Defining elephant in the room: as a very large issue that everyone is acutely aware of, but nobody wants to talk about. Perhaps a sore spot, perhaps its politically incorrect, or perhaps a political hot potato, its something that no one wants to touch with a ten foot pole–meet racism in America.
On Saturday August 8, 2017 two black women met in the finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in tennis history and neither woman’s name was Williams. It was no contest Sloane Stevens crushed Madison Keys in straight sets 6-3 and 6-0. In the meantime, lets take a look at the state of American tennis and the role of the black athlete.
Richard Williams the architect of the pro tennis dynasty with his pride and joy, champion daughters, Venus and Serena. He changed the face of tennis in America. He was inducted into the first ATA Hall of Fame class in August and Venus and Serena donated 1 million dollars to the proposed ATA tennis facility in Florida to cement his legacy in the black tennis world.
Richard and I share a photo at the 100th anniversary of the ATA in Baltimore in August 2017
Move over Venus and Serena here comes Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, two women of color, I think. Keeping, it real the problem is that Madison Keys is following closely in the footsteps of golfing icon Tiger Woods, who also denied he was black. Tiger said, “I am not black, I am Cablinasian,” but when he was arrested for DUI in May 2017 according to the Florida Sheriff’s Department he fell under the “One Drop Rule.” The rule says, ‘One drop of black blood makes one forever black. If you are of black face in America you will always be seen as Black, Afro-American, Negro, colored or more often than not, the big N recently like Michael Bennett and Kevin Sumlin.
Tennis commentator Chris Everett and her colleagues at the U. S. Open were so neverous trying to be politically racially correct they didn’t use black or African-American until the 9th game of the first set in the finals. The first ocassion was when Evertt broke the ice and pointed out Sloane’s mother Sybil in the family box. She said, “She was the first African-American named All-American first team as swimmer in Division One in NCAA history. Chris followed up again during the post game interview when she said, “Your performance inspires other black girls that they can do the same thing.”
There are no FREE passes in the black community, it makes no difference if you played in the U. S. Open, Wimbledon, French and Australian Opens. A cop will stereotype you and throw you to the ground and handcuff you without asking you for ID. See tennis star James Blake, and NFL All-Pro, Michael Bennett. If a cop stops you and you think because your driver’s license, birth certificate or passport reads you are, South African, Hispanic, from Trinidad, Tobago, Brazil, Dominican Republic or you are of Haitian descent, you should feel safe. You are in for a rude awakening–the color of your skin is a dead give away for a racist cop in America to treat you like an animal. Black cops are not even safe out of uniform! Money, and star power are not “free get out of jail passes” when it comes to racism in America. In September 2015 Blake was thrown to the ground and arrested while he was standing outside of the Hyatt Hotel waiting for a ride. The officer claimed he resembled someone wanted for fraud.
Bennett a linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks and Texas A & M football Coach Kevin Sumlin should be proof enough. Bennet was targeted by the Las Vegas police department while attending the Floyd Mayweather fight. He was leaving the fight when there rumors of gunshots fired and like everyone else he tried to run to safety. He was profiled by the cops and tackled and handcuffed. The question is why? He had no gun—he said, “The only reason I was arrested is because I am black.” This type of racism is fueled by NFL owners like Jerry Jones who it is rumored said to his team, “No Dallas Cowboys will be sitting or kneeling for the national athem.” Charlene Sumlin, the wife of enbattled Texas A & M Coach Kevin Sumlin posted a picture of a racist, angry threatening letter sent by a fan to the family’s house following the 45-44 lost to UCLA at the Rose Bowl in Southern California last Sunday. The letter read, “You suck as a coach and you are ‘The Big N’ and you can’t win. Please get lost or else.” A member of the Board of Regents of Texas A & M also called for Sumlin to be fired after the lost to UCLA. Texas was leading 44-6 in the 3rd quarter and UCLA rallied to win 45-44.
Tiger, Madison, Alecia Keys and Halle Berry are among those mixed race Black Americans who think the “One Drop Rule” does not apply to them, because of their money and fame—nothing could be further from the truth. Madison is really confused, she says, “I am not black or white!” It is nothing wrong with being black and proud and there is nothing wrong with being white and proud. Why can’t Keys be both?
It was almost comical watching the commentators dance around the issue at the U. S. Open. I was praying for Madison to win for her ‘Wake Up Call!’ Pro golf and tennis are two of the most segregated sports in America and both have now moved into ‘The Dark Ages’ and Madison now joins Tiger as ‘The Elephant in the room.’
Black history is often overlooked and under reported, but pro tennis is in for a rude awaking. In 2016 for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games four black American women represented the U. S. in tennis. They were Serena and Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and maybe Madison Keys and there is help on the way with Taylor Townsend and Brienne Minor. In 2012 Taylor became the first black female to win the Australian Open Girls’ singles championship. The title made her the first American and Black American to hold the ranking of No. 1 at the end of the year for girls since 1982. Michigan sophomore 19 year old Brienne Minor won the NCAA singles championship making her the first black female NCAA singles champion and making her the first black female in Big Ten history to hold the title.
Athea Gibson and Arthur Ashe are looking down on the U. S. Open with big smiles on their faces. They were the trailblazers and first persons of color to win a major tennis open known as the grand slam. In 1956 Athea won the French Open, the Australian, Wimbledon and U. S. Open all followed. She won the singles title in the morning and that evening she won the U. S. Open doubles title. During her fabulous career against all odds she won five grand slam titles.
Arthur Ashe making children first through the National Junior Tennis League. He found the organization in 1967 in Washington, DC
In 1967 Arthur won the U. S. Open, and still today is the only American Black man to win the Australian, Wimbledon, and French Open titles. In 2017 he is still the only black man to be ranked No. 1 in the history of the sport. In 2017 we are still talking about people of color being “The First” Athea and Arthur may have felt like the Long Ranger without Tonto back in the day. In 2017 the U. S. Open for the first time in its history had three minority female players make it to the semi-finals. Venus was feeling right at home when unexpected company arrived. It was like “Guess Who is Coming to Dinner” without Sidney Poitier!
Venus was joined by Sloane Stephes and Madison Keys. In the meantime, all three had moved into the semi-finals. The commentators acted like the three little monkeys, “they saw no history, they heard no history and they spoke no history.” The commentators seem to be afraid to say, “Three black women have qualified for the semi-finals, a first in U. S. Open history!” I would guess they were trying not to offend Keys who is definitely walking around in a world of confusion.
The proud parents Richard and Oracene were looking on somewhere in the stadium in separate boxes cheering Venus, Sloane and Madison on to victory. Little sister Serena was sitting this one out after giving birth to a baby girl in August.
One of my young men Joe Ragland grew up in The Hood in SE DC. He was once on the pro tennis tour and was not a kid in trouble, but he and his brother Mike and their crew supported my community endeavors through my non-profit organization Kids In Trouble, Inc. whenever his busy schedule brought him home to DC. He played Santa’s Helper for my Christmas toy parties, played in my celebrity tennis tournaments, etc. He eventually moved to Arizona to teach tennis on the country club level. This odyssey would last him for sixteen years before he grew tired of the country club politics and sought solitude (peace). He now teaches at a community recreation center near his home on his own terms. He thinks pro tennis is in good hands despite the behind the scenes politics to keep us out.
I asked Joe in a recent telephone conversation about the emergence of the three Black American women reaching the semi-finals at the U. S. Open, he didn’t seem surprised. His response, “The ladies have always had a support system that the men never had (egos). A lot of that credit goes to Serena and Venus who quietly made themselves accessible to the young sisters who were new on the tour. These two ladies have carried a heavy load on their backs for over two decades—they have earned a rest whether they want one or not.”
Joe knows Katrina Adams who is now serving her second term as the USTA CEO and President. She oversees tennis programs for underserved communities across America. They both played on the pro tennis circuit together in the 80s and 90s. He discovered a brother in his community who was teaching tennis to neighborhood children for $5.00 for two hours. The program was one the most unique he had ever encountered, but the brother was barely hanging on financially. It was then he decided to call his old friend Katrina to seek support from the USTA. After they had gone down memory lane Joe got around to telling her about the innovated tennis program he had discovered in his neighborhood. Her response, “Joe that sounds great, let me get back to you” famous last words from blacks who let success handle them, instead of them handling success.
The program in Joe’s community had the potential to meet the Mission and Goals set by the USTA as described in their handbook.
The USTA Mission: To Promote, Grow, Develop, and service the Game of tennis. Vision: Leadership at every level –inspire innovation, create opportunities, impact lives and build community through tennis. Value Proposition: To be your trusted resource for tennis. Core Values: In pursuit of its mission, the volunteers and staff accept responsibility for their actions in achieving the mission and for reaching the strategic goal of the association while sustaining the highest standards of quality. Diversity and Inclusion: include all people on a non-discriminatory basic, and make diversity and inclusion an embedded part of the USTA Midwest Section.
It is folks like Ms. Adams who are sprinkled all around our community who are double agents for the system. She is another spook that was hired to sit by the door and stunt the growth of the black athlete.
The next question, where are all the Black American men? According to Joe, “They are not far behind the women, Donald Young is the most consistent black face in play, but coming on fast is Evan King from the University of Michigan. He was a qualifier this year before losing in three sets to 20th ranked Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-2 and 7-6—not a bad showing. Busta made it all the way to the semi-finals. I think Frances Tiafoe a 19 year old had the most impressive showing of the three. He was born in College Park, Maryland, but no one is talking about how he extended the great Roger Federer to five sets in Arthur Ashe Stadium.” Federer would lose later to J. del Potro in the quarter finals in four sets.
Rashada McAdoo a recent grad of Georgia Tech was the women’s single tennis champion for the August 2017 ATA 100th anniversary celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. She poses with the men’s singles winner from New Jersey. Rashada is the granddaughter of NBA great Bob McAdoo.
H. Bell, Rashada McAdoo and coach
It’s a family affair, Joe’s brother Mike is also in the community “Reach Back” business as the Director of Tennis for the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation in SE Washington, DC. He is a member of the team headed by tennis icon Willis Thomas, Jr. the Vice-President of Tennis Programs. Willis and the great Arthur Ashe were doubles partners growing up under the tutelage of tennis guru and icon Dr. Robert Johnson.
Willis and Mike are leading the charge to enhance the growth and development of inner-city children. The foundation is a premier educational and tennis organization serving underserved children providing the best quality instruction, resources and mentorship to build champions in the game called life. They seek to keep children safe by getting them off the city streets during out of school time into a safe environment they can trust; by providing them with productive activities that teach discipline, build and encourage a healthy lifestyle. You can trust Willis and Mike to get the job done.
I think ESPN’s cheerleading analyst Jason Whitlock did the Williams’ family a grave injustice when he accused the father Richard of cheating to get his daughters to the top of the tennis world. If teaching them to play tennis his way by slowly making sure that they learn the game while protecting them from the racism that existed in the sport and in the tennis academies all over America—more power to him.
Richard Williams was recently inducted into the ATA Tennis Hall of Fame during their 100th Anniversary celebration in Baltimore in August 2017. My question, why was the great NFL All-Pro cornerback Johnny Sample left out of the ATA Hall of Fame? His contributions; a champion in his age group for several years running. He organized the largest inner-city youth tennis program in the country, he was second to no one. He was also a pioneer on the pro tennis tour as a line judge and chair umpire at Grand Slam Tournaments around the world—where is the beef?
A “Man for all seasons” has anyone seen my old friend Johnny Sample–he is gone but not forgotten.
There are rumors that Richard Williams has finally decided to open his own tennis academy in Florida in the near future. The same rumors are being spread by the ATA who are also claiming they will build an academy in Florida. Life time members of the ATA James Ridley of Washington, DC and William Blue out of Philadelphia think the organization has no clue and are overrun with “Player Haters and Nay Sayers.” Their only interest is in promoting themselves and could care-less about the future of our children. The new ATA tennis academy earmarked for Florida in the near future could be more than just a “Pie in the sky” dream. It has been reported Venus and Serena Williams the daughters of Richard will donate one million dollars to the project. Evidently, Richard’s induction into the ATA’s first Hall of Fame last month gave the project the facelift that it needed. Venus and Serena, Richard, Oracene and family members can relax and enjoy the new baby while watching the U. S. Open finals. They will hear in the distant skies shout-outs from trailblazers Athea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, saying, ‘Job well done.’
There is definitely a need for more tennis academies to meet the needs of our youth who are being under-served. Tennis academies such as; Nick Bolletteri, Patrick McEnroe, and Chris Evert Tennis fall short when it comes to the black tennis player. For example, a black potential tennis player paying to attend these academies is like a black/student walk-on athlete choosing Maryland University (BIG TEN) over Howard University (HBCU). His or her chances of making the Maryland team are slim and none. Their best chance for success is a HBCU school.
The Richard Williams’ tennis academy is a step in the right direction, but one academy won’t do the job and he would definitely have to be an independent lone wolf. Hopefully, he will have a franchise of academies that won’t be under the umbrella of the USTA and his board members won’t be the likes of boxing promoter Don King and Cora Masters Barry well known crooks and thieves. King is considered a “Member of the Williams family.” Don and Cora’s police ‘Rap Sheets’ read like an episode of America Greed (don’t take my word Google their history)!
“Birds of a feather flock together” Cora Masters Barry and Don King hanging out in DC
In 1987 Cora Masters Barry then Chairwoman of the DC Boxing Commission pleaded guilty to second degree theft for double billing the city for over $2, 680 in travel expenses (under estimated). She was forced to resign as chairman of the DC Boxing Commission as a convicted felon. Her next big heist would be the boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World, Riddick Bowe. In 1992 Bowe earned over 10 million dollars for beating Evander Holyfield and he would later name Cora the Executive Director of the Riddick Bowe Better Life Foundation. The only lives she would better would be her own and promoter Rock Newman, today Bowe is dead broke.
In a Washington Post newspaper column during the 1992 Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield championship fight in Las Vegas a reporter asked Cora about the glamorous world of boxing as it related to a “World of dreamers, schemers, high rollers, gold diggers and other folks of questionable character?” He said, ‘she took a drag off of her cigarette and responded, not any more than there are in politics?’ She should know, she has worked both sides of the isle.
In the meantime, she has moved into the glamorous world of tennis without missing a beat with her on-going scam of the Williams family. There is a rumor that Venus and Serena will be donating to her on-going slush fund scam at the SE Tennis Foundation in Washington, DC. Her recent appearance at the U. S. Open with her new “Best Friend” DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. Their appearance together had nothing to do with tennis, it was because Cora likes money by any means necessary. She has already scammed the DC government out of 18 million dollars earmarked for the tennis center via her “Make a Wish–Make Me Rich Foundation.” She is now whispering in the ear of Bowser for more and more. The producers of the television show “American Greed” has her on their radar screen.
I would have never in my wildest dreams imagine that three minority women in leadership roles in the DC Government would take part in approving the appointment of new DC Police Chief, Peter Newsham. He has a history in the court system of domestic violence and he is a known alcoholic. His court appearances involved domestic violence brought against him by his wife and several girl friends. He was also found lying in a DC street with his gun in his holster dead drunk, but Bowser, City Council Woman Mary Che and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton all looked the other way.
I had personally given them inside information provided by former Inspector Nathan Sims. He was a witness to colleagues’ of Newsham removing records from the DC Police Property Warehouse without signing for the property in question. He warned them that this type of behavior would no longer be tolerated on his tour of duty. He was immediately demoted back to captain and several months later retired.
There are definitely not enough black tennis academies to meet the needs of our youth, but who can they depend on to do the right thing as it relates to having their best interest at heart? I don’t think we can count on CEO of the USTA Katrina Adams, Don King or Cora Masters Barry. It looks like the balls they are playing with is in the wrong court (criminal court)—stay tuned.