The idea of the black athlete has transformed over the past century. No longer seen as the zoo exhibit or the threat to society, attitudes have “shifted”. More and more, the black athlete has been “accepted” into society. Rather than being terrorized, many are either legendary (Michael Jordan) or celebrated (Muhammad Ali). Thus, I would be remiss to ignore the difference between the attitudes of today and yesteryear.

Yet, I’m not satisfied.

My dissatisfaction exists because these same athletes that have found a form of comfort within the lexicon of society have to deal with racial marginalization. There, I said it: black athlete success has done little to squelch racism in any form. Instead, it has shifted to passive-aggressive commentary, off-hand labeling, and high time criticism. In contrast, many people think that these observations are a reach. It is almost as if much of white America (and even some Black people) wants the black athlete to accept their actions and feel blessed to be in the positions they are in.

But, a blessing isn’t a blessing when it comes with a curse.

The Bad Will Always Outweigh the Good of the Black Athlete

Once the Black athlete has gotten into trouble, there will be very little forgiveness or letting bygones be bygones. And no other better example is that of Michael Vick.

Don’t believe me? Peep this excerpt from an article written by Emile Pierce:

Vick is a professional. He will have no problem preparing for the game. The question is, how will the fans receive him? Since his involvement in dogfighting, Mike has been the poster boy for animal activists. Some Steelers fans were so adamant about their refusal to forgive and forget, they stopped following the team. USA Today carried an article that contained a petition to keep Michael Vick off the team. [1]

It should sound an alarm when there is a petition carried out against Michael Vick being on a football team over dog fighting. Seriously, though: I’m not sure Ben Rothlisberger faced this much scrutiny for being a male chauvinist. Yet, people want to throw Vick out to the wolves for something he actually paid for with prison time and financial loss? Seems extreme if you ask me.

Even Black Athlete Greatness is Hated

Cam Newton has led the Carolina Panthers to a perfect 14-0 season as I type this. And it’s not just the defense of the football team kicking ass. Cam has garnered three seasons of at least 3,000 yards throwing and 500 yards rushing (NFL record). Also, he is the first QB to have thrown for 5 touchdowns and garner 100 yards rushing (another NFL record). To say the least, Cam has been doing his job.

Yet, the man has faced scrutiny because of his dance moves after he scored. Yes, Cam Newton likes to “dab on ‘em”. Yes, Cam Newton likes to “hit dem folks” after a score. And yes, he should celebrate just as much as Travis Kelce celebrated when he “hit the Quan” in the endzone that one time. Oh, let me refresh some memories.

That right there is the proof within the racially thick pudding. Caste system flavored.

Still, I haven’t even touched on the most castigated Black athlete out there being successful: Serena Williams. For years, Serena has dealt with a lot of scrutiny over her prowess, physical stature, or anything else people can find to troll about. For the most part, she has dealt with it with graciousness and professionalism. She has kept her cool and respectable with her actions and comments. Through it all, Serena Williams exhibited behaviors that most would not be capable of.

And then, there is the issue of winning sportsperson of the year.

People wanted to cry “black wolf” as soon as they seen her picture. People didn’t like the picture. People didn’t like her as a choice. Hell, a lot of people wanted a horse to win SPORTSPERSON of the year over a person. Then, there came the truth:

“There has been an anti-Serena element because she didn’t fit the stereotype of the old-fashioned, elegant white female tennis player,” British horseracing broadcaster Brough Scott told CNN. “She was big and muscular and black. Let’s be candid about it, there’s been plenty of that sort of unspoken prejudice against Serena, I’d have thought, over the years.” [2]

And through it all, Serena has remained gracious with it. She even kept it respectful when she accepted her award.

The Black Athlete Marginalization Must Stop

There is no space for the marginalization of the Black athlete. The Black athlete is not going anywhere anytime soon. Yet, it seems that racial attitudes aren’t dissolving either. So, there comes a time when people need to realize that Black people are still people deserving of respect. We deserve our rightful accolades, support, and forgiveness. If people really want racism to end, then they need to treat Black people as equals within all occupations.

‘Nuff Said and ‘Nuff Respect!!!