Dr. Boyce: Black, Athletic and Proud to be Ignorant


I received a phone call from a friend of mine who teaches elementary school. She told me that she’d spent the week excited about the fact that some college basketball players were coming to her school to eat lunch with the kids. She thought that her inner city students would gain from the chance to be mentored by the men they saw on TV.

Was she ever wrong. The men who came to her school left a less-than-favorable impression: Their chopped up speaking skills made her wonder if they’d gotten past a fifth grade reading level, some of them didn’t even know if they were Juniors or Seniors in college, and most of them barely knew their major (which was usually General Studies or one of those other “interesting” majors that happen to be chosen by half the basketball team).

As my friend described her situation, I thought about how far too often, collegiate athletics becomes nothing more than a virtual wasteland for African American men. Stuck on hoop dreams that will never materialize, many of these men throw away any chance or desire to obtain a meaningful education, and simultaneously buy into a culture of self-indulgent, counter-productive behavior that ends up making some of them almost worthless to our community.

You know the behavior I’m talking about, which is driven by commercialized hip-hop (that’s why rappers and athletes love to roll together): “I got many hoes,” “pass the weed n*gga,” “Shawty, I ain’t been to class in like two weeks”….that type of stuff.   Rather than the strong black man who leads his family and community, these men are encouraged to become the weed-smoking, pistol-poppin, club-strollin, woman-gettin playa who grows old sittin in his girlfriend’s living room in his drawz playing Xbox all day…..how deep they fall into the stereotype just depends on how much of the cultural kool-aid they choose to drink.

What’s so interesting about this behavior is that it is in stark contrast to the way these men line up like soldiers on their chosen academic plantations, running offensive schemes to precision, practicing their hearts out and displaying Einstein-like brilliance as they master complicated playbooks that are 200 pages thick. They are managed like well-trained circus animals, working to the bone to fill the coffers of an athletic overseer who stands to earn millions from the team’s next bowl-game or Final Four appearance.

Of course I’m not talking about every college athlete. Some athletes understand the game of life, and are protected from the desire to sell their soul for someone else’s economic dream. They understand the value in being both athletic and intelligent, and look forward to their futures as strong husbands and fathers.

But most of us know the brothers who “just don’t get it.” These are the men who, like pigs being led to slaughter, have bought into a lifestyle that is going to lead to their demise and the destruction of everything they love. Some of them end up in prison, some end up getting shot at a club during a “fight wit dat n*gga who was talking sh*t,” and even more end up as unemployed, uneducated, washed-up ex-NBA wannabes seeking out dead fantasies in the bottom of a bottle.

Is the NCAA partially to blame for this? Absolutely. They seem a lot more concerned when a player affects their revenue stream than they are about that player being educated or fairly compensated. But are our men to blame as well? Most definitely – in life, some of us are victims and some of us are volunteers.  The players are just as happy as their coaches to sign the lopsided contracts that give away nearly all of their labor and educational rights in exchange for a little “shine,” “swag,” and “ballerability.”

Even in prostitution, there are some situations where both the pimp and the hoe are happy with the arrangement. Collegiate athletics is the perfect pimp-hoe prototype and it makes me incredibly sad.  Perhaps one day we will wake up and smell the exploitation.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and the founder of ALARM, the Athlete Liberation Academic Reform Movement.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.



Filed under African Americans

8 responses to “Dr. Boyce: Black, Athletic and Proud to be Ignorant

  1. At present we can witness the ‘downfall’ of Terrell Owens who thought his physical prowess would win over his ‘uppity’ attitude. He’s now ‘broke’ & involved w/ an indoor football team. Chad Ochocinco, who changed his last name from Evans, is getting ready to deal w/ some issues due to an injury. Indeed, I think it’s the responsibility of the professional & collegiate organizations to see to it that the players are informed, grounded & financially aware so that they can be all around professional sports players. In the meantime “40 Million Dollar Slaves” should be required readings for all Black athletes.

  2. Renelda Moorehead

    Gee, Dr. Watkins, You are quite proficient in street parlance. This is a
    terrific article. I didn’t know this was still going on. I thought we had gotten
    pass this dumb athlete image in 2012.. It is sad. But like the pimp-hoe simile, maybe these athletic slaves are happy with their masters on the sports plantation IF it is a voluntary situation. I do take issue with you on, “…in
    life, some of us are victims and some are VOLUNTEERS.” O nly an aberrated
    person would VOLUNTEER to be victimized. The word, VOLUNTEER has a POSITIVE connotation. But used in your article, it is negative. I take umbrance
    at your usage of that precious word, as I have been a volunteer in community and hospitals and politically over a period of fifty plus years. That’s personal./ Back to the article, I question who vetted these prospective mentors to be role models at your friend’s school? It certainly speaks to the impact of televison on this particular teacher. “She thought that her inner city students would gain from the chance to be mentored by these men they
    saw on TV.” This teacher must be very naive. Would she have invited Flavor Flave? He’s a famous black man on TV. I am very concerned about the kinds of teachers teaching at our inner-city schools these days.
    All in all, some folks don’t realize they are being taken advantage of, that’s
    why they ARE victims. But once made aware, and they continue in the same pattern of behavior, they definitely have a problem. Self-loathing, more
    than likely is the issue. As for pimps and hoes? I’ve never met a happy hoe or pimp. Have you?

  3. Renelda Moorehead


  4. WizardG

    In order for us to understand ourselves we must have a solid base in which to begin. We were deprived of a solid base the moment our ancestors were attacked and herded up to slave ships. The long string of time has not made our lives much more complete but the environment that we have matriculated into has caused most of us to slip further into the abyss. We were not prepared for Americanization the way foreigners are prepared for their trip to America. We were not prepared for education the way Asian children are prepared to hit the books. We were conditioned to believe in and work like slaves, in this a system which enslaved our ancestors, and we have been constantly split apart as a family and community structure! Many of our parents still today never received college education and many generations have been purposely attacked, drugged, murdered, and driven into poverty, military life or prisons.

    Today the majority of African Americans are still unprepared to live within this overly racist white-dominant society, but of course some of us are lucky, rare, and fortunate enough to have had all of the right combinations fall into place for our success. What many who have succeeded do with their success is also relative to the disenfranchisement and quiet attack on our African American or “black” community. You can’t blame people who were never prepared, or who’s parents were unprepared etc. You can’t blame a people who can’t even see that the religious beliefs they hold dear, are not theirs! If you don’t want to blame the real culprits of our continued dispair, the least you could do is not blame those who have been victimized and abused by this system since day one! The problems aren’t a matter of just the athletes, it’s the whole structure which is at fault. A social structure which is bold enough to train us (some of us) to believe that we are to blame for what they do to us. If that isn’t reverse psychology I don’t know what is!

  5. Maybe your teacher friend should give a copy of your letter to all players of sports,(black players) in colleges.The rest of us should use every chance we are with a player to a teachable moment,a few may wake up and see the light.

  6. nojokester

    is that new? will the volunteers ,PLEaSE STAND up. and raise your hands in the air like ya just don’t care/

  7. Fred Fred

    “Dumb” Ballers & the NCAA (and many others): A Perfect Match
    Dr. Boyce, noting much has changed and you know it!
    The old adage used by many whites “strong backs and weak minds” is still true today. What we are simply dealing with are very weak minds and strong backs that represent the physical labor used to produce billions in revenue and profits for the various versions of today’s slave masters – NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLM, Rap Music Industry et. al.
    Your teacher just saw the raw version most of us don’t see as we sit on our couches with the remote control in one hand and a beer in the other. It’s all about marketing to make billions!
    I just finished watching the Super Bowl. Like many, I really don’t enjoy sports the way I used to the way most folk do today.
    For me, sports is just a highly concentrated form of “jungle juice” that so many mommas feed their children as such young ages – it is cheap, produces a very quick sugar-high rush, tastes good and has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever.
    What does jungle juice have to do with today’s dumb ballers, the NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, Rap Music industry, Basketball Wives, Atlanta Housewives, BET and other forms of modern day buffoonery you ask? Oh, I am happy you asked.
    Little Black boys (and girls as well) are most easily taught at very early ages when they are most impressionable.
    Think about the old adage “if you don’t know your history . . .
    OK, with that said, a little history lesson here to explain what is STILL happening to our young Black boys:
    In a historical context in a major European country: “Boys were taught from a young age that “certain” ideologies were the sole truth and “certain people” are the sole authority. They were trained to become “violently active, dominating, brutal youth . . . indifferent to pain, without weakness and tenderness.” It was believed that a person (today’s Black and brown people – mostly male) who was less educated, but more physically healthy was of more value to the movement (today’s corporate élite) than someone who was intellectually strong but physically weak. This rugged and mindless type of individual was considered to be the ideal candidate to forge into a tool for conquest and domination.”
    Get the message? Now, back to jungle juice. Too often – but not always – the same dumb Black athletes you refer to, were raised on jungle juice, just ask them.
    In essence, in very poor living conditions, often in the ghetto (physically or mentally) and without a lot of resources. More importantly, with a systemic goal to create as many physically strong bodies and mentally weak minds as possible and as described above, these homes most efficiently (and intentionally) exist without a very solid hard-working Black father in the household leading the way.
    Survival was simply the norm and almost exclusively in the form of the lowest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, NEVER Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem & Self-Actualization.
    With all of this being the horrid case, who is teaching our little Black boys and girls today? Increasingly, it is a critical mass of very poor (morally, spiritually, mentally, psychotically and financially) Black women who are at the edge of our society. THIS if from whence many of our “dumb ballers” come.
    Yup! In the words of Pogo: We Have Met The Enemy, And It Is Us!
    Yes, the “system” still exists. The ONLY escape is on our own thru Self-Actualization. However, such cannot happen with the current “war” between Black women and Black men – often, a war ON Black men. As long as the war continues, the system will always be supplied with a steady stream of “strong backs and weak minds” fed jungle juice starting at a very young age.
    Black women, WAKE UP! YOUR REAL STRENTH is the same strength as the strength of your ancestors from Africa – in your Black men as leaders of your family!
    Rather than just ranting like so many and not providing a solution: MEMORIZE FIRST then BEGIN TO LIVE BY Proverbs 31: 10-31 found at: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+31%3A10-31&version=KJV.

  8. Tyrone

    @Dr. Watkins

    I see collegiate and professional sports as a neo-plantation that creates billions in wealth for rich whitemen and their families/communities. Just because blackmen volunteer to play ball, doesn’t negate the fact that it’s slavery by any other name. As you stated in the post, the powers that be take advantage of poor, inner-city blackwomen who don’t want their black sons to be a statistic. This is the starting point for all of this insanity. The NCAA, NFL, NBA, and MLB have a constant stream of urban black males to fatten their pockets. They want blackmen to play ball for them, but, the nerdy brothas need not apply. Blackmen in sports is racial baggage from the Black Power Movement. We wanted to best whitemen athletically, and we have done that. As expected, whitemen flip the script. They get to lay back and watch us entertain them for their benefit. We get the broken bones, they get the dollars…It’s Crazy!

    We don’t need any more athletes, got plenty of those. Other races of men have their own economic infrastructuure, except us. We fall further and further behind every year. I’m afraid for our people, our minds are elsewhere.

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