Friday Fire: Is Black Sports Writing Gone Forever?

Click on the pic to find out who this great man was.

Coming on the heels of Cole Wiley’s interview and speaking with many journalists on the subject, one has to wonder if the Black voice is dead in the context of sports writing. I could write 10,000 words on the subject obviously, but a discussion here should have a similar impact.

Check this article out where Spike Lee chimes in on a subject near and dear to TSF hearts. Honestly, there really shouldn’t be a need for The Starting Five, but in this horrible writing climate (yeah I’m talking about the pack once again), there has to be some sort of check and balance (or just an objective voice) our size and popularity withstanding. I’m not apologizing for revisiting this over and over and over. Something has to be done. We must care about how our history is written or it will be forgotten like Garrett Morgan, Elijah McCoy and Granville T. Woods.

We don’t have job security in the field, so there is nothing to protect…just to achieve.

There are more great quarterbacks than Montana, Marino and Elway.

Tell ’em Mos!

Bob Gibson arguably was the best pitcher of all time.

Randy Moss deserved more Offensive Player of the Year and MVP votes than Brett Favre last season.

Steve Nash did not deserve two consecutive MVP awards and Dirk shouldn’t have won one either.

Ricky Rubio does not deserve number one pick consideration.

Tavaris Jackson deserves more of a shot. Eli Manning was 0-2 to start the season last year.

Clarence “Big House” Gaines, Eddie Robinson, John Chaney and John Thompson’s names should be mentioned when speaking of the college coaching pantheon. I guarantee you those who are included would say so.

Mickey Mantle’s baseball card should not be worth more than Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron’s combined.

Should I not care about a kid who wanted to emulate Barry Bonds‘ timing mechanism sans steroid scrutiny?

If Barry Bonds played for the Yankees this season, they would be in the playoffs. Instead of writing this, Black sports writers wrote with the pack. That’s absurd.

Albert Belle deserved MVP in 1995.

Tim Duncan is not the best power forward of all time.

Ryan Howard is the 2008 National League MVP.

Michael Vick is in jail so the model of his athleticism and powerful arm are behind bars with him?

What are your thoughts here? I know some of you are going to give typically reasonable responses, and I would love to hear from Whites on the subject. Do you want Blacks shaping your view point of sports? Do you think we offer a biased perspective, rendering the Black voice immaterial in your eyes? Can Blacks write objectively without being apologists or disparate?

Here’s two questions I posed to LeBron. It is our responsibility to challenge athletes as well for history’s sake. As you can see, he doesn’t like the questions…

I’m at the 5:00 mark…

86 Responses to “Friday Fire: Is Black Sports Writing Gone Forever?”

  1. Mizzo says:

    I added two videos of my interaction with LeBron James. I have to challenge him. He’s not 15 anymore. One question coincidentally was picked up by your spot.

    I hear you on the stories Blacks have written, but with the growing number of Blacks out there, it still needs to change. Three cats among hundreds coming to TJ’s defense is unacceptable.

    I say this not out of disrespect to any Black journalist who is doing the damn thing but to say others who capitulate are doing Blacks–and Whites–a great disservice down to the letter.

    Thanks for standing in their and taking it strong from Albert. We as writers (all) need to understand the action comes before the reaction. If i’m asked dumb ass questions (like the ones in the above videos) repeatedly, I’m going to sour on the press. Those cats were asking LeBron what his favorite city was? Come the eff on!

  2. Jemele says:

    Altho, Mizzo, you assume everyone agrees TJ shouldn’t be benched 🙂 (C’mon, you made that one too easy!)

    But seriously, believe it or not, black sports journalism is making unbelievable advancements. Spike Lee provided the seed money for Morehouse’s Sports Journalism Institute, fulfilling a lifelong dream of Ralph Wiley’s. When I was coming up, there were five black columnists. It might be three times as many now, and a site like The Starting Five was a pipe dream.

    Trust me, Mizzo, the seed has been planted, is being nurtured and is/will bear fruit.

  3. Mizzo says:

    But what if there weren’t sites like this to challenge everyone? I didn’t say TJ shouldn’t be measured like everyone else. I said he hasn’t. Off to work. Please continue.

  4. MODI says:

    Good discussion and important topic. The distinction should be made between a piece about “the person” and assessing their talent. Albert Belle could be the nastiest human being on the planet, but he deserved that MVP by a mile (still only 50 HR and 50 double season in history). This year Barry Bonds was completely wronged, yet few in mainstream stood up for him. His personality should have no bearing. Each case — like many Mizzo cited — is a failure of sportswriters.


    But to your original article Mizzo… there is no such thing as pure objectivity in any journalism. The best any writer could give is DESIRED objectivity — and many don’t even care about that. Personally, I can never promise “objectivity”, I can only promise to faithfully shoot for it — perceptive flaws and all. We are all culturally-biased through our personal experiences. The great thing about sports is that the stats give us some working basis for objectivity. I mean, unlike George Bush, no one could claim that Homer Bush deserved to be MVP — yet they both had the same stats!!! So as bad as sports is, it is better than politics. On merit alone, Obama should have a 40 point lead in the polls, but he doesn’t. But I digress.

  5. MODI says:

    You asked what whites think. As a white writer who often writes about race, I have to be cognizant of my life limitations and human biases. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. I try to keep a lot of pieces to “objective” comparisons, and not “personal pieces”. I try to leave the latter to the likes of you, D-Wil, and others. But anyone can “quantify” racial biased behavior. Whether it is Belle not getting the MVP, McNabb treated like shit, or even Jemele getting suspended for reckless words while Bernstein doesn’t for far worse… But the problem is so much bigger than any individual.

    Even if you had the most well-meaning and non-racist cadre of writers who faithfully desired objectivity (which we don’t at all), the sports writing community would still be incredibly biased. Its like putting a band together and everybody is playing the trumpet. They could even be great trumpet players, but good music won’t get made. According to Dr. Laphick’s study of AP sports writers, 90% of the writers are white and all but a few editors. This has produced a disastrous mess. The bias is so completely one-sided. And the profitability of that bias leads to the ESPN machine that kevdog speaks about. Pacman Jones gets 300 articles a year because readers want to read them.

    The problem is too many white writers are not even TRYING to be objective. Some are straight racist, others have biases influenced by friendships with athletes that tend to look like them, and the rest have natural human cultural biases. The institutional imbalance is overwhelming. Then along comes the black writer who in mainstream, at worst, racially panders to white readers, and, at best, goes out of their way to be “even-handed”, when few of their white colleagues do the same. The sports-writing community doesn’t need INDIVIDUAL even-handedness when it comes to treatment of white-black athletes, it need INSTITUTIONAL even-handedness. So if 10,000 disdainful pieces have already come out chastising Barry Bonds, then there is no need for # 10,001 — even if it honestly represents one’s personal feeling. If the conscious sports writer — black or white — understands that they play IN A BAND, then they would pick up the sax or trombone if they saw all their colleagues blowing the trumpet.

    So the answer to your question Mizzo is — from my perspective — is that black writers should consciously seek the under-represented angle to stories knowing that the obligation is to “the field”, not proving personal even-handedness when no one else is. They should often bring a black perspective that no white writer could know about. If the racial make-up of the sports-writing field ever changes to reflect the background of athletes, then the luxury might present itself to pick up a different instrument. ‘Til then, it’s all about improving “the field”.

  6. MODI says:

    first sentence 2nd paragraph, I meant “white writers” (integral to point)

  7. MODI says:

    Also, I suspect that more black writers without more black EDITORS will yield little institutional change. And that assumes that those editors have any real power. …and the AP needs to be overhauled that feeds all these negative stories. Hopefully changes will come with new recent leadership including Garry Howard who I believe takes over top spot in 2009.


    One more thing: there seems to be a decline in the socially-conscious WHITE sports writer today that has pigeon-holed the black sports-writer. Perhaps if more white writers call out Favre a long time ago, jemele would get less hateful comments in ESPN conversation when she did so. Tell me, who is the big name white sports caster today that will stand-up like Cosell did when he went to bat for Ali? Would a white writer today do an investigative piece like jack olsen’s black athlete series in ’68? Bob Costas is supposed to be a baseball purist, yet he stays quiet as Bonds in blackballed. All of the big name white baseball writers who have much clout were lacking forcefulness. Will a white columnist pick up on the Cedric Benson innocence story? I seriously doubt it.

    Jemele, since ESPN devoted at least 6 articles to cedric benson’s past transgressions, please think about running with the implications of these new developments. Any consideration you give is appreciated.


    Jemele, I hope that you will consider giving this Cedric Benson innocence story some more legs. ESPN already devoted at least 6 articles at TV segments to his bogus treatment.

  8. MODI says:

    sorry for typos and double-phrases today. watching TV at same time!

  9. origin says:

    Mizzo, Modi and Kev you guys made some great points.

  10. KevDog says:

    Yo Jemele

    I notice you gave props to Vincent Thomas’s stupid as a MF piece on Josh Howard. And appropos to the conversation, and completely illustrating a point you and he BOTH should learn.

    Working for the white man don’t mean you GOT to down a brotha every chance you get. Validating Josh’s sentiments while calling him an idiot is a pathetic cop-out designed to have it both ways. Maybe when you so-called black, so-called journalists stop making your 15 pieces of gold on the backs of black athletes, you’ll have a different relationship with them.

    Now if I were Josh Howard and that grinnin’ fool VT came up to me, I’d bitch slap him for calling me an idiot, but hey, that’s just me.

  11. Matthew Fudge says:

    There is a fundamental disconnect among many sports journalists that is similar to political journalism, where they tend to lean towards those in power and control (ownership, management), and are apologists for them because they rely on the access provided.”

    Signal, the sports side I get. How does this translate to political journalism?

  12. Temple3 says:

    The thing I like about KevDog is that his bite is worse than his bark — and he’s got a serious bark.

  13. Temple3 says:


    I think the linkage here is that sports journalism is political journalism. Of course I don’t mean this in a pure sense, but from a cultural standpoint, athletes have historically operated as political figures who used their visibility, money and connections to open doors. Many sacrificed millions of dollars for the sake of principles.

    As such, these men and women operate outside of elected office to carry out a political aim. Those actions have lacked the coordination and consistency of organized political efforts, but there is a solid tradition. I believe that’s one of the reasons why people like Michael Jordan became so popular. Eschewing any sort of political stance placed MJ along the OJ continuum of those without eyes to see or ears to hear.

    It’s a tack that has been popularized, but it goes against the grain of American sports — even white athletes are expected to give back on some level. When you read local papers in small town America, white athletes are plastered all over the place for making contributions. Jordan’s “Me First” attitude that has served as a paradigm shift for LeBron Nation puts black writers who work for ofays in a curious position.

    Can they castigate these players for turning the other cheek? What are the politics of the game that a sportswriter can actually write about? Where is the FIRING LINE? In other words, how far can you go before you are an ex-employee? Does it matter how far you go if you know a critical mass of your readers are white? Why bother?

    In a sense, it’s a perfect gig. No real responsibility except for an occasional blast from Black bloggers. No real accountability to athletes because it’s all good in the cage. No one to deliver that pimp slap when it’s required…and all the loot that could never come as quickly if the WORK was to build a black-owned presence with an authentic voice.

    Shit, what could be better?

    That, however, is not the death of Black Sports Journalism. That’s not even a cold. Black sports journalists who have not pressed the Firing Line are only relevant with respect to Biology and Data Counts (How many negroes?). These writers are not part of the political calculus regarding Black folk and sports in America. If you read the work, you’ll see that the pieces consistently lack the rigor, depth and grounding of an authentic Black voice. Anyone could write it — as long as they CONSUME POP CULTURE. Black culture is not the same thing as pop culture.

    When is the last time a Black sports writer who sleeps with the enemy wrote the type of piece that was not laden with trifling references to pop culture? When was the last time one of that crew wrote something that wasn’t easily written by one of their white colleagues? There is nothing creative, dynamic or uniquely Black about this group. For the most part, these writers are mere vessels of Black writers lacking the artistry, style, vision, clarity or skill of our tradition.

    Black sportswriters have a proud tradition that has mirrored that of our best athletes. It is not in our way to separate this activity from the rest of what we do. This is a part of what we do – of who we are. Everything we do is political. When writers castigate Blacks while giving the sons of their employers a pass, this grants license to vile racists to ramp up their contempt. This is significant because the demographics of this nation are changing. Whites are going to be outnumbered before you know it…they are feeling tremendous pressure to succeed and survive. They admit to feeling physically inferior to Blacks — and have to live with the added insult of emerging Asian dominance in China AND India AND California. It’s almost too much to take. The gloves are coming off…that’s what Sarah Palin is about. The veneer of decency and merit is coming off. That’s what declining the debate was about. No more discourse. No more talking. It’s a call to arms for an outnumbered group facing the prospect of losing their way of life.

    Enter “our” Black sportswriters…

    They’re sitting in a prime position as the wealthiest (but least prepared) group of Black men and women play games to provide satisfaction for the Lazy Children of the Empire. Check out their work. What are these writers saying? Are they missing the moment? Are they right on time? Have they pushed the Firing Line? Who has crossed it? Would the same folks who sit in judgment of Josh Howard and Mahmoud Abdur Raouf and others demonstrate the same integrity in a moment of conflict? When the editors meet, what battles are fought? Which ones are lost? Which ones are abdicated without so much as a whimper? Which battles are not even recognized as meriting a battle? Since we can’t answer these questions without folks crossing the Firing Line, we know they’re not a voice of Black sportswriting. They’re a REPRESENTATION of an authentic Black voice – but not an authentic Black voice.

    It’s all Memorex — and not a faithful recording, at that.

  14. Matthew Fudge says:

    Thanks for clarifying, Temple.

  15. Mizzo says:


    That’s exactly what I’m talking about Temple3. You put everything in a nutshell that I’ve been trying to say The Starting Five’s entire existence. I was at media day for the Sixers this afternoon and the thoughts you lay out above came to mind in the midst of having a conversation with 4 Black writers. There’s one Black writer here who has everyone’s respect and that’s Donald Hunt. He works for the Philadelphia Tribune and I feel he’s Philly’s greatest Black writing soul model. This conversation was exclusive of him, but sometimes I feel like a mad scientist of sorts shouting the name of my people. The words I get are, “It’s not all about race. We can’t find racism in everything.”


    I just want Black kids to have something to write their families can be proud of. Proud of in a total sense and not just because they have published work for all to see.

    Something that brings a tear to their Grandmother’s eye because it’s real and not real fake.

    The pop culture point struck the shit out me. It’s the truth and I can’t stand it! Why write a piece that kisses the collective asses of every g’damn reader you have? You are not going to please everyone. It’s just not going to happen, so please BLACK writers do your jobs.

    If there’s a story about a Black athlete that’s easy to write, then write it! No one else is going to.

    Again….Barry Bonds and Daunte Culpepper would be playing in their respective sports if Black writers stepped up and COLLECTIVELY did their due diligence and challenged the construct.

    White writers write about their own. White writers write about us. We kiss the asses of their own and write BLACK athlete hit pieces that smooth society over just as you so eloquently say above.

    Forget that! The current media model needs to change and it needs to change RIGHT NOW. Tired of waiting. I know I don’t have the keys to drive the engine, but I have to develop this source and see where it goes.

    You are so right about writing and covering those who aren’t authentic authentic. There’s a lot of conflict in this job. Personally, what I aim to do has nothing to do with sports through sports. You’re right it’s more political but not political. Those who don’t understand the seriousness of their words in my opinion are killing future minds. Black culture, no matter the threat, has to sustain itself and for now, this is my vehicle.

    Thanks for your comment Temple 3 and everyone else who contributing to this discussion.

    Off to work.

  16. origin says:

    Yeap brotha temple as always you put everything in perspective.

    Thats real knowledge your kicking.

  17. Temple3 says:

    Thanks fam.

    I must, though, that like KevDog and LastPoet, I believe in the potential of our people who write sports for white folks. I really do. I just cannot endorse what they presently do.

    None of us are perfect, but we do have an obligation to do more than get in where we fit in. If the business was not sports journalism, but another heinous business (say slavetrading), what would their role be?

    It’s pretty easy to figure out…they’d be the enslaved Africans on the corners of cities like New York, Alexandria, Newport, and Philadelphia handing out flyers to the slave auction. Just because that’s a job that paid in chitlins and grits doesn’t mean it was a job worth having. So it is with doing “hit jobs” for ESPN and Fox.

    I think our people are smarter and better than chitlins and grits. So far, I’ve been proven wrong. So much so that these advertisers for the auction devoutly defend their right to broadcast the next distribution of Cheap Negro Labor. They seem to view it as a badge of distinction. Perhaps they’ve never seen their reflection in the dim light of those kerosene lamps. Perhaps they’ve forgotten about walking barefoot over cobble stone streets while their brothers and sisters are stripped bare for the amusement of the world.

    It’s tragic, but I still have hope.

  18. thebrotherreport says:

    That’s heavy. Pound cake heavy. (I’m jonesin for one)

  19. Matthew Fudge says:

    I’d say that’s heavy like Big Shirley.

  20. KevDog says:

    T3 dropping science like Ernest E. Just……

  21. Temple3 says:

    I had better step my game way the hell up before I’m mentioned in the same breath with one of the founders of Q-Dog Nation (Omega Psi Phi). I’ll have to stand down from that compliment. Dr. Just was THE MAN.

  22. KevDog says:


    No need to be modest. You’re the real deal. I didn’t know he was one of the original Q-Dawgs.

    Are you familiar with Charles Houston?

  23. MODI says:

    Temple, as usual a very thought-provoking post. So from purely an institutional perspective, what do you think needs to happen in sports journalism… here are some questions floating around that I’m interested in yours and any one else’s perspective:

    — Would a young Ralph Wiley be able to work today under the ESPN brand?

    — Your post speaks to the shortcomings of simply hiring more black writers as some end-all solution. Does having more black writers in mainstream increase the liklihood of the “authentic black voice” that you speak about just by the odds?

    — Or does it have to come from a separate entity like the black newspapers in the old days… and if so, is that voice commercially viable? (not as some big money-making endeavor, but not free-blogging either — I’m talking just enough to eat food.)

  24. Matthew Fudge says:


    A young Ralph Wiley would definitely be able to work. Whether or not he’d be under is up for debate.

    In answer to your next question, more black sports writers who are conscious, unafraid, and not worried about job security when truth is in danger of compromised is what’s needed

  25. Mizzo says:

    I think the answers to your questions are obvious Modi.

    Why does it have to be a young Ralph Wiley?

    Just asking.

    He was so talented they couldn’t turn him away. His vast readership would make sure he was put on.

    I wish Black publications were more read. Some have a wealth of information beneficial to everyone.

    Anthony Gilbert and I were at Sixers media day recently and I was impressed with how many Black faces there were in the press room.


    I found it very disconcerting that we were the only writers asking questions of the athletes.

    We raise the bar and that is what is needed.

    Now in the context of writing the same attention should be given. There were four of us having a conversation on this issue and one writer pointed out we as Blacks shouldn’t be so exclusive in our opinions.

    It’s a comfort thing. Whites are so used to reading their own that they aren’t cool with a straight no chaser mind. It’s like hide the kids or some shit.

    It’s Blacks as well. I get into these discussions all the time with writers across the country and I would say it’s 50/50. Some want us to toe the line, some don’t.

    That shit pisses me off to no end.

    It never should be about the paper.

    It’s all about advancing thought for me personally.

    Stand up and make yourself accountable or be peace.

  26. origin says:

    Well said Mizzo. Modi and Matthew make some great points as well.

    Brotha Mizzo that’s just how it is when dealing with corporate america. I have worked on teams where a few black co workers would come up with an idea and preset it to their manager (who is white). The idea would be turned down. Then like 5 months later a white co worker in their team would come up with the same idea and present it to the same manager and the manager would claim how great of an idea it was and start to implement it.

    In corporate america I have seen some black folks toe the line and deal with it when it came to discrimination. But then I have seen others fight it tooth and nail.

    Sadly brotha Mizzo its the same everywhere.

    Also Modi people said magazines like black enterprise wouldn’t be commercially viable because “black folks don’t save money or invest” or that story writers like Zane couldn’t make books because “black women don’t read”. He11 they even told Tyler perry that black folks that go to church don’t watch movies. All stupid and untrue.

    I believe if the voice is real and genuine black folks will support it.

  27. Temple3 says:


    I basically agree with what Origin said.


    Thanks. Yeah, I’m familiar with the architect of the CRM legal strategy and Dean of Howard’s Law School. That’s Thurgood’s “legal” daddy. I better know him. That’s the man that killed Jim Crow — with a law book and a shotgun.

  28. Temple3 says:


    I don’t know enough about Ralph Wiley on a personal level to know if he “could” work there or would even choose to work there. These are different times. “White people,” per se, don’t control distribution of anything the way they did 20 years ago. A young writer with the talent of a Ralph Wiley would need ESPN about as much as Keith Olbermann — not at all. ESPN is not the best corporate entity doing sports…it’s the largest. The level of writing, craft of production and the like are mass-production oriented and largely mediocre. The Sporting News still has better writers — they probably always will. Sportsonmymind has better writers. So, ESPN as a destination, should be classified to support the larger question.

    In this respect, ESPN is perfect for people like Jemele Hill, Scoop, even Whitlock. When ESPN was hungry – when Tom Mees was alive, when Olbermann was there, when Ralph Wiley was still alive, when Hunter Thompson was there, it was a different animal altogether. Essentially, the network has moved from a great 24-hour classroom on sports journalism to Frat Row.

    There is a grand illusion of excellence that I don’t believe RW would sanction. ESPN has some people who do a great job. I’d watch Kirk Herbstreit any day of the week. Lisa Salters is excellent. Steve Cyphers is very good. But, overall, the network has become a joke. Arguably the greatest cash cows on the network (PTI, Sunday Countdown, etc.) are all shows that are predicated on the MOST superficial introspection. Only Bob Lee’s OTL survived the growth spurt to DisneyDom-DumbDumb. The new sports magazine probably resulted from the profound embarrassment of the founders.

    The problem they face is that everyone is either a former player or a journalism major. This means no one has any content knowledge beyond the discipline of “the job.” So few of these stories are enriched by a broader knowledge of life and the world…guess who does the best job of connecting the dots? — Kenny Mayne. That’s right, Kenny Mayne.

    Nah, I don’t think Wiley would be impressed enough to want to work there. He’d probably be working for a FREE BLOG honing his craft preparing to tackle the beast — right after he pitched his new platform to some rich ballers with the nuts to buy some server farms and hire a few techs…yeah, probably something like that.

  29. KevDog says:


    Mr Houston is indeed “The man who killed Jim Crow.” But so few know of him it’s pathetic and sad and simply wrong.

    I’ve got him top 3 most influential black foks in America in the 20th Century. MLK Jr #1, Houston and DuBois 2A and 2B.

    The fact that almost no one knows of him reminds me of the line by Bunk when he dressed down Omar…..

    “Makes me sick, MF”er how far we done fell.”

  30. Temple3 says:

    I hear you. I have to disagree with the list, though. And, not to take this thread some place unintended, but…

    At least you have a list and that’s a starting point.

    I’d be interested to hear about why your list looks the way that it does and what criteria you applied. I feel like Mizzo did something on this awhile back…I forget the order that I had, but my criteria precluded King and DuBois from being in the top 3.

  31. Mizzo says:

    Temple you are correct. We all contributed to the piece here.

  32. KevDog says:


    I see and agree with your main thesis although we will continue to have to disagree with the analysis of effect of various figures.

    I chose King Jr. because his use of the media and his ability to connect to that higher being in all of us reverberates to this day, in city after city, state after state and nation after nation, because he was able to unite black and white in a common cause of Justice and fairness and peace, which, despite my sometimes war-like stance, I still hope we can seek, because ultimately, he his vision is one that can possibly save the Human race if we’re smart enough to pursue it.

    I chose DuBois because he is ultimately, the spiritual father to every single black American who has ever taken the path to higher learning, because his example in how we need to see ourselvess, I believe, influenced everyone that came after including virtually everyone in the discussion and because his work as an academician, institutional leader and intellectual father is overwhelming in it’s influence.

    Houston for obvious reasons. The LDF, Taking Howard Law school from a night-time unaccredated school to the greatest constotutional law program in the nation, recruiting and training Thurgood Marshall, Spottswood Robinson, Oliver Hill et al, his 20 year assault on Plessy etc, justifies his position on my list.

  33. Temple3 says:

    I recommend three things:

    1) Listen again to King’s speech in 1967 at Riverside Church re: the Vietnam War.

    2) Listen and read his last public address. April 1968 – Memphis. Check my blog. I have a fairly detailed post on this speech. It’s called King’s Nationalist Moment.

    3) Re-read “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”

    The man who delivered those speeches and wrote that book is not the same man who was on the podium in 1963. In fact, the reason the CRM was as successful as it was was in part because it hard the support of American big business. I’m glad you mentioned television – because it’s not as if A. Philip Randolph whose labor agitation (for grown folk) laid the foundation for the serial lawsuits vs. the Supreme Court (on behalf of children) would have eschewed television. It wasn’t an option for him in the early 1940’s — but it was enough for him to get a President to desegregate the armed forces of the United States of America — because he threatened to MARCH ON WASHINGTON.

    When Rustin, Young and others (including Dr. King) actually conducted the march in 1963, the timing could not have been better. The world had seen images of white brutality — in the American South and in Africa, as well. The US was not the only place which was being subjected to a revolutionary time. In fact, the funding by corporations, leadership by non-blacks greatly circumscribed the movement…it’s why the unfinished agenda of the CRM is so vast. When King was killed, many of his former allies had deserted him.

    When you think of his “influence,” are you thinking of the influence of his priorities as he expressed them after 1965…or are you thinking of what he said on the podium? If it’s the latter, I’m afraid he wasn’t nearly as influential as you imagine. King called for Black unity – especially with respect to economics…he wanted Black folk to strengthen Black financial institutions and also to avoid the moral pitfalls to which so much of white America had succumbed. That part of his agenda — the unfunded part — was not NEARLY as successful as the subsidized part…the part that enabled Democrats to create a viable Southern Strategy and allowed the nation to avert embarrassing images from home as they pitched “Democracy Colonialization” abroad.

    King was a complex, dynamic leader whose greatest desires were very closely aligned to those of Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad and others, but his legacy with respect to those wishes simply isn’t comparable. No television, no CRM. Now that people are so used to violence, even images of death and dying won’t galvanize a people to action. The CRM would have been like Darfur were it not for cameras.

    James Baldwin wrote an excellent piece on Faulkner and Desegregation that is worth reading because he strips white Southerners butt-ass naked psychologically. It struck me quite clearly how the impact of an entirely new medium was essential to transforming the South. It wasn’t merely our struggling. We’d been doing that since the 1500’s (We were here LONG BEFORE 1620 and Jamestown.) We’re talking about Black Anti-Terrorism Strategies and Tactics. Dr. King exists along a continuum of activists and organizers — and he became the face of a movement he only assisted in orchestrating.

    Check it out.

    Finally, I’d say given where we are with the domestic challenges to US war hegemony, King would be saddened to say the least. The people have just been robbed of $700B and they’re smiling. The US military spends $623B; the rest of the world spends $500B (COMBINED). The US war machine is more advanced than ever.

    Holla back.

  34. KevDog says:


    Thanks for the educational discussion. Made me go back and re-read some MLK Jr.

    I believe I understand the point you’re making about Dr. King and I agree with it 100%. He is similar to Louis Armstrong. When most people, those who are not Jazz fans, think of Pops, they think of the ambassador, the old dude, grinnin’ and singing “Hello Dolly,” or “What a Wonderful World.” But those recordings don’t even register a blip in the real history and influence of Mr. Armstrong. His place in history as America’s Mozart was secured decades before, in about an 8 year period when he was virtually inventing Jazz and American singing all at once with his Hot 5’s and hot 7’s recordings. Louis was beyond cutting edge, beyond bluesy, beyond dangerous and beyond brilliant. His playing in those days had almost no relationship to his playing from about 1935 on.

    So it is with Dr. King. MOST people remember him for the speech in Washington and for his dedication to non-violence. But as you correctly point out, his greatness transcended that and moved into the revolutionary. I won’t even argue the case that he wasn’t in many ways the descendent of Garvey and Muhammad because he cdearly was. I also won’t argue the case that his timing didn’t help make him.

    Mr Randolph was a political figure and leader of the sort of Dr. King no doubt. And I take nothing away from him when I say that his timing was better thsn for instance Frederick Douglas, but worse than MLK’s. Still, I think Dr. Kings accomplishments as a political, social and spritual leader place him in a unique position unoccupied and unapproached by any American ever.

    I will take issue to one aspect of your post and it’s only because one of my favorite topics is the legal history of the US regarding the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, the useages of those amendments to achieve ends that the authors of those amendments never considered, to achieve protections for groups far outside the scope of the original intent and ultimately the history of the rulings that led to “Brown.”

    I don’t think there is more than a parenthetical and temporal relationship between A. Philip Randolph’s extremely political Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters agitation and the extremely legally based assault on Plessy.

    I look at that campign that has at it’s roots two lines that converged. The first being “The Garland Fund” leading to the “Margold Report” which not only outlined the broad general strategy to be used to tear down Plessy, but also urged the implementation of that assault. The second was the existence of Charles Houston, who, after re-invigorating Howard Law School, recruiting the cadre of young people who would fight the legal baltles for 2 decades, recommending Nathan Margold to the NAACP in order to design the strategy, eventually was recruited by Walter White to lead the LDF. It is the transection of those two lines of events, which I believe, set into motion the events that led to end of Jim Crow.

    All in all, I think we agree on almost everything and disagree on superficial events and their relative importance, but agree philosophically to a high degree.

    It’s always good to be challenged to re-consider long held beliefs.


  35. MODI says:

    Please excuse the belated response, and thanks for the responses all.

    Mizzo, it doesn’t have to be a young Ralph Wiley. I just used “young” to mirror the time of Wiley’s hiring first by SI after the Oakland Tribune as opposed to a 40-something Wiley that ESPN hired in his latter years. My take on ESPN today is that his talent might have been a secondary commodity to his “vast readership”. I ask the question because ESPN is a vastly different animal then it used to be.

    “It’s all about advancing thought for me personally.”

    “Advancing thought” is a good way to put it.

    “The problem they face is that everyone is either a former player or a journalism major. This means no one has any content knowledge beyond the discipline of “the job.”

    T3, Never quite thought of it that way, but that seems to make sense.

  36. MODI says:

    On Charles Houston: I think we had this discussion kev, but I never heard of him until I was assigned to read Richard Kluger’s “Simple Justice” by a professor. I learned as much from that book as any other, and it covered Houston’s contributions in painstaking detail. The funny thing is that i have really never read about him in another book besides a name drop. Why his legacy has not survived history is unknown to me. Is he featured in any docs or movies? Was it that he was never properly given credit in the first place? Or was it that Thurgood Marshall was given the loion’s share of the “legal movement” credit like MLK did for CRM?

    On MLK and greatest leader list debate: This discussion has a sports feel to it with MLK’s use of “the media” taking the place of today’s athlete taking advantage of “better training and medicine”. If this is the case, then we might have to wonder what Marcus Garvey could have done had he had videotape of the huge crowds that he drew as well as video of the oppressive nature of the 1920s…