This Open Letter is in response to Dr. Harry Edwards after I emailed him about an interview relating to the American Flag and NFL players. Dr. Edwards is the founder of “The 1968 Mexico City Olympic Project”. The project was made famous when American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black glove fist to demonstrate against racial discrimination in America. That moment in American history has been re-visited by former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers–coincident?
Really VERY busy right through here – we are 0-5 at the SF 49ERS, I am working with Nor Cal educators in fire-ravaged communities on the potential role of sports in helping kids and communities to heal and deal with the trauma , and of course there is the ongoing “4th Wave “ of Black athlete activism in response to police violence and other injustices. When you are REALLY busy , not a lot of time for conversation.
Let me address your “VERY busy” to make sure I understand your “VERY busy” and how it does not compare to my ‘VERY busy–except in dollars and sense.
Harry, you have done some wonderful things when comes to using athletics and community advocacy as a way to reach back to help your community, but you didn’t invent the wheel when it came to those two entities.
For example; I have been “VERY busy” in the war zones of the inner-city since 1960 when “The Greensbor 4” students at North Carolina A & T University said, ‘Enough is enough’ and sit down at a Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Greensboro and asked to be served. They jump started the modern day Civil Rights Movement. I was a student/athlete at Winston-Salem State University 30 miles up the road when the movement hit the twin-cities. Despite a warning from my Coach Clarence Bighouse Gaines saying, ‘If I catch any of you knuckleheads taking part in the boycott downtown I will put you on the first thing smoking back to the ghetto’. The warning went in one ear and out the other. Three of my teammates and I joined the boycott while trying to stay out of the eye of the television carmeras.
In 1965 my first job out of college was with the United Planning Organization as a Neighborhood Worker (community self-help). My co-workers were the legendary community advocates Petey Greene and H Rap Brown. We walked the streets together for two years before Rap took over the leadeship role with SNNC, Petey hung in there with UPO and I moved on to a new role as a Roving Leader with the DC Department of Parks & Recreation. I was assigned to its “Youth Gang Task Force.” This was years before you hit it big with the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Boycott.
when you teamed up with “The Great” Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers in 1987, I had already teamed up with the ‘Greater’ Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics in 1974. My only regret with Red, I didn’t tell him that Maryland basketball player Len Bias was on drugs before he made him No. 1 in the NBA draft.
NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame because I was able to convince Red and Washington Times sports’ columnist Dick Heller to help me campaign for his 2003 induction. I also recruited James Brown, along with Celtic great Sam Jones, but James disappeared without a trace after asking me if I had checked with Wizards’ owner Abe Polin. I reminded him, Abe was not my father and I didn’t work for him.
Harry, I appreciate you saying, “H-Your Inside Sports platform and archives should be given the broadest possible exposure and the discs of your program should be included in the new New Museum of African American History & Culture. There will be a wing dedicated to the struggle in sports and will be titled “Leveling the Playing Field”. Your work was a major force over the years in leveling the playing field, especially in terms of the struggle to define and project “our truth”. Great job over the years, great timing in reprising that legacy now”.
Harry, I was honored and I am forever grateful just for the thought, but the only museum and hall of fame I am interested in being included in is God’s Hall of Fame and my chances of making his are slim and none. In the meantime, I am still defining and projecting “Our Truth”!
This thought brings me back to ESPN’s Michael Wilbon as it relates to “Our Truth” he does not have a clue, but he has plenty of company. I have tried to give Wilbon the benefit of the doubt as it has related to several lies he has told me. I understand “Courage” plays an important role when it comes to truth and there are far too many of us who lack courage to stand for something and not fall for just anything.
Wilbon, recently called the NFL a “Plantation” if you know Wilbon you would have to wonder where did he suddenly get the balls to allow the word plantation to slip out of his mouth? His most passion plea relating to a black and white issue was when his Washington Post colleague John Feinstein called him “The biggest ass kisser in sports media” other than that silence as it relates to racism in media and sports has been ‘Golden’ to him. The ongoing struggle to sit or stand for the national anthem in the NFL is just the tip of the iceberg.
You along with our then Conrade in Arms, Jim Brown pointed out on Inside Sports decades ago the plantation mentality and struggle of the black athlete started and lives at the college level. You think Wilbon has finally caught up? The slave mentality is fresh and prevails, the thought of inmates running the prison is a reality for owners in the NFL.
Congratulations to the World Champions Houston Astros and the LA Dodgers for participating in one of the most exciting World Series in my memory. Still you could count on one hand the on field participation of African-Americans. This is the game we call America’s favorite pastime? Jackie Robinson must be turning over in his grave.
For example; your new friend NFL/CBS Studio host James Brown was named a minority owner of the Washington Nationals in 2006. I immediately questioned him about his role as a minority owner. First, I pointed out, he made no decisions involving trades, hiring or firing managers, coaches and front office personel to run day to day operations. His role was to serve as a token black face to announce the Opening Day line-up over the public address system and to show up at team functions and designated Board meetings. He finally got my message when he confessed on the late George Michael’s television sports talk show. He said, “George I make no personnel decisions for the Washington Nationals.” I bet you a dollar to a donut the Lerner brothers the owners of the Washington Nationals never consulted with him before they fired Dusty Baker. The best manager in the history of the franchise. He improved his won-lost record from year one to year two!
Next up Magic Johnson, he was also named a minority owner for the L. A. Dodgers. He follows closely in the footsteps of James Brown. He makes no personnel decisions for the Dodgers except to request tickets for the games, to his credit he parlayed that into a front office position with the L. A. Lakers (President of Basketball Operations) thanks to the late owner Jerry Buss.
The new lead-off hitter and latest token minority owner (4%) Derek Jeter a former New York Yankee great is now the black face of the Tampa Bay Marlins. His first official duties were to fire MLB Hall of Fame players Andre Dawson and Tony Perez. Dawson and Perez are both men of color and had been working in the front-office of the Marlins for over two decades. Jeter delivered the bad news that the new owners wanted to go in another direction, like limit the number of people of color in the organization. This is nothing new in MLB, the number of on field Afro-American players is its lowest in decades. James Brown, Magic Johnson and Derek Jeter are the best examples, “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”
None of these guys have ever been in the war zones of their communities until after their athletic careers were inked on a professional contract. James Brown came close, he was a model in my annual toys for tots Kids In Trouble & Inside Sports Celebrity Fashion Show. He was then employed as a sales rep at Xerox.
In 1968 when the riots hit DC Willie Wood (NFL), Judge Luke C. Moore (1st black modern day U. S. Marshall in Charge) and I walked arm and arm in the U street NW corridor trying to save lives without guns or police protection. I was the only civilian swore-in and given a DC Police Department badge that allowed me to cross police and military barriers set up around the city.
In 1969 I was in the right place at the right time when President Richard Nixon honored me with a Presidential appointment for my work with inner-city children.
My first assigment was with the President’s Counsel on Physical Fitness and Sports. I worked with the legendary Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson for a year before settling in with Secretary Melvin Laird at the Department of Defense. If it was about becoming a millionaire the opportunity was there for the taking. My passion then as is now, “Children First” but Jim Brown reminded me, ‘Harold, childre don’t vote’.
In Washington, DC in 1970 I became the 1st black to host and produce my own radio sports talk show, Inside Sports. The show was out of Compton long before NWA.
I was the first sports talk show host to play message music, hold discussions on racism inside and outside of sports, media roundtables, write commentaries, etc. The media personalities who came through Inside Sports read like a Who’s Who, to include your new friend James Brown and Bill Rhoden of the New York Times.
In 1974 Muhammad Ali shocked the world when he knocked out the undefeated Heavyweight Champion, big George Foreman. It was the greatest upset in boxing history now known as, “The Rumble in the Jungle”. The first sports media personality to interview Ali when he arrived back in the United States, was not Ed Bradley of CBS 60 Minutes, Bryant Gumble of NBC’s Morning Show or Howard Cosell a television sports icon seen and heard on the ABC network. His first interview was with yours truly a little known sports talk show host heard on W-U-S-T a gospel AM radio station in Washington, DC.
Ali proved to be a man of his word, in the summer of 1974 I met with him in Chicago to talk about a one on one interview. In that meeting I politely said “No” to his invitation to fly to Zaire (I was scared to fly across the ocean) for the interview. After he got through laughing at me, he promised that I would be the first to interview him when he got back to the states after he knocked out Foreman.
One week after the fight I was asleep in my SE DC apartment when my telephone rang. It was raining and I was in a deep sleep, I reached over and picked up the phone and said, “Hello”. The voice on the other end said, “Let me speak to Harold Bell” and I asked who was calling the voice yelled back, ‘Fool this is the Heavyweight Champion of the whole wide world, Muhammad Ali.’ I sat straight up in the bed and said, “Whats up champ?” I could not believe my ears. I thought I was dreaming. The rest is sports media history. In 1975 thanks to the late television anchor Jim Vance I became the 1st black to host and produce his own television sports special in prime time on NBC afiliate WRC-TV 4. My special guest was Muhammad Ali.
In the meantime, the Washington Post was conspiring to kidnap my tag “Inside Sports” with a writer in their Style section name John Walsh. He took my title to New York City in 1978 and published Inside Sports Magazine–it was DOA (Dead On Arrival)) in two years it folded. The magazine could not figure out how to capture the success of my talk radio format and transfer it into a successful magazine reading format. Walsh later became Vice-President of ESPN television who had adopted my radio format and it is now the most popular sports network in the world.
Inside Sports was “Out Side the Lines and Real Sports” long before ESPN and HBO. My format changed the way we talk sports in the WORLD and it is now use in every radio and television format you see and hear.
When it comes to police brutality and police mis-conduct I lost two brothers to The Thin Blue Line and Code of Silence. I am in the fight to the bitter end as it relates to unarmed men of color being shot down in the streets of America just because they are a darker hue. There is no one in media who has been on the frontlines of civil and human rights as long as I have.
I have broken bread with Presidents, great politicians, great athletes, and great entertainers, but none of them were as great as my mother, grandmother and my high school coach, Dave Brown. They taught me to be a man of integrity and to tell the truth (Our Truth) and walk with my head held high. And not to talk behind people’s backs—my telephone number is listed and I am not hard to find if anyone wants to discus any issue with me.
Harry, I think you got me mixed up with some of your new friends in sports media. I notice in your emails relating to your criticism of them, you would always close saying how much you liked and loved them (Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon). I don’t want any of those brothers who don’t love themselves or their people, to be under the impression that I love or like them–they are killing us softly.
In 1968 my wife Hattie and I found our non-profit organization Kids In Trouble and hosted our first Chrstmas toy party for needy children. The party (1968-2013) benefited thousands of elementary school children in the District, Maryland and Virginia without grants or loans.
This is the same reach back format now copied by MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL. Dave Bing (1967), Willie Wood (1968) and the Washington Redskins as a team in (1971) were the first to join the my non-profit, Kids In Trouble organization to help enhance the growth of inner-city children. Santa’s Helpers had names like Redskins’, WR Roy Jefferson, RB Larry Brown, DB Ted Vactor, LB Harold McLinton, LB Dave Robinson and QB Doug Williams.
The first ever NFL national television community promo by NFL films was taped at my Hillcrest Children’s Center Saturday Program. The 1972 NFL Most Valuable Player RB Larry Brown and LB Harold McLinton were taped in a swimming pool teaching water safety to inner-city kids.
Harry, you mention something about helping educators in Northern California as it relates to the tragic lost of lives and property in their recent fire ravaged communities. I think its commendable that you would want to explore the role of sports in helping kids and communities to heal and deal with the traumatic experiences cause by those tragic fires. This is nothing new either, I have been trying to put out fires as it relates to education, drugs, police brutality, unsavory politicians, pimps in the pulpit, Justice & Just-Us, unemployment, and health care denial issues in my community and beyond for decades.
We cannot keep passing the buck and blaming all of our woes on white folks. First, the rights and freedoms we once enjoyed we are now losing today. We need to thank President Harry Truman, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Baines Johnson for reaching back. We are looking for love in all the wrong places, we are too busy thanking the “First Black President” Bill Clinton or the last Black President, Barack Obama (check the history books). Someone dropped the ball long before the Trump Presidency. Many of us were sitting on our hands thinking we had it made while “Rome Burned”.
There comes a time in one’s life when you have to close the door on fake NEGROES like some of your new and old friends, for the simple reason you get tired of them going up on the roof with you at the front door knocking and they piss down on you saying, “Harry, don’t worry its just rain, the sun will come out in the morning!”
I didn’t come up with the phrase “Every black face I see is not my brother and every white face I see is not my enemy” by accident.
I was confused by the fact you wrote in the Washington Informer a community Hustling Newspaper published here in DC. You said, “In 1968 we were still in the throes of battle despite the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act where black people were being denied their Civil Rights and the right to vote and there was police violence against black people where nobody was being held accountable. You pretty much have the same causes today. Police violence in the black community and an assault on civil rights. The difference today is you have athletes like Lebron James who can get on Twitter and say to Trump, ‘You Bum’ and it automatically goes out to 3 million people who retweet to their followers and it goes viral to the point it reaches Trump.’
Harry, are you kidding me, you are comparing Lebron James to Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, Tommy Smith, Colin Kaepernick, DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman? Let me be the first to tell you, LeBron James is not a hair off of these brothers backside. And it is totally disrespectful for someone like you and Jim Brown’s with your backgrounds in the struggle to standby silently and rubber stamp LeBron James’ role in producing a documentary/movie on the life of Muhammad Ali. This is Fake News in its truest form–what does he know about the real Ali?
For example, you claim that you decrie NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s recent edict that all NBA basketball players stand when the anthem is played. You were quoted saying, “I would like to see Adam Silver tested in court. Even if its a collective bargaining agreement item, a person doesn’t check their First Amendment Rights when they put on a uniform . Ony in the military and then the rules there say you can’t speak wearing a uniform. When Silver said you can’t speak in the uniform, what is it about playing a game that’s so serious and conspicuous in terms of civil responsibility”?
Harry, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth, are you saying you can ask John and Tommy to put their lives on hold with the 1968 Olympic Project, and tell Colin to take a knee, but you can’t suggest to the G.O.A.T Lebron James, to sit down for the playing of the national anthem with his partners in this charade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade? These brothers are on their last legs in the NBA what’s the problem—what do they have to lose?
In the meantime, you want them to carry Adam Silver to Federal Court when the most important court is the one they are playing on. This is the best way to insure their legacy and the legacy for their children–what ever happen to “Making Children First”?
You closed your email with “Not a lot of time for conversation”! You make it sound like you are the only one busy in “The Struggle”. Are you saying, because I don’t have a national Fake News format you don’t have time for an interview—4 decades after Inside Sports—something is wrong with this picture and it is not Harold Bell.
Last Christmas (2016) when a Harvard bred NEGROE suggested I was wasting my time in the community working with the poor and down-trodden and then had the balls to ask me what did I make? See my response below.
“MAKING A DIFFERENCE”
During a Christmas party in 2016 my wife Hattie and I were sitting around the table discussing life and the Presidency of Donald Trump.
One man, a brother with a PhD from Harvard and a CEO in Corporate America decided to explain the problem with teachers and youth advocates. Evidently, he decided we were the problem.
He said, ‘What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher or advocate for children?’
He reminded us what they say about teachers: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.”
To emphasize his point he looked at me and said, “Harold you are a community activist and youth advocate. Be honest. What do you make?
My reputation for honesty and calling it like I see them is well known. I replied, ‘You want to know what I make’?
First, I went where there was no path in community involvement and sports talk radio and I left a trail for the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL to follow.
I make kids believe they can sit on the mountain top with Muhammad Ali and have lunch with the President.
I make kids excel in the classroom when they thought they could not. I make them believe they are the best when they take the field in athletics.
I make a C+ student feel like they just won the Congressional Medal of Honor and A and B is just around the corner.
I teach kids sportsmanship and make them respect each other. And losing a game is not the end of the world. There will always be another game the next day, the next week or next year.
I make a young athlete understand that the most important game being played in the world today is not football, basketball or baseball—it’s the game called life and Black Lives do matter.
I make kids understand that every black face they see is not their brother and every white face they see is not their enemy.
I make them do one-100 sit-ups and one-100 jumping jacks when they don’t follow the rules.
I make kids believe their heroes are not athletes and entertainers, their heroes are their parents and teachers.
I make pulling a 15 year old artistic girl off the subway tracks in SE DC with a train approaching look routine.
I make a young man like Lonnie Taylor growing up in the inner-city believed he could become the first black Chief of Staff for a white Congressman on Capitol Hill (Jack Buechner D-Missouri).
I make a broke and penny-less Sugar Ray Leonard believe he could become a world champion and the first pro boxer to make 100 million dollars in prize money in the history of the sport.
I make Radio and TV One owners Cathy Hughes and her son Alfred believed they can be all that they can be.
I make mentee and NY Times best-selling author Omar Tyree (Flyy Girls and Mayor For Life) remember where he came from and he didn’t make it by himself.
I used Inside Sports to help make Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson, Jr. the first black to win a NCAA Division One championship.
I guided Doug Williams’ in the community as he gilded the Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl in 1988. Making him the first black QB to win a Super Bowl and MVP.
When the NFL and the NBA forgot the pioneering efforts of Willie Wood and Earl Lloyd I made them remember. They were inducted into the NFL and NBA Hall of Fames in 1989 and 2003 respectively.
I make kids believe that the most important hall of fame—is God’s.
I made it possible to help get Jim Brown an early release from jail in 2007 for a bogus domestic violence charge. I led a letter writing campaign that made it possible to get DC basketball playground legend Jo Jo Hunter released from jail. He had served 18 years for armed robbery.
I closed by saying, “when people like you try to judge me by what I make, knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and overlook your ignorance, because it is people like you who are holding our community back.
You want to know what I make, I make a difference. What do you make, Mr. CEO?” He suddenly remembered he was late for another engagement and disappeared out the back door.
“There is nothing wrong with the world, this is a beautiful world. The problem is the people in it!” Clarence ‘Bighouse’ Gaines
COMMON SENSE–STREET SENSE–BOOK SENSE–UNDEFEATED
Note Worthy: There is also Randy Kennedy a Harvard grad, he now teaches law at the school and pretends to be an expert on the black community (written several books). I remember when his dad Henry Kennedy, Sr. and I use to take him out in the community with us as a kid. He was amazed of how many people knew me on the streets in the neighborhoods were we walked. He said, “Mr. Bell when I become famous I am going to write about you”—famous last words. He forgot, just like the rest. His father died about 10 years ago. I remember when his daddy would remind him that he still had family in DC and he needed to come home to visit sometime. Well he didn’t and when his father died guess who was draped over the coffin crying crocodile tears? When his mother died last year I was there also. He has a great family background, his brother Henry Jr. is a retired Federal Judge (community advocate) and sister Angela is an attorney, but somewhere along the way he forgot. It is often said, “A apple does not fall too far from the tree,” this brother was not even in the same orchard as his father.