Noting the dichotomy between prior media criticism of the late Gene Upshaw and the tributes that followed his passing (“the long-time head of the NFLPA has been beaten up and vilified for a leadership style that was highly effective in the 1990s and new millennium but not stereotypically militant enough to please the media critics who hypocritically blast Al Sharpton and label any black man who chooses a different path a sellout”), the Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock insists, “few things are celebrated and exalted more vigorously in America than a dead black leader.”
Leaders who happen to be black spend most of their days in this country dodging arrows ¦ until they™re dead or rendered harmless.
It™s why most Americans are uncomfortable with Jim Brown and love Muhammad Ali, the two transcendent athletes from the 1960s who represented black empowerment. Ali, felled by Parkinson™s Disease, lit the 1996 Olympic torch and is a beloved figure now that he mumbles and shakes.
Brown is the same unbending, uncompromised free-thinker who makes people uncomfortable because he wears a funny hat and believes gangbangers and parolees can be productive U.S. citizens.
We™ll love Brown when he™s gone. The same way we fell in love with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X once they were no longer a threat.
Now that Upshaw is dead you™ll be hearing and reading a lot about his leadership-through-accommodation method. It actually worked. It grew the league to the point where all the old NFL players are insanely jealous and feel as if the current players owe them money.
Yep, the whole œreparations movement powered by Mike Ditka and all the other angry old men is a direct byproduct of the success of the NFL, which Upshaw played a huge role in.
Of course, when he was alive Upshaw was trashed for his inability to convince the current players (mostly black) to hand over a portion of their earnings to the retired players (mostly white) who built the game. There is no precedent for retired workers having their post-career benefits significantly improved ¦ other than retired NFL players.
Though Whitlock makes a salient point about the relative lot of the NFL’s retirees, if most Americans, are as he claims, “uncomfortable” with Jim Brown, if might have more to do with the multi-sport Hall Of Famer’s lengthy rap sheet than his social activism. There are few persons who’ve been charged with as many questionable acts as Brown that still have a place in mainstream society. That he’s still considered one of the last century’s iconic figures — on and off the field — despite a nasty propensity for treating women like punching bags or worse — says to me that plenty of Americans keep an open mind. Or perhaps they just don’t give a hoot about violence against women. What’s Whitlock’s excuse?