February is a wonderful time of the year. You have Valentine’s Day for the lovers. In sport, you have the Super Bowl, NBA and NHL All-Star games, and College Basketball starts to heat up. The most important thing about February is Black History Month. Even though Black History is American History and should be celebrated daily, this is the time given to highlight the contributions that Black people have given this country. Black athletes have shaped our sports world. Say It Loud, Black Change Agents in Sports focuses on the athletes that shook the establishment in their sport. This article will highlight a few athletes that have made sports more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

Magic Johnson

Earvin”Magic” Johnson is one of the most beloved NBA figures of all time. In some circles, he’s thought of as the best basketball player ever. For all the great accomplishments on the court, he has done more off the court to promote Black athletes and people in a positive light. Magic changed the perception of an NBA player. He has been a front office executive, coach, and analyst. Other ventures for Johnson have been talk show host, record company executive, and activist. Magic showed players can do more than just dribble when he got into ownership. Johnson owns a stake in the LA Dodgers, LA Sparks, and LAFC (soccer team). Magic is a game changer because he showed Black athletes can be just as big influencers in the boardroom like they are on the court.

Allen Iverson

I know this selection may puzzle a few, but he definitely changed the game. There is a stigma in our society that if you dress a certain way, then you get labeled a certain way. AI was persecuted and tormented by the NBA for years. Today we hear several organizations promote being your authentic self at work. Allen Iverson‘s employers didn’t feel that way. During the late ’90s and early 2000s, Iverson was a target of the NBA and society for the way he looked. Iverson took a tremendous amount of ridicule. Because of his trailblazing journey, athletes and entertainers can be themselves and it’s okay. AI helped with true inclusiveness in sport. Just because you wear a chain, have tattoos, and cornrows don’t make you a suspect. We can thank AI for making it fashionable and cool to be yourself at work.

Curt Flood

Every athlete owes this man a debt of gratitude. This 15 year MLB veteran was the truth. He was a three-time All-Star, two-time World Champion, and seven-time Gold Glove winner. His most important label is being the Godfather of modern-day free agency. Flood felt the MLB’s reserve clause, which stated the rights to a player were retained by the team upon the contract’s expiration. In 1967, Flood was traded from the Cardnials to Philadelphia.

Flood did not want to go to Philly because the organization wasn’t winning and the openly racist fan base. Flood would take MLB to court. Although he lost, his actions did spark change. Years later, the government passed the Curt Flood Act of 1998. This act would prevent teams from controlling players’ contracts and careers. Flood also helped bring about the 10-and-5 Rule. This rule says when a player has played in the MLB for 10 years and for a team for five consecutive years, the team must have the player’s permission to trade them. Flood was blackballed from baseball, but he will be immortalized for standing up for what he believed.

Conclusion

Black athletes have shaped sports since its inception. As we celebrate Black History Month, please remember these athletes have worked to change our society for the better. Also, please research others in our history that have changed sport. A few names to research would be LeBron James, Nolan Richardson, Wendell Scott, Josh Gibson, Jack Johnson, and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates. Also, remember you don’t have to be Black to participate in Black History Month.

For more in-depth sports analysis like Say It Loud, Black Change Agents in Sports, check out Belly Up Sports. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and on Facebook.

About Author

CB

Like with my food, I like a wide assortment of sports. I'm into everything from baseball to combat sports. I love watching, participating, and commenting on them all the time. I spend most of my fall and winter attending college games. My bucket list is to visit every NBA, MLB, and NFL venue. That might be a stretch, but if you're going to dream, you might as well dream big!

2 Comments

    Black history is American history. Agreed. These athletes have changed the game. Nice read.

    Great article. Thanks for acknowledging some of our greatest contributors to sports. Many great athletes gave their hearts and souls to sports and never got the recognition they deserved. Your right you don’t have to be black to celebrate and appreciate Black History!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.