Who’s next, because representation matters

Who’s next, because representation matters
September 15
15:15 2021

In sports leagues like the NFL and NBA, there is no shortage of heroes for young African American children to look up to who look like them. But for other leagues, especially individual sports like tennis and golf, there are not as many and with question marks looming for the careers of legends like Tiger Woods and Serena Williams, who is next to pick up the mantle in those sports?

Representation matters a lot to young Black children. When they can see someone of their race doing something they would like to do, it helps them visualize their goals even more. Because the NBA and NFL are over 70% African American, young Black kids have many players to choose from to emulate and idolize. The same can’t be said for other leagues.

As a teenager, I remember the emergence of Woods into the world of golf. Up until that point, I had never seen a Black man compete at a high level in that sport. Yes, there were a few minority players, but none who looked like me and that was a major reason why I rarely looked at the sport outside of what I saw on ESPN’s SportsCenter broadcast.

Once Woods began to take over the sport in the latter part of the 1990s, my interest in golf began rising as well. I found myself watching more and more tournaments on television and even began to take golf lessons on the weekends. I went as far as having my parents buy me clubs for Christmas so that I could go to the driving range and course more often to play.  

All of that was due to the influence of Tiger and me thinking that I could one day play on the PGA Tour, all because I saw another Black face on television doing the same thing. Woods suffered serious injuries during a tragic car wreck earlier this year, so it’s not certain if he will ever again play on the tour.

I am saddened by the fact that there have not been any other Black male golfers that have come onto the PGA Tour and had success at a high level. I know there are not a lot of golf courses in urban neighborhoods and coupled with the high cost of the game, it isn’t that surprising. I do know that more African Americans have picked up the game since Woods; let’s just hope there is a young player in the youth ranks that can win a major or two in the future.

Similar to Woods, the Williams’ sisters did the same thing for women’s tennis. They took the tennis world by storm with their phenomenal play on the court, as well as their trademark hair beads.

I am not sure if the Williams’ sisters had young ladies flocking to the tennis courts like Woods did for weekend golfers, but I know for a fact they brought more eyeballs to the women’s tour. Both of the Williams’ sisters are great, but Serena is in a class by herself. She is arguably the best player, male or female, of all time.

I remember seeing young Black girls mimicking the Williams’ sisters’ hairstyle and applauding them for their play and choice of outfits. Serena has won 23 Grand Slam titles, one behind Margaret Court for the most all-time.  

The effect the Williams’ sisters have had on the game is apparent. Unlike golf, women’s tennis has seen several young Black women come into the sport of tennis and play very well. Coco Gauff and Sloane Stevens are two of the more high-profile Black women on tour and Stevens has even won a Grand Slam title (2017 U.S. Open). 

Even though she represents Japan, Naomi Osaka’s father is Haitian, so in many people’s eyes, she is Black. Regardless, she is the best female player on the tour and at 23 years of age, she has already won four Grand Slam titles. Once again, it matters to young girls to see someone who looks like them excelling at a sport like tennis. That will do nothing but continue to attract more and more minority women to the sport of tennis, which is a great thing in my opinion.

Other athletes such as Bubba Wallace are also breaking barriers that may hopefully bring more Black kids to a sport that they traditionally don’t participate in. Wallace is on the NASCAR Cup Series and drives the No. 23 car for 23XI Racing, as well as drives part-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Spencer Davis Motorsports.

While Wallace has not won a race in either series, he has finished second at the Daytona 500 in 2018 and third in the Brickyard 400 in 2019.  NASCAR has initiated several youth programs, along with partnerships with several HBCUs, so hopefully the sport continues to catch on with the Black community in the future. Representation matters.

I know some people may not agree with highlighting achievements made by Black people and other minorities, because they say we should be celebrating them as human beings, or whatever their reasoning is. What they fail to realize is that the minority community has been marginalized in certain aspects of sports for so long, it needs to be highlighted so that those young people who dream of becoming that sports star one day, can see that it is a possibility.

That is why it is so important that we continue to have representation in non-traditional sports such as golf, tennis, soccer, swimming and even lacrosse.  I am not sure when this country will become equal for all, so that we won’t have to point out achievements made by Black people and other minorities.  Representation matters.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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