Overreaction once again to African-American achievement

Overreaction once again to African-American achievement
March 01
07:00 2018

Recently America bore witness to an African-American man finish second in the Daytona 500, the most prestigious race on the NASCAR circuit.  Darrell Wallace Jr. was the first black man to start the Daytona 500 since Wendell Scott in 1969.  Ever since his historic finish pundits around the nation are saying this may open the door for more African-American drivers in the sport, I beg to differ.

Too often when an African-American or minortiy achieves something monumental in a sport outside of ones they are normally associated with, it creates a buzz.  Many times that starts a conversation about the possibility of more minorities taking up that particular sport, but that rarely happens.

Take for instance Tiger Woods.  When Woods took the golfing world by storm in the late 1990s, it made many African-American youth look at the game in a different light.  I can remember many people saying that he will encourage young minorities to pick up the game of golf. 

While Woods has propelled many minority men and women to pick up the game of golf, many of them are just “weekend golfers” who never have the chance of making it to the PGA Tour.  There has not been this mass participation in the sport as many have assumed it would.

Another example is the emergence of P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators in the NHL.  Subban led the Predators to the Stanley Cup Finals last season and once again people began the discussion of more African-Americans playing the sport.

The problem with many of these assertions is that yes, African-Americans and other minorities probably would gravitate to sports such as golf, hockey, soccer and tennis, but they just do not have access.  If you go to many urban neighborhoods, you can find a basketball court or a field to play football.  Many times you don’t need an actual field to play football.

But on the other hand, I rarely find a golf course or country club in urban communities.  There are also not many hockey rinks or tennis courts there, either.  If these children were given access to these facilities, they would definitely shine.

As the Williams sisters in tennis have shown, they do not need the top teachers or trainers to compete in the sport.  All it takes is the necessary skill set and a will to win.

I wish it were true that Wallace’s win would cause an influx of minorities to auto racing, but in reality it just will not.  Until people in those sports focus on bringing more people of color into the fold, the dynamics of those sports will not change.

Even baseball has seen a precipitous dip in African-American participation over the last 30 years or so.  Throughout the 1990s, black kids had the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Albert Belle, Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Tony Gwynn to look up to, just to name a few.  Nowadays there are just a handful of African-American star players, many of which are not household names like they used to be.

My hope for the future is that sports outside of football and basketball focus on including more people of color.  Basketball and football do a great job to marketing to young minorities, which I cannot say about other sports.

If and when access to these other sports becomes readily available to young people of color, it will only be a matter of time before a column like this will be moot.  So next time a sports commentator makes a comment about how a finish like Wallace’s in the Daytona 500 affects the sport, I hope they mention that those sports need to be available to a wider audience.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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