March Madness and the Black Male Athlete in America

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

As March Madness approaches, millions of people across America will be glued to their TV sets in order to witness the amazing athleticism of college athletes from a plethora of universities. Many, if not most of the leading athletes we see on the court will be African American, and it’s not uncommon to see a game where all 10 of the guys on the court are black. Black athletes stand out in college basketball and football primarily because of all the little LeBron James wannabes in the hood, some of whom will never grow to be more than six feet tall.

Many black athletes take what some consider to be the ultimate gamble: trading in nearly all of their educational opportunities in exchange for a lottery ticket that only goes to one man out of a thousand. It’s not a wise trade, to be sure. It is also part of the skewed reality of little black boys influenced by media that is obsessed with black male athletic prowess. Images of Carmelo Anthony tattooed from head-to-toe, standing next to Amare Stoudemire after being traded to the New York Knicks serve as fuel to the fire of hoop dreams that typically end up turning into nightmares. Hip-hop culture, mixed with mass marketing of African American athletes, has created a community where every black boy wants to dribble a basketball, throw a football, or bust rhymes for a living.

 

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