To paraphrase the immortal Gil Scott-Heron: The Revolution will not be on Netflix. ESPN, maybe, but not Netflix.
We’re already seeing some remarkable, courageous behavior from athletes in almost every sport, but truth be told, the “jocks” have been “down” for 53 years, but that’s just since I’ve been following them, and courageous athletes go back decades before that.
On the other hand, folks in the entertainment industry all seem to be WAP-whipped and are tuned out, spinning their wheels trying to get on TMZ, trying to get photo shoots so they can show off their beautiful bodies in super-revealing bikinis, plunging neckline blouses, and skirts split up to their belly buttons. The 24-7 Hollyweird bacchanal has corrupted the morals and the vision for all but a notable few celebrities.
As tantalizing as their adventures appear to be, they are simply decadent distractions. Game shows, boats and pools and fancy houses and nonstop glitz has corrupted, even the hip-hop community to where it’s hardly recognizable from the time of Public Enemy and Tupac Shakur.
The athletes, though, are as serious as a heart attack. From Bubba Wallace leading the march in NASCAR, of all places, to LeBron James rising in stature to the pinnacle that Muhammad Ali once occupied alone.
When Wallace took his stand, his entire industry — the most Dixie-fied in sports — stood with him. They banned the popular Confederate flag, folks draped race cars with Black Lives Matter paraphernalia.
The NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball, tennis shero Naomi Osaka all canceled games — playoff games in some instances — to take a stand against the rampant, wrongful murder of innocent Black people by Ku Klux Kops all over the country. Bravo. Something to cheer for.
And just think, just four years ago, Colin Kaepernick was mocked and scorned, and the Super Bowl quarterback couldn’t even get a job as a backup. This summer, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a mea culpa of sorts, admitting that he was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier” on racial injustice issues, though he didn’t mention Kaep by name. He did say, now if a team wanted him, he would be welcome back in the league.
My own journalism career took off when I was in a program for high school sports reporters. The Hearst-owned Los Angeles Examiner sponsored what it called the Scholastic Sports Association (SSA), and we did everything for high school games on a page printed in the daily paper that the professional journos did for colleges and the pros.
The SSA persuaded a friendly American Legion post to send me to California Boys’ State in the summer before my senior year, and they gave me a princely $100 scholarship when I graduated, although some members with better academic records than mine got scholarships to Harvard and Dartmouth.
When I went on to Los Angeles City College, I was sports editor of the school paper, The Collegian, and I wrote a column called “HNIC.” I told our clueless, geriatric journalism adviser that it stood for “Head Newsman In Charge.”
But when I transferred to San Jose State University, the school with the best journalism program in the California system, a place which also had one of the nation’s most envied athletic programs in place, I put sports journalism down after my first day in class. The chairman of the J-Department at SJS was the distinguished Dr. Dwight Bentel. He said he gave the same lecture on the first day of school every year, about why he stopped covering sports, and I was convinced on the spot to forsake sports reporting myself. I don’t regret that choice.
But in 1968, led by Dr. Harry Edwards, a champion athlete and scholar, a movement grew among athletes all over the country out of frustration about South Africa’s apartheid team, and an all-white U.S. Olympic Committee, and other issues, and there was a national call to boycott the Olympic Games. Lew Alcindor, the great basketball star at UCLA, was among the prominent athletes to boycott, but my schoolmates Tommie Smith and John Carlos — who won the gold and bronze medals in record time in the 200 meters — did not boycott.
Those two went on to give the iconic, black-gloved, raised-fist (the Original Wakanda) salute during the national anthem in Mexico City, and the rest is history.
The athletes — Muhammad Ali, baseball player Curt Flood — have always stood up, and though I don’t regret not being a sports reporter, I salute the athletic players. The Hollyweird players, not so much.
Which leads me to my confident conclusion today: The Revolution will not be on Netflix … ESPN maybe, but not Netflix, glamour girls and boys.