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POPSspot Sports Radio welcomes sports icon, activist, and educator Dr. Harry Edwards. He is an Emeritus Professor at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) best known for co-engineering the “Revolt of the Black Athlete” in the late 1960’s that included organizing and leading The Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) which made three central demands, and ultimately evolved into the famous fist protest by John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. In 1971 Edwards earned his Ph.D. from Cornell and became a sociology professor at UC Berkeley. While there he developed the field of race and the sociology of sport.
While best known for his roles in activism, athletics, and the academy (see fuller bio here) fewer are aware that he was born in East St. Louis and grew up not far from where Michael Brown was killed. The interview took place on Monday while I was in Ferguson to view the military trucks, helicopters, canons, and tear gas for myself (when able to see). Part 1 of our interview can also be found in simplest written form at POPSspot.com:
Good evening, good evening. This is Chuck Modiano with POPSspot Sports Radio. POPSspot stands for Power, Oppression and Privilege in Sports and we are delighted today because we have a very, very special guest today. It is Dr. Harry Edwards. We are talking about sports royalty. He is probably most well-known for his organization of the Olympic Project for Human Rights which ultimately resulted in the famous case of John Carlos and Tommie Smith that we all know about today. He is also a renowned sports sociologist when Sports and Sociology did not mix. That was not a term years ago that anyone gave any credence to, where now it is. And I could go on about his resume forever and I think you know his resume, however, what a lot of people do not know is that Dr. Edwards was a native of East St. Louis which I believe is about 25 minutes outside of Ferguson Missouri right across the bridge from St. Louis so we are really pleased to have him and you know get his reaction to Michael Brown. I am here actually in Ferguson Missouri the last couple of days, getting on the ground, look but let me stop right there and Dr. Edwards, how are you today?
I am doing fine. Thank you very much for having me.
Well, thank you so much for being with us and taking time away from... I know you are 4 to 9ers camp and probably ended up getting some NSL predictions for you and just thought some of the 9ers are going but this topic of Michael Brown has been sweeping the nation. I have been getting nonstop coverage. I think that is a good thing, type of coverage we could talk about is certainly more debatable but I just want to open up in general. When you are looking at the situation of Michael Brown, what are your general reactions from what you are seeing in here?
Well my reaction is the same as it was in 1966 when a
12-year-old kid by the name of Tyrone Gaiden was shot off of his bicycle in Oakland, California by police officer and really sparked the creation of the Black Panther Party for self- and defense of the community. I was a member of the Black Panther Party for a period of time when they were providing preschool services, breakfast, hot breakfast for kids who otherwise would have been going to school hungry, after school programs and so forth. So, I have the same reaction today that I have back then, and point of fact, there have been literally countless cases that are the same, the most recent of course being Trayvon Martin, of course you have the gentleman who was supposedly selling loose cigarettes in New York City, two days after the Michael Brown case. There was another young man shot to death in Los Angeles California. So this kind of thing is endemic in point of fact, I do not think there is anybody who is surprised when it happens. It is just that we have not yet figured out a coherent and cohesive, in the sense of everybody getting in together on the solution to resolve the situation.
You have mentioned some history and you refer to Eric Garner's death, who died because of a chokehold by police and he said "I cannot breath, I cannot breath, I did not stop the chokehold". And then after he was lying on the ground, the paramedics were leisurely lying around did not seem be in any sense of urgency and I could tell you from being down here, there has been a lot of Eric Garner talk and talk of not just Michael Brown but this larger problem that you speak of,
Dr. Edwards but you also mentioned history. With a historic, you mentioned Tyrone back in the 60s and sort of the birth of the Black Panther Party. What do you see has changed and has not changed, as you look back from the 60s with regards to police brutality?
Well, there have been a great many things that have changed. No one can deny that. I mean we are sitting here with an African-American family in the White House but the general perception of the human status, the human rights status of African-Americans, I am afraid have not progressed at a phase commissioned with the civil rights gains. We can vote, organized sufficiently to have an African-American family in the White House but when it comes down to the human rights of
African-Americans, I am afraid that those kinds of changes have not penetrated the what are oftentimes entrenched of solid walls of historic tradition in terms of cultural and racial perceptions of black people. I mean, I believe Ph.D., four Super Bowl rings, 32 years on the fact with the University of California in Berkeley, a championship ring with the Florida greatest basketball team, a lecture series named for me at the University of Texas and all of the rest. The only reason that I was not lying on the street where Mr. Brown was lying was because I was not there. I was not in that situation. So, these kinds of things, we have to simply face up to and begin to deal within a very, very fundamental level. This is not a matter of just changing law. This is a matter of changing perceptions, changing parts of man and that is a much, much more difficult challenge even in this
so-called Christian nation.
Right, and you said, you talk about changing perception and hearts and minds, and you know a Washington Post poll came out today, talking about a racial divide and at the time, it said, and I could tell you being here in Ferguson, 100% of the people, no matter what their background and race, that are here believe and know that the reaction to the protest has been too far as far as the police reaction and militarization that we have seen, but, what the poll stated, it showed that only 33% of whites said that the reaction went too far. What do we do about, how do those perception change?
Well, we have got to first begin to deal with some policy issues before we begin to deal with the perception and so forth. Anytime you have the Pentagon as the Defense Department turning over what are essentially military materials to people who for practical purposes are non compos mentis in terms of their demonstrable competence and capability to even frame the problem such as your police chief there in Ferguson, we have a major issue here. Without training, without oversight, without monitoring, these materials, I mean essentially tanks and personnel carriers and other instruments of war with a 30-caliber machine guns manning on top and they are turning these things over to people who for all practical purposes have no training and administrative capability in terms of this war materials. These are not just put in place for use against terrorist attack. I do not think Ferguson is in line or have value target in terms of a terrorist attack. Even if you are going after drug dealers, you would not go in with tanks and 30-caliber machine guns and armored personnel carries. So, we have a major issue in that regard and in point of fact, the Pentagon and the Defense Department are turning these materials over to some 1700 law enforcement agencies across this country without monitoring, without training, without oversight then the National Rifle Association which has been the traditional bogeyman and bad guy in terms of the proliferation of weapons in a country where you have 300 million firearms in the hands of a 180 million people armed against themselves, the Defense Department and the Pentagon make the National Rifle Association looked like a mom and pop, five-and-dime selling BB guns, the kids might shoot at us. I mean, so, we have to look at some very fundamental things here. Why would the Police Department in Ferguson have access to that type of weaponry which is in roll out, unmonitored, unsupervised, untrained against citizens who are exercising their right to protest for their rights? There is something fundamentally wrong with that and it goes all the way up to the top in this country.
It sure does and there is a whole lot there to upackers as far as the militarization of the police force and how that happened. I was there. I got my first taste of that life and I actually and what I can tell you from perspective on the ground is that if there was a lot of love and there was a lot of peace and there were people from all over the world, monks over there and there was a lot of peaceful assembly and almost at 9:00 p.m. like a light switch, everything changed. Gas mask went on and then when tear gas came out, it was something that almost anybody have to see for themselves to realize and there was not whole lot going on there. So what will we have to do to stop this militarization of the police force?
Well, I think that United States Congress has to hold hearings and find out under what offices these weapons of war are being distributed and disseminated to local police departments where they are mostly likely to be used not against terrorists or drug traffickers invading the country but against the citizens of the very communities that are paying the salaries of the police officers who are going to be charged with using them and you know I came home from camp and I just happened to turn on the news and when I saw this, I guess it was Wednesday of last week when the first time they rolled them out. I thought that I was looking at something going on in Syria or Iraq, you know, but I say, wow! I said, I guess the President decided to put booths on the ground over there after all and then all of a sudden, I looked up and they are using tear gas and I know that going back to the Vietnam War that gas has been outlawed by the Geneva Convention and I said well Barack would not drop, would not go into using teargas and I kind of stopped and that is when it dawned on me. It was not Syria, it was not Iraq, it was Afghanistan, it was Ferguson, Missouri and the targets were American citizens and than to me is absolutely appalling.
Absolutely, and you know last night it felt like it went from Woodstock to Baghdad as you said. And you know, as we take a look at the police and then we could take a look at one of the militarization of police, what can you be seen on as far as regular people, what they can do to help combat this police brutality throughout the nation? What can the common person do?
Well, I think the first thing we have to understand is that especially in a diversified... without the law, we have nothing. Without the law, we have absolutely nothing. It turns into a situation of savage against barbarian, of the powerful against the powerless. It turns into a situation of doggy dog, unrestricted, without restraints or consideration of anybody's humanity. So the first thing we have to understand, is that we are a nation of laws and irrespective of how far out of kilter, anyone sector of this society might become, we still have to abide by laws but that has to be a commitment on the part of everybody, that we are not going to assault each other. We are not going to kill each other. We are not going to throw bombs at each other in order to deal with our civic and civil and political problems. The second thing that has to happen is that there must be a greater responsibility exercised by those who are in charged of these various oversight committees who are in charged of these various materials and so forth, that our tax money paid for. You cannot turn around and give these kinds of materials to untrained people whose basic commitment and understandings are limited to say the least. So, I think with the development of local leadership coordinating with national leadership, we can begin to make some inroads into at least settling the situation down. Until we get to that point, where we can at least agree that in the face of all of this, the only thing that we have to enforce is the law, then we are going to continue to have problems.
Okay, okay. Absolutely, absolutely and then turn on the attention to any background of part of that second. I could not agree more and I guess, well I want to ask you is -- you know, this is obviously a bit of a national epidemic, all over, but is there any insight that you could talk a little bit about, that you can give us in -- well for me St. Louis, I do know if it is in St. Louis, about Ferguson, but you know it is not far off too, you once crossed the bridge in Ferguson. Do you have any thoughts of the local area that you could think back to in your childhood growing up and could you tell us a bit about you in St. Louis?
Oh absolutely, I mean, I was born in St. Louis, at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, which had been torn down since. But I was born in St. Louis. I grew up in St. Louis and we were always admonished. If you go to St. Louis, catch the bus. Do not drive. Do not stand around on the streets too long. Get in and get out because they are very hostile toward young black men in St. Louis. I mean, we were told that, growing up and I had several friends who were shot and killed by police in St. Louis for chasing cars with intent to steal and that kind of a situation and nothing ever came over. They were just young dead black man. I mean that was simply the way that the situation was handled. So, there is not a lot that has really changed in that regard, again, because our pursuit of civil rights has left behind some broad areas of deep rooted injustice in terms of our human rights and of course even though in the civil rights movement, there were people who are very much concerned about it, much more concerned about human rights than civil rights, people like Malcolm X, most certainly James Baldwin and Maya Angelou, a number of other people spoke very dramatically and eloquently about the human rights issue of African-Americans in this country to the point of making plans and organizing to take the United States before the United Nations over this issue. And by the way, the Secretary General of the United Nations spoke to the issue in Ferguson as the case of human rights, that we should be very cognizant of, I believed it was this morning. So, these problems are longstanding. They go back to the time when I was growing up in East St. Louis and I am 72 years old, so this is a longstanding issue, not just in that area, not in just Ferguson, not just in East St. Louis, not just in the Midwest but all over this country, from grand mamas being bitten down on the side of the highway by a highway patrolman in California to a young man being shot while walking through a housing development who have ice tea and Skittles in Florida, coast to coast, we have a major human rights issue when it comes to African-Americans in this country.
We absolutely do and you know, you, historically, are probably most known for the Olympic Human Rights Project.
Right, and that preceded the famous 1968 Olympics. I know, originally, there was to be a boycott and I am wondering what was that about your upbringing? Coming up and maybe some of those interactions that led you, in you childhood, to be the leader of the Olympic Human Rights Project.
Well, it was a combination of things. No one ever knows fully all of the facts that influenced them and the trajectory of their life, to take a particular path, but I was part of that really first generation that en masse integrated, the high school in East St. Louis, the East St. Louis' Senior High School in 1957 and it became very, very clear to me in fairly short order that had absolutely no idea of what to do with us once we integrated the high school. The civil rights situation said that separate but equal was done and we could go to the high school but the human rights situation in terms of the caliber and quality of the education that we received was not really part of the equation, and not because they were vindictive or set out to do harm, they simply had no idea how to deal with... educate, within the context of... and develop demands of young black kids coming from an entirely different culture. What you got, you got on your own. And there were people who were a lot brighter than I was who came from a better family background than I did, who never really developed to their full potential. And a great deal of it I laid to the fact that, yeah we integrated the school but the school in terms of educational situation was never integrated sufficiently to deal with the needs, the aspirations, the interest, the orientations, the cultural backgrounds and so forth of the black kids that were brought in. So a lot of kids simply fell by the wayside. By the time I got to college, I found that this was not just an issue with regard to a newly integrated high schools, it was an issue with regard to the integrated colleges and universities even those that offered me athletic scholarships. They wanted our athletic participations but in terms of our thorough and total integration and total culture of the college or university that we represented, that was simply not happening. And so, whatever I had left in terms of not being alienated by the time I left high school that was completely wiped out with my college experience. So, I never really was in a situation where I have to change. I simply had to deal with the issues that I was confronted with and athletics was no exception. There was that old saying that is not the color of your skin, or your background and so forth that matters, only how well you play the game. Well, I found that to be absolutely not the case and when I raised the issue of why should we play where we cannot work. If you do not respect us enough to hire as coach why are we playing here? They looked at me like I was insane. Why would raise a question like that? Of course we are not going to hire a black coach. And so this is where the whole movement took off, because I think if you understand the issues and you are perceptive of the issues, you have a responsibility to do something, to make it better for the next generation coming along. And of course now, we have black coaches in most sports nowhere near. I think what should be there but we do have that opportunity, that chance.
Well absolutely Dr. Edwards and you know, you have also been in the university as a professor in the last number of years and you mentioned about the integration on campus, talking of education in a similar vein as a human rights issue as you on the Criminal Justice. What progress have you seen in the educational level about making African-American athletes more comfortable both academically and socially on the campus?
Well, in point of fact, there has been some but nowhere near what is required. We have to understand that these circumstances are diverse and dynamic. They are ever-changing and there are no final victories. I mean, Jackie Robinson was not a final victory, most certainly, Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, all best, all of the great works that they did over the course of their careers as both athletes and political activists did not resolve all issues, not even African-American family in the White House is a final victory. There are no final victory. So when you ask me about how much progress has been made in terms of the circumstances of the African-American athlete, we have to understand that progress is one of those concepts that is a lot like history, it is a lot like prophets, it really comes down to who is keeping the books and when you look at all of the claims of tremendous progress and so forth and so on, there has been change, but change and progress can oftentimes be too entirely different things. People who are traditionally excluded and oppressed tend to look at any concession, any steps forward, as simply a single step. Those who are responsible for the oppression or responsible for the situation tend to look at any step forward as the final steps. So a lot of people though that once Jackie Robinson, so called broke the color line in baseball, that hey, that was it, you know, that was the final step. We are through with this, this race problem. A lot of people thought that the Civil Rights Bill and the Voting Rights Act were the final solution. This is the final time we will have to deal with this. We are in a post racial society and nothing could be further from the truth but if you listen to the people who oftentimes keep the books that is what they will tell you. So when you ask me what are the circumstances of African-American athletes today relative to the 1960s, I would say we have accomplished some things. We got some things done. We most certainly eliminated the question of whether there were inequities in sports in terms of such things as coaching opportunities, run off for the opportunities, the opportunity to play quarterback in middle and back in all these kinds of issues but in the context of today's challenges, there is a heck of a lot of work to be done and it generally runs parallel to the kinds of challenges that we have in society more generally.
Absolutely and you know, I know you said earlier, you know, the first, front and center that we have to deal with the problem at legal level, institutional level, the militarization level and there are so many people responsible within leadership and I ask this question hesitantly because you get it all the time. It is the role to the athlete question. I say hesitant because you are not the first person that I know that everyone should be looking to but you did not something that you are very well-known for in the 60s in consolidating this power, or popular power. We have seen in the last week or so, many actors come out and speak out. We have seen some musicians come out and speak out forcefully just opposed to that the sports world has been largely quite. What is your reaction to that?
Well, I think that -- you know I am one of those people who is absolutely optimistic. I think that every generation finds his voice of eventually in terms of the struggle, not because they want to, but because, they do not have any options. My generation in the 1960s coming on the heels of Jackie Robinson and his struggle for access, I had no option. We have to way to struggle for dignity and respect, just as Jackie had the way the struggle for him, access on the heels of Jesse Owens and Joe Louis and Jack Johnson struggling for legitimacy. Just to prove that they could function on the world's largest stage in terms of athletic competence and capabilities. People do not remember this but at one time there was a deep-rooted cultural sentiment in American society and in point of fact in western world, that people of color, especially black people were physically, morally, athletically and intellectually incapable of high levels of athletic production and participation. Well, Jessie Owens and Jack Johnson and Joe Louis and Paul Robeson disproved that. Well, then once you have established that, now you must gain access which is what Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby and Kenny Washington and Woody Strode in football and a number of people in basketball did and then we have to struggle for dignity and respect. So this generation will find its voice. I think that I was elated at the (inaudible) made by professional basketball players in particular, some football players over the Trayvon Martin thing, most certainly Donald Sterling statement, that fiasco and the commitment of a number of teams of athletes in NBA to say we are not playing. We are not going to play against the Clippers if he is on it. I was extremely elated about that and they will find their voices in terms of this madness as well. I do not give up on them. I do not think that simply because they do not speak up when we -- we think they should speak up, it does not mean that they are not going to speak up at all and the chances are when they do speak up we will not see it coming, nobody saw Smith and Carlos coming, nobody saw Muhammad Ali coming and nobody saw me coming for that matter but as the 60s the rolled out, there we all worse. So I have tremendous faith in the athletes of these generations, black, white and otherwise that they will find their voice in terms of the struggle. Every generation has, why would this one be in a different. Some people say well, they are making so much money. Well you cannot put in a thing more on the line than everything which is what Bill Russell did, which is what Jim Brown did, which is what Smith and Carlos did, which is what Muhammad Ali did, he put everything on the line. And once you put everything on the line that is the same whether you are making those a 100 million or whether you are making 50,000. You put everything on the line then that speaks to the struggle that you are committed to. So I have no loss of faith at all in this generation. It is just a matter of time and when they do speak up, they will be right on time, even though some of us may think that is related.
Well, you know, I think that is great point. When you make 50,000 or however many million if everyone is putting on the line, probably if everyone who made 50,000 put it on the line we would see some incredible change as well. So, and I really appreciate your contact and I just wanted to -- you know get a little, maybe, to what you are doing these days, how about the 49ers. You have a quarterback there Colin Kaepernick who expressed his dislike about being the way he is often portrayed in the media as well, imagery. So, he has a couple questions, one on media imagery and wants to try the 49ers is doing. But do you believe a lot of the media imagery, we see through sports that are negative towards athletes of color plays the role within what happens on the ground from the criminal justice point of view and other points? Do you still...
Well, absolutely. The villainization, criminalization, marginalization, dehumanization of the African-American male is a longstanding and deeply rooted in American society and I have never been surprised when they went after athletes, black athletes because they are the model and image of black masculinity in American society even more or so than military figures are, people who are successful in business and government and so forth. The Le Bron James is bigger than President Barack Obama and so we have to recognize that they are going to come under attack. This idea that we made so much progress, somebody, when I made that point a couple of months ago, somebody called into a radio show, I was on and said, well if that is the case then how can you say that when we have black quarterbacks, when people have change enough where they will allow us to have black quarterbacks? Well, we have to understand is that the black quarterbacks did not come about as a change as a result of a change of heart, in terms of perceptions of black athletes who wanted to play quarterback. The black quarterback came about as the result of defenses that kept crippling up this party and $50 million pocket passes who could move around in the pockets but did not have escape abilities. So the very thing that they held against black quarterbacks, well they are athletes playing quarterback not quarterbacks became all of a sudden an asset. What gave of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson and Cam Newton and these black quarterbacks was not a change of heart in terms of the perception of black male, it was Charles Haley and Reggie White and Michael Strahan and Lawrence Taylor, they gave us the black quarter back because they kept crippling up these pocket passes and the man finally understood, hey, I cannot have $50 million, but this is not while we are losing games on the field. We got to get somebody now who cannot only move in the pocket but who has escape capability. And so all of a sudden they began paying Michael Vick $100, 000, 000, Collin Kaepernick, $100, 000, 000. Now these other great black quarterbacks, it was the black artist that gave us the black quarterback just as surely as the lion gave the antelope the speed. So again, it was one of those situations where you are going to have a black quarterback but they are going to continue to be maligned and condemned because that is the tag towards young black males in American society and if it can happen to Colin Kaepernick, if it can happen to Cam Newton, and you know if it can to some of these other black athletes then it can happen most certainly to the guy in the community and the guy in the street and that is the message that is being dispersed here. So we have to simply understand that we are all in the same boat and nobody is going anywhere that everybody do not go in the road, it really does not matter whether you are a multimillion dollar black quarterback making tens of millions of dollars or whether you or young brother trying to struggle in whole body and soul to get on shining shoes down at the __33:09__. We are all in the same boat and it does not make a difference whether you ran first class of spirit. If it goes down, we all are going down.
Well, it is still indefinite and it is a whole lot there on imagery and media. You're on top, you're in the line of camp, you're one, Richard Sherman, dogged all away from going to the Super Bowl, you're asked to go into the Super Bowl, how is everything going in camp? What's it going to take to overcome that Richard Sherman hat?
Well, I will tell you one thing, it does not make a difference on what you did last year. One game away from going to the Super Bowl last year does not mean a thing. In point of fact, going to the Super Bowl does not mean a thing, winning a Super Bowl does not mean a thing. I have 4 Super Bowl rings and every year, I have always been amazed at the extent of when we come back which is like everybody else. That ball rolls back down the hill and you've got to roll it back up and it is going to be harder than ever. If you had a very good year last year, Super Bowl victory are close to it because everybody is going to be targeting you because you are going to become the measure of how good they are, how much progress they have made. So it is that idea that we came close last year, therefore we must not be far away is nonsense. The game does not work like that. Every year, that ball rolls back down to the bottom of the hill and the more you are successful the year before, the harder it is going to be to push back up because everybody is going to be prepared for you in terms of what you did last year to be that successful. So you got to come up with something new. This year, we are going to have a tough ride. I mean, we have played 2 games, we have been outscored 57 points to 3 and the idea that well, you know, they have only played their starters for one quarter, that's all well and good, but there are some things that you look for. You look for effort, you look for intensity, you look for playing fast speed, you look for some degree of execution especially in your standard package of plays and so forth. You look for, getting after the other team on defense and so far, we are battling that and everybody who comes in to play us. We played the Ravens back there at their place, well they are not going to look bad in their first game at home. And then we played the Broncos here this past Sunday and then after that, what happened to them in the Super Bowl, they are looking for anybody in the NFC West that they can measure themselves against.
So they came in here and put up 34 or 38 points on us something like that and we had literally 0 on the board. So we have a long way to go, it is an uphill battle for every team and you can get yourselves into a hole mentally and in terms of your execution and so forth that is very, very difficult to climb out of and it does not happen just because the first game of the season is the start of the real ones that counts. You have to be battling all the way to get to that point. So what happened last year does not matter? What happened 2 years ago does not matter. What happened this past Sunday matters and what happens in this Sunday coming up will matter. So we got a lot of problems we got to resolve.
As your resume as coach because that's what a coach might say to a team to get any sense of privilege out of one's head, but I definitely appreciate that and here is really my final question of thought because you have been an educator. You know, when you started doing sports and sociology back in 1968, no one talks about it and we have a lot of educators who listen to the show, many educators attends on conferences like the White Privilege Conference and they are teaching various aspects of social justice. But not everyone has brought in to the value of sports in discussing larger social issues. Some do, usually if they are inclined to be sports fans growing up and some don't and certainly not in the academy at the same level maybe music and if discussed from Bob Dylan, Hip Hop or the cinema is discussed. Even to this day, it is not at that same level and so what would be your message to educators the value of sports in educating young people in the classroom in their college and the university?
Well, I think that sport is a literally and unparallel window onto not just who we are, but as people, but we are here as a nation. All of the problems that we have in American society are reflected in some degree or measure in sport and the efforts to solve those problems in sport provide clues as to what is necessary to resolve those problems in society. For example, in sport, if you look at the race, every step forward that has been taken has been occasioned by a not good will or good intensions but by a confluence of factors that generated a compelling reason to make the changes. Jackie Robinson was brought into major league baseball map because Branch Rickey was a good guy who believed in equality for black folks. Coming out of World War II, major league baseball had a major manpower shortage and we were moved on the biggest recessions in the history of this country and Branch Rickey looked over that untapped pool of black player talent and those black dollars that were going in and putting in filling stadiums to look at the black baseball games and he said hey we have to change our business model. It was not change in attitude; it was a change in business model. Just like today, you find blacks have dropped from 23% of major league baseball in 1973 down to just as below 8% today. And this is not because all of a sudden major league baseball does not like blacks anymore; it is because they have changed business models.
They have now developed these offshore academies in places like Puerto Rico and Panama and the Dominican Republic because they found out that it would be a lot cheaper and a lot easier to offshore player development than to send scouts in the black communities and so forth and try to develop those players here in this country. So now, you have this situation where major league baseball is 26% foreign-born, mostly Latinos and 40% overall foreign-borns throughout their minor league systems and so forth while blacks are down to about 8%. There are a low percentage of blacks in major league baseball today than it was at the time that Jackie Robinson retired in 1956. So you see that factor, you see what is happening with the black quarter back, this was not a change in attitude, it was an effort on the part of owners to preserve their capital by putting players in who had this capability as supposed to getting sacked, knocked out of the game by half a season because they were pocket passers. Again, you have these external factors that generate progress and that generate change. So when you look at that, it also tells you that an American society, the greatest impetuous towards African Americans making progress economically was World War I and World War II. One, they needed us in the military secondly and more importantly, they needed us in the defense industries and in the packing houses and so forth. So areas that had been closed up all of a sudden opened up because of Hitler and Tojo and World War II and because of the concept in World War I. So we have to begin to understand that there are these parallels and if we understand the dynamics of what is happening in sports, we will understand the dynamics of what our obligations and what our challenges are in the broader society.
So anybody who looks at sports and says don't worry about it, that is nothing, that is the Department of Human Affairs are basically uninformed, ignorant and behind the times. So I would had managed everybody to understand what is going on in sports just as you would peruse understanding of what is going on in politics, the impact of music upon society and upon the youth culture for example and so forth, all of these is your main and relevant and sport as much as any other arena. Anybody who disputes that well, you know, it is a sad, sad child that will only learn through personal experience and if they have to go through the reality in society, before they can see the steam roller that is crushing them flat, when all they have to do is to look at sport and analyze and then break it down and understand it to avoid that steam roller. Well, like I said, it is a sad, sad child who will only learn through personal experience.
It's a sad, sad child. And as we close out and come back to Michael Brown, what are your closing thoughts as we close the show on Michael Brown and where we are going?
I think that -- in terms of this situation, without adequate leadership, I think that we are one more incident such as that anywhere else in this country, before we have the equivalent of an era of spring right here in American society. We have one more incident like that situation and I think we are facing the possibility of an American summer because this thing in Ferguson has been so ineptly handled, so incompetently dealt with that it has galvanized the outrage of people all over this country and so now, the fuse is there and it takes one incident of a similar nature somewhere else before that fuse is lit and we have a problem. So I am hoping two things; one, is that that the justice department can begin to show evidence of judicious inquiry and movement towards justice and the other thing that I am literally praying for is that we do not have another Michael Brown type incident anywhere else in American society between now and at least the time that school starts where you have kids and young people off the streets.
Well on that note, on avoiding an American spring, I want to deeply thank you. It's an honor and privilege to be speaking to sports history and I don't say that in a negative way, its sports history. But we really appreciate it here, all the works that you have done and thank you so much for being on the show.
Oh thank you very much for having me. It has been a privilege.
Thank you. So, we are signing out here at POPSspot, its Power, Oppression and Privilege in Sports. Don't change the subject, change the game.
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