LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Field Hands

Comparing American slavery to today's major league drafts

This letter to the editor was submitted by Annika Wolters, a graduate student pursuing a master in sports journalism. Wolters is from Long Beach, Washington and completed her bachelor's degree in communication studies and journalism at Western Washington University.

When people talk about the NFL or the NBA, I bet they won’t mention American slavery.

Fans won’t think their favorite players are trapped in the game. But before Tyson Chandler or Larry Fitzgerald signed with pro teams, they were herded like cattle onto an auction block and sold to the highest bidder.

African-Americans were 76 percent of NBA players in 2013, only 43 percent of NBA coaches and just 2 percent of the league’s owners.

In the NFL, African-Americans were 66 percent of the players in 2013, nine percent coaches and zero owners, according to fivethirtyeight.com.

A history of 400 years doesn’t disappear overnight.

Before the draft, players are lined up nearly naked. The man with the clipboard inspects their bodies; making sure each has all their teeth, measuring how high they jump and how fast they run.

The best are shoved into a booming coliseum, commanded to outdo their opponents before the clock stops. Not far from Mandingo fights or ancient Gladiators.

If a player doesn’t prove profitable, he’s traded, sold or cut.

A new field slave.

The plantation mindset transcends whatever Donald Sterling or Roger Goodell says about racism, looking for redemption amidst scandals.

In 1962 Malcolm X quoted a close friend.

“Jackie Robinson pointed out beautifully on the television last night, four-fifths of the world isn’t white. If four-fifths of the world is dark, how is it possible for one-fifth to rule, oppress, exploit, dominate and brutalize the four-fifths, who are in the majority?” X said

The problem constantly fed by collegiate sports.

After National Signing Day, I wondered about the young men who committed themselves to ASU football. Eager for a better future, these guys are left vulnerable.

Evan Fields, safety from Oklahoma City, told Scout.com he currently has a 3.9 GPA and is interested in the Barrett Honors College at ASU.

ASU requires a 1.8 GPA for eligibility. To be considered for some programs, a 3.0 is required.

In the phrase “Student-Athlete,” does “student” hold much weight if all you need is below a C-average? Is educating young African-Americans as significant as their chance of entering big leagues?

I’m not convinced.

Playing professional ball is a ticket out of the ghetto. The South Central of (insert city here) is a farm for big recruiters such as ASU and pro scouts. Taking the downtrodden from the streets, putting a few dollars in his pocket, and sending him back onto the field to make his owner a truckload of money is the greatest organized pimp association today.

In 2016, activist Louis Farrakhan begged organizations to stop building hoop courts in black neighborhoods.

“Please don’t put up another basketball court thinking that you're giving back to the black community,” Farrakhan said. “Basketball courts are a training ground for a basketball plantation.”

During American slavery, Africans were bred like animals to be the biggest, strongest, fastest field hands.

Today, those same field slaves dominate athletics. The game has changed, but the victim is the same.  


Reach the columnist at Annika.Wolters5@gmail.com or follow @Anni_Wol on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this letter to the editor are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.