By Richard Pryor III
Babe Ruth once reportedly said “Love the game of baseball and baseball will love you.” Almost a century later, Michael Jordan added to that saying that he played “for the love of the game of basketball.” But where is that spirit now?
This week, the saga of Antonio Brown took yet another turn. Brown, one of the highest paid wide receivers in the National Football League (NFL) was summarily released by the Oakland Raiders for continuing patterns of bad behavior and immediately signed with the New England Patriots. Much of Brown’s problems stemmed from his idea of what he felt he deserved and what appropriate behavior was for a star like him.
So what is appropriate behavior? What is the way we expect our football stars to act? A number of people would point to Brown’s former teammate at Central Michigan, the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt. A fellow All-Pro player, Watt was the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2017 for his work with Hurricane Harvey relief in Houston. Or, to look at an equivalent superstar Wide Receiver, the Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald, who is one of the leading NFL voices supporting charities that deal with breast cancer.
Very few players are untouchable enough to get away with something like this – Brown’s foe Ben Roethlisberger (who has been accused of sexual assault and injured himself on his motorcycle), his new quarterback Tom Brady (who left his pregnant girlfriend for model Gisele Bundchen and also is a hard-core Trump fan), and New Orleans’ Drew Brees (who was involved in the Bountygate scandal) – all of whom are white people, which is important to point out.
There is an idea that’s very prevalent in our society that one must “act white” if they are not, to quote the sociologist John Ogbu. And certainly, Brown is not “acting white.” It’s a weird needle for us to thread here between what we see as “civilized” versus “acting white” and the differences between them. However, Brown could also learn a lesson from Watt’s good friend Kendrick Lamar – sit down. Be humble.