(ThyBlackMan.com) It has been quite a month of August for major news for some accomplished Black professional athletes. On August 4th, WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after being detained for months in Russia after the Russian Federal Customs Service found vape cartridges containing the marijuana concentrate hashish oil in Griner’s luggage. On August 9th, tennis legend Serena Williams announced in Vogue Magazine that she would be ending her incredible professional tennis career.
On August 18th, the suspension for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was finally announced after the NFL and the NFLPA reached a settlement, as Watson was suspended for the first 11 games of the upcoming 2022 NFL regular season and incurred a $5 million fine for violating the league’s personal conduct policy due to a multitude of sexual misconduct allegations. While all those stories were major news headlines that garnered national attention beyond sports media, there is a remainder racist acts towards Black people participating in sports happen regardless of the pedigree of the person.
Brigham Young University has a proud football tradition including at quarterback. Former BYU quarterbacks Steve Young, Jim McMahon, and Ty Detmer were great collegiate quarterbacks at the school prior to having NFL careers. However, current BYU quarterback Jaren Hall is a star in his own right and in 2019 became the first Black athlete to start at quarterback for BYU in school history. It says a lot about the nearly 100-year history of the football program at a school that it took that long to have a Black quarterback start for the school in 2019. Unfortunately, Brigham Young University was also the site for an ugly incident during a women’s volleyball game between BYU and Duke.
During the August 27th game, Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson, who is the only Black starter on the Duke team, was called a racial slur by a BYU fan “every time she served” according to Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin. BYU did remove the fan during the game although Richardson believed that they did not act fast enough in getting the fan out of the building. It’s worth noting that Richardson is a 19-year-old sophomore from Ellicott City, Maryland and said following the game, “This is not the first time this has happened in college athletics and sadly it likely will not be the last time. However, each time it happens we as student athletes, coaches, fans, and administrators have a chance to educate those who act in hateful ways.” As a teenager, she acted with more maturity than the white male fan who thought it was humane to spew slurs at her.
Following the passing of legendary basketball player Bill Russell, a tweet was shared that was an extract from a column Russell’s daughter, Karen Russell, wrote for The New York Times in 1987 about the racism her father faced while he was playing for the Boston Celtics. Karen Russell recalled how her family had once come home from a weekend away to find out they had been vandalized as she wrote, “Our house was in a shambles, and ”N***A” was spray-painted on the walls. The burglars had poured beer on the pool table and ripped up the felt. They had broken into my father’s trophy case and smashed most of the trophies.” This flashback of the treatment of an incredibly accomplished NBA player has some parallels to when LeBron James’s house was vandalized with a racial slur back in 2017. There are definitely class dynamics at play here but it also shows how Black people to varying degrees receive racist acts.
Staff Writer; Mark Hines