The Crusader Newspaper Group

The Jim Crow Segment of Professional Sports, Part 2

Beyond the Rhetoric

By Harry C. Alford

Yes indeed! Professional sports revolutionized our local economies. Some of our basketball and football stars would evolve into corporate and political leaders. Role models by the hundreds including successful entrepreneurs. All of this went to our middle class but what was still missing was the improvement done to the “Hood.” Poverty, blight and hopelessness was still there. Violence and particularly hopelessness was still there. We have more than a few “ballers” making serious money. Take Vaughn Bailey, defensive linesman for the Denver Broncos. This guy is making $70 million per year guaranteed! That is serious cash money and there are many more making in excess of that. So why are our inner cities not improving? It becomes clear that local leaders and elected officials are out of touch in recognizing what is missing. The answer lies with city and county officials. That is our city councils, school boards, county boards, mayors and state representatives and senators. These are the potential champions of our local communities. These officials interacting with our new cash makers can team up and identify local opportunities besides the evil drug business.

The sports teams of America are anchors for local growing enterprise cities. A professional football, basketball, hockey or baseball team bring in financial centers. The anchors are stadiums which draw in commercial interests such as hotels/motels, business centers, retail development and local housing. Shopping areas and restaurants start to pop up and provide a boom in job opportunities. Such a formula has been proven successful many times. A fine example is the “Tale of Two Cities” – one case is Birmingham, Alabama vs Atlanta, Georgia. The leaders of Atlanta sought out professional sport franchises to help the vitality of economic growth. It even pulled back on the apartheid system of Jim Crow and provided economic opportunity for its small Black owned businesses and neighborhoods. A couple of decades later Atlanta had become a major city in our nation – hosting the Olympics and being the home of professional sports stadiums with winning teams to match. Birmingham is still a much smaller town with little economic vitality compared to bustling Atlanta. The biggest factor in Atlanta’s success was integrating the industrial/commercial markets. Jim Crow left and the money started to flow in a diverse fashion. All factions became better.

During the same period up north in Indiana an experiment was taking form. In the 1960’s Mayor Richard Lugar gathered business leaders and developed a plan to make Indianapolis a major city. He viewed the city of Ft. Wayne, up in northern Indiana, as competition. He formed the Greater Indianapolis Progress Corporation. In that plan was a professional basketball and a football team as the anchors for industrial growth, expansive middle class communities with local business centers to match. Today, Indy has the Colts and Pacers with magnificent stadiums for both. New industry has come in plus a major airport and a Super Bowl and NBA all-star games every now and then. Ft. Wayne remains a sleepy town of 200,000 people with its old southern ways. Indy has mushroomed into a city of over a million people.

It is settled that professional sports injects its geographical base with an infusion of serious capital. What is missing is the infrastructure component is not diverse. Big time construction unions move in like Mafioso factions and are racist to the core. We have these billion dollar stadiums built by union cartels that do not and, so far, will not include diversity in its workforce. The major blocking fact is that the unions of sport leagues deny Black labor and management activity by supporting their local construction unions without realizing that those local groups are still Jim Crow in its hiring and training practices. The local union organizations will come up with all types of excuses but the deal is they do not welcome Black workers. That goes for other minorities and females also. All we need to do is bust up these racial cartels by getting the support of our professional athletes, managers and owners. They certainly don’t approve of this but are left ignorant of the blatant truth – construction unions are racist in their hiring and training. Upper management and player associations can solve this if they become educated to the fact.

A perfect example of this racism is when the baseball and football stadiums were being built in Detroit. In the end they could not reach the 8% level for minority employment. This is a city that is over 80% Black! Those same Blacks will be paying the industrial bonds on those two stadiums for decades to come!! This is a big reason for the violence, lost hope in cities like Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Los Angeles, just to name a few.

The time to start fighting these racist construction practices has come. The player associations of our professional sports associations need to wake up and recognize.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: Email: [email protected]

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