Today’s guest post is by Dr. Richard Lapchick. If you don’t know who he is, you will by the end of this post.
I have been writing and speaking expressing my outrage after the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and so many more. Mesmerized and inspired by the huge protests and encouraged by the world of sport that I come from where athletes, coaches, teams and leagues have raised their voices against racism and hate.
Today Dean Jarley offered me his blog. My intent is to speak to my fellow faculty, administrators, students at UCF, and especially, in the College of Business and to students in and alumni of the DeVos Sports Business Management Graduate Program.
As some of you know, I have spent my life working in the area of civil rights. As a 15-year-old dreaming of playing in the NBA because my Dad is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, I went to a basketball camp where there were five other white guys and a black guy. One of the white guys railed the N-word against the black guy for the first three days until I challenged him. He knocked me out cold.
I define a leader as “someone who stands up for justice and doesn’t block its path.” I now realize that day in that camp was the first time I stood up for justice. The black guy was then known as Lew Alcindor and became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem has been a lifelong friend and even spoke at a UCF commencement in 2017. He asked me to speak when they unveiled his statue at the Staples Center. He taught Tacko Fall his Skyhook at my request. But on that day in 1961, he became for me a young urban African-American lens with which I could see what racism was doing in his community. I have tried to spend the rest of my life fighting against racism.
In 1978, I was a professor of Political Science at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk. I was the American leader of the sports boycott of apartheid South Africa. After leading protest demonstrations for four days in Tennessee, I was working late in my office when two men wearing stocking masks attacked me. They caused liver and kidney damage, a hernia, a concussion and used scissors to carve the “N-word” on my stomach.
Some people suggested, “Now you know what it’s like to be Black.” I told them, “I really don’t know because I can walk away from the fight against racism and re-join the white middle-class. I will never face the daily discrimination that confronts people of color every day.” No matter how empathetic we may be, and how engaged we may be with trying to be part of the solution, we can never totally understand what it is like.
As we watch demonstrators chant about police brutality and see incident after incident on television and in social media, it is easy to understand the rage. I share it. But I worry that we lose perspective that racism affects every aspect of our lives in America and around the globe.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are more than 1,000 hate groups in the United States. There were 600 when Barak Obama was elected. White nationalist groups have grown by 55 percent in the Trump era. Some of our children are learning how to hate.
According to the FBI there were 4,571 incidents classified as hate crimes in 2019. One in two is actually reported.
The Forbes list of the hundred wealthiest Americans have more aggregate wealth than all 42 million African-Americans combined, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
If you are in the bottom 10 percent of male wage earners, your life expectancy is 14 years less than if you are in the top 10 percent (73.6 years vs. 87.2 years). If you are affluent, you will live 14 years longer than if you were a low income worker.
Black infants die at a rate more than twice that of white babies.
The CDC reports that the Black maternal mortality rate is double that of whites.
The high school drop out rate in urban America is 40percent.
The United States has five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Those we incarcerate are disproportionately Black or brown and have mostly committed minor drug offenses that soon will not be on the law books.
While the COVID-19 virus has kept us physically apart from our students, I have regular conversations via zoom with our students one on one and collectively. I am inspired that our African-American students are sharing stories of their lives and helping our white students better understand and appreciate what it means to be Black or a person of color. There are 250 graduate programs in sports business management now. Ours is the only one that emphasizes diversity and inclusion and using the power of sport to affect positive social change. The Orlando Magic have been a great model for that in Central Florida. The DeVos students are seizing this time. They are actively trying to do their part to make sure this protest is different and change will come because the movement could be sustained.
Most represent Generation Z. I also hear from many alumni who are Millennials. I believe these generations are more compassionate, passionate and committed to social justice than older generations. They have tools that can serve justice, such as smart phones to capture historic moments of racism that cannot be denied by the police or authorities. They have social media to spread the word.
They are being joined by a chorus of professional and student-athletes, coaches, teams and leagues that are taking stands against racism. On Friday, the Jacksonville Jaguars became the first professional team to go as an entire team and organization to protest when they marched to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Headquarters. On Saturday, more than 70 players, coaches and other staff personnel from the Denver Broncos joined a Black Lives Matter protest. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), part of the DeVos Program, does an average of 10 reports a year on issues of race and gender in sport. TIDES has been compiling a preliminary list of actions by athletes, coaches, teams and leagues. As of Sunday morning, there were 171 entries. When the DeVos students enter the sports world, they will find a lot of allies. One of them is DeVos alum Brian Wright who is the General Manager of the San Antonio Spurs. Brian was inducted into the UCF College of Business Hall of Fame a few months ago. On Tuesday,I had an hour Zoom meeting with Brian and RC Buford, the Spurs CEO. The discussion was about how the Spurs could better fight against racism in San Antonio.
I wrote an Op Ed in Sunday’s Orlando Sentinel. I ended on a hopeful note that I believe we may have reached a moment when we can bring about change that creates a new justice system. Some call it a “broken system” now, but I think that it was designed throughout our history to produce exactly the situation we live in today regarding race. We must smash that system that has resulted in us getting to know the names of people only because they have been murdered. If we do, their lives will not have been lost in vain and they will look down on us and smile on a truly egalitarian America.
Richard Lapchick is a human-rights activist, pioneer for racial equality and an internationally recognized expert in the field of race and gender issues in sport. He is director of UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management Program in the College of Business Administration, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, and president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. He was inducted into the Commonwealth Nations Sport Hall of Fame in the category of “Humanitarian” along with Arthur Ashe and Nelson Mandela.