Hall of Fame Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown was very outspoken in during his playing days. Many of today’s athletes are very outspoken, with one very important difference. Brown used his stage to speak of social change. More often then not, today’s athlete is speaking nonsense. Exhibit A is Detroit Tigers’ outfielder Gary Sheffield. Throughout Sheffield’s career, he has proven that he loves the taste of his own shoe leather.
This season has been no exception. He started fast this season by offering his theory regarding the dearth of African-American players in Major League Baseball today versus in decades past. In April, Sheff suggested that number of black players in MLB has gone down because teams prefer Hispanic players that, in his opinion, are “easier to control.”
This week, Sheff suggested in a TV interview that his former manager Joe Torre of the New York Yankees “treated black players differently,” and worse, than white ones. When reminded that Derek Jeter is one of Joe Torre’s favorite Yankee players, Sheff “reasoned” that Jeter is immune to the treatment that African-American players get from Torre because the biracial Jeter is not “all the way black.” Sadly, Sheffield is becoming typical of athletes today, too often addressing the important issues of the day by thinking before they speak.
Where have all the Jim Browns gone? Today’s athletes seem much more interested in hearing the sound of their own voice than actually having a voice. They seem satisfied simply to provoke rather than to provoke thought or thoughtful discussion. What happened to the athlete that think and social consciousness was part of the package? What happened to the athletes that felt their pulpit was meant to be used to bully positive social change, not a positive Q rating? Alas, No. 32 was just as rare off the field as he was on it.