The Incestuous Nature of Professional Sports: No Wonder There Was A Blackout

It certainly appeared like racism in professional sports especially in the ranks of coaches and managers and even to those who call the penalties or balls and strikes. For years the sign “no blacks need apply” was displayed prominently over the door of the teams. It reinforced the idea that “yes blacks can play the sport” although that too was questioned at time but “they don’t have the skill” to manage or coach teams, or even call umpire or referee the sports. As for the position of quarterback, it took the Patriots 56 years before a Black quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, took the first snap under center in 2016. At that point the Giants never had a black starting quarterback.

It was not until 1947 that Jackie Robinson became the first Black player in the modern era in Major League Baseball (MLB). It was not until 1975 that the first Black manager Frank Robinson became Cleveland’s manager.  Today there are two Black managers: Astros manager Dusty Baker and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts. Baker. The percentage of Black players has dropped during this century from 13% down to its present 7.7% although players of color make up 42.5%. There are 10 Hispanic managers in MLB.

The first Black player drafted by the National Football League (NFL) occurred in 1949. It was not until 1989 in the NFL  that the first Black was made a head coach. That was Art Shell. (Back in 1922 there was a Black coach Fritz Pollard who headed the Akron Pros but no other for 77 years.)  Shell was the first one in what we now think of as the NFL. In 2017, we had among the 32 head coaches seven Black coaches. Entering the 2020 season, there are just four. Seventy percent of the players are black.

There are 76 umpires on the Major League Baseball full time staff with only six being Black. There are 122 officials in the NFL. There are thirty-six who are Black.  Of those, four of the seventeen crew chiefs or referees are black.

It is hard not to come to the conclusion that some form of racism is involved in all this. For one thing, there are no Black owners of NFL teams. There are no Black owners in MLB. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has one Black owner, Michael Jackson. That’s one owner among 92 teams.

Yes, but there is also the “old boy network” that combines with the racism that hinders greater participation by Blacks. What made me think of it was a bonehead call in last weeks Jets-Raiders game by the Jets defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. Rex Ryan former Jets head coach said: “Been around the thing for 58 years, 30 years as a coach. That’s the dumbest call ever. There’s a time and place for Cover Zero. That sure ain’t it. It’s just stupid.” Boomer Esiason said: “The fact that Gregg Williams would play that coverage in that situation? It’s almost like the Jets drew that up to lose the game.” Lots of people seem to agree.

Who is this Gregg Williams who did this? He’s an example of everything that is wrong with the NFL and MLB folk washing each others hands. A guy gets fired from one team he hooks on with another. Gregg Williams “was a ringleader in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal, designing and administering a system of payouts to players who injured opponents. He was suspended for a year.”  Oh, and he was hired by the Jets.

That is not all. The 0 – 12 Jets may have an 0 -16 season. No wins, 16 losses. That would put them in the company of the 2008 Detroit Lions and the 2017 Cleveland Browns as the only 0-16 teams in N.F.L. history. Guess who was the defensive coordinator on the 2017 Cleveland Browns. You’re right, it was Gregg Williams.

He once served as head coach and had a 22-34 record (.393). He has been carried on in the league as defensive coordinator by the Tennessee Oilers/Titans; Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams, again with the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns and finally the Jets. Since 2013 every team he was on has had a losing season. How long is a stiff like this carried?

The Jets had enough of him after last week’s game and gave him the boot. How much you want to bet he will be back on another team next year? But Williams is just one tiny example of endlessly keeping, to be generous, marginally competent white guys in positions when there has to be many Black guys who could not do worse.

I guess it was best summed up by this statement: “Rather than trying to gain an edge by banging on garbage cans like neanderthals, perhaps teams should become enlightened enough to rethink the way they hire their managers and their executives.”