, said coach. As they laughed and giggled, the football disappeared.”Well there goes another one.” Said Chris referring to another item disappearing. See Frederick Pollard, a black man, became one of the first very few African-Americans to play in the National Football League. A year after his entrance, he led his professional team to their first ever NFL championship. The year after his big win, he became a player-coach with the same team and while doing that, he became the first black head coach in the NFL. Without him, we wouldn’t have anyone to look up to as the first black NFL coach.
As the continued to scan the case, they began talking about tennis. “Tenni isn’t really a sport that interests me, I only know about the one and only Serena Williams” said Christopher, “But what other black tennis players have made contributions for our lives?” As he tried to think of more black tennis players, the tennis racket soon went away before his eyes. Before Venus and Serena Williams took over the tennis court, there was Althea Gibson, a black woman, was the first black woman to take on the challenge of the world tennis tour and she was also the first to win a Grand Slam in 1956. This was amazing because the sport tennis was predominantly white, both then and now. In all, Althea racked up six Grand Slam singles titles.
They chatted a little more before moving onto track and field. Soon, the track spike disappeared and by this time, coach and chris both knew why it went away. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a black female, was a six-time Olympic gold medalist and star basketball player for UCLA. She has made accomplishments besides being on the track by starting the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation which gives athletic resources to at-risk families in the St. Louis area. But no one paved the way for black female track and field athletes quite like Wilma Rudolph. She later came across adversity when she was diagnosed with polio but that didn’t stop her from winning three gold medals during the 1960 Olympics. Without her, many teenage girls wouldn’t have been inspired by her to run track and field.
“Wow! So much stuff we wouldn’t have or know about without the contributions of black athletes.” Said Christopher. “Exactly, black athletes have done a lot for us whether we know it or not. But there’s more,” said coach. They went onto the sport of golf. Soon, the golf ball disappeared. See Charlie Sifford, a black man, could compete solely in tournaments organized by his fellow black golfers, but he wanted more. He tried his hardest to qualify for the 1952 Phoenix Open by using an invitation he received from boxer Joe Louis. While there, Sifford received death threats. He faced a lot of troubles but still remains one of the many black golf players that played 422 tournaments with 51 top 10 finishes.
They moved on to basketball. “There are so many black basketball players that have made contributions to our lives that are known, but what about the unknown ones,” said Chris. “Well let’s see,” said coach. Soon, the basketball disappeared. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a black man, caught tons of backlash when he sat through the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’ He said that he felt the American flag represented ‘oppression and tyranny,’ which went against his Islamic faith. He was the first black man to sit during a national song, it wasn’t Colin. “Wow! I never knew that,” said Chris.
Coach and Chris conversated about the last sport in the case, which was baseball. “I really love baseball,” said Chris. “Well I hope you’re ready to know what life would be like without the contribution black baseball players made.” As he continued to talk, the baseball disappeared. Curt Flood, a black man, refused to report to the team when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969.He felt disrespected by his own organization because the Cardinals sent lower-leveled agents to inform him of the trade that he was willing to give up his $100,000 contract in order to become a free agent. By taking a stand for what he believed in, the MLB implemented the 10/5 rule, which allows any player with ten years of MLB service to veto any trade. He is the reason why so many major league baseball players make millions of dollars today. Hank Aaron, a black man, faced racial harassment and even death threats. He lives with the title “Greatest Living Baseball” title. He’s the first black man to receivers number 1 in a run batted in. “So much of this information l’ve never knew about coach. I’m so glad I asked the question about how would like he without black athletes,” said Chris.
There are many black athletes that have made contributions to our lives today that go unnoticed. It is imperative that we take the time out of our lives to recognize the people that have paved the way so that we could live a better life.
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