TRAIL BLAZER: PAUL ROBERSON ACTOR-SINGER-CIVIL RIGHTS ICON
In the February issue of ESPN the magazine the cover story is title “The State of the Black Athlete!” When I opened the magazine and saw the editor-chief was a former Washington Post writer and go-fer by the name of Kevin Miranda I knew right away this was a Fake News Story. Kevin has no clue as it relates to the black community or to the black athlete. ESPN in Connecticut has long been the outpost for “Washington Post North.” Former Washington Post columnist Jill Nelson wrote a book titled “Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience” The book details her experience as a volunteer slave while writing for the Washington Post in the 80s.
I remember a Washington Post senior sports writer confiding in me that Sports Editor George Solomon ran the sports department like Adolf Hitler. Former columnist Michael Wilbon use to cry on my shoulder of how Solomon use to look over his shoulder and change his column. Former employees called the paper “The Plantation on the Potomac”. When one of their writers John Walsh hijacked my tag and title “Inside Sports” in 1978 I was disappointed but not surprised. Newsweek now owns the copy rights to Inside Sports and the Washington Post owns Newsweek. I guess you could call this the luck of the draw!
Let me tell you about The State of the Black Athlete in America and how much progress he has made as it relates to pro sports. An equal opportunity employer they are not, for example, when it comes to the hiring of blacks as coaches, managers and sharing ownership is almost non-existent. In 2018 there are four major sports franchises, the NBA, NFL, MLB and the NHL. Each franchise has 30+ teams and at the end of the day that is a total of 120 teams with a total of maybe 14 coaches and managers (give or take). There is only one Afro-American/Black owner among the 120 sports franchises. To call this a plantation is an understatement. NFL owners have locked out and blocked black ownership and stunted the growth of Black America.
Someone please explain to me why are there folks mad at NFL players for not standing for the flag during the playing of the national anthem in NFL stadiums? This protest was started last year when 49er QB Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and the racism taking place in stadiums across the NFL. Unarmed black men were and still are being used as target practice in police departments across America.
The media, politicians, and NFL owners changed the narrative to Colin Kaepernick was disrespecting military men who gave their lives for this country.
I don’t know how many of you are aware that the first professional athlete was a slave on the plantation in the early 1800s and he played without a contract and free agency was out of the question. The only difference is the modern day slave is paid millions of dollars to put his life on the line betting he won’t develop CTE and too many are losing that battle. The owners make billions of dollars to watch the mayhem from their sky suites with their wives and children safely out of harm’s way cheering on the slaves. This is today’s, “Good Old Boy’s Club” with their motto, “If you are black its best you get back, if you are brown you can stick around, and if you are white you are all right!”
Two of my favorite people, NFL Hall of Fame LB Sam Huff and Willie Wood both are victims of CTE.
Super Bowl 52, the final score on Sunday January 4th 2018 Philadephia Eagles 41 NE Patriots 33. The Price was still not right—let me explain.
On a Saturday morning 26 years ago January 25, 1992 Super Bowl 26, the Washington Redskins were playing the Buffalo Bills in the Hubert Humphrey Metro Dome. I interviewed Minnesota Spokesman columnist and talk show host Larry Fitzgerald Sr. He had become a regular on my Saturday morning Inside Sports Media Roundtable. His son Larry Jr. would often answer the telephone on those mornings and yell, “hey dad its’ Mr. Bell in Washington, DC. Now that same little 8 yr old Larry is now considered one the greatest Wide Receiver to ever play in the NFL and a first round ballot hall of fame player.
In that interview with Larry Fitzgerald Sr. We talked about the hiring of Dennis Greene the first black head coach for the Minnesota Vikings and the hiring of Clem Haskins as the first black head basketball coach for the University of Minnesota and one month later the university hires its first black Athletic Director, Dr. McKinley Boston. All these historical events took place 26 years ago.
Larry Fitzgerald remembers NFL Coach Dennis Greene and Super Bowl 1992
THE NO. 24s WHO RAN THE RACE AND SET THE TABLE FOR TODAY’S NFL PLAYERS!
The first NFL world championship game was played in 1958, the participating teams were the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants. It was the first ever sudden death overtime world championship game. The Colts beat the Giants 23-17. The game was called the greatest game ever played in the NFL. On the winning Baltimore Colt team, there were two players who wore the number 24, running back Lenny Moore and a brash rookie cornerback named Johnny Sample.
In 1959 the world championship game was re-named The Super Bowl, because the upstart AFL had wiggled its way into the league and they wanted a piece of the pie. In 1959 the NFL Green Bay Packers faced off against the upstart AFL champions, the KC Chiefs. It was no contest the Packers beat the Chiefs like a drum 35-10. In 1960 the Packers returned to play the AFL rep Oakland Raiders and it was no contest again, the final score was 33-14.
There was a black player who played in those two back to back Super Bowl games as a member of the Green Bay Packers, he was the co-captain of the team. He wore No. 24, his name was Willie Wood. Willie graduated from Armstrong High School in Washington, DC and he took his education to the next level by attending Coalinga Jr. College in California. He spent two years there and transferred to the University of Southern California.
It was there he became the 1st black quarterback in the school’s history. In 1958 he was a walk-on for the Green Bay Packers and a starter as a free safety his second year on the job. The rest is NFL history, he was named to 7 NFL All-Pro teams, led the league in interceptions and punt returns. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi called him “My Coach on the field.” He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1989.
The AFL had been embarrassed the first two Super Bowls, but guess who was coming to dinner in 1969, the New York Jets and CB Johnny Sample, he was the co-captain and the Jets were given no chance of beating the NFL’s best, the Baltimore Colts. The AFL would finally get its revenge the Jets beat the Colts 16-7. Some have called this the greatest upset in American sports history! Jet QB Joe Namath was named the MVP but according to him his teammate Johnny Sample could have easily won the award. Willie and Johnny both wore No. 24 and were the QBs on the defensive side of the ball.
In that 1959 game against Kansas City, Willie broke open a close game with a timely interception thrown by QB Len Dawson and he returned it to the four yard line. KC was never able to recover.
Similar Johnny had a back breaking interception against QB Earl Morall and the Colts never recovered. Remember there was no love lost between these two teams, Johnny played for the Colts in 1958 when they beat the Giants in that sudden death overtime. Over a decade later Johnny can’t wait to meet his old team, he talked trash all the way up to kick-off and was still talking trash when the gun went off to end the game.
Lenny Moore was the other No. 24 who played in that 1958 sudden death overtime for the Colts. He was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1956. He played 12 years in the NFL and he put the catch in the running back position. He caught so many passes out of the backfield the Colts creative a position that would later would become known as “the flanker back!” In the 60s the Colts were the deadliest passing team in the NFL with TE John Mackey, the great WR Ray Berry and Lenny Moore. The greatest QB of that era was a man they called The Ice Man—Johnny Unitas. Lenny scored a touchdown in a NFL-record 18 consecutive games starting in 1963 and continuing through the entire 1964 season, the streak ended in 1965. This record stood for 40 years until being equaled by LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005. He was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times. Lenny was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1975.
Johnny Sample had the distinction of beginning and ending his career with championship wins in two of the most famous games in professional football history, he won a NFL championship (1958), a AFL championship (1969), and a World Championship (1969). He is the only player to play on two different World Championship teams in two different leagues. The NFL Baltimore Colts in 1958 and the AFL New York JETS IN 1969. In 1963 Johnny was playing for the Washington Redskins when his friend and teammate Gene Big Daddy Lipscomb was allegedly to have died from a drug overdose in Baltimore at a friend’s apartment. According to a press release from the NFL and Commissioner Pete Rozell the drug was heroin. Johnny disagreed because he knew Big Danny was scared of needles. He sued the NFL to clear his friend’s name—he won and lost at the same time. The NFL blackballed him from participating in anything connected to the league including the Hall of Fame. Big Daddy was like a brother to Johnny.
In retirement Johnny taught himself how to play tennis and went on to become the USTA No. 1 ranked player in the 45 and over age group. He organized and ran the largest youth tennis program in the city of Phila. He was a respected linesman on the pro tennis circuit at the US, French, and Australian Opens. These assignments earned respect and helped him to become the first black chair umpire.
Lenny, Johnny and Willie were the first NFL players to reach back into the community to enhance the growth of inner-city kids using my non-profit organization Kids In Trouble, Inc. as a vehicle as early as 1968.
In 1970 Johnny wrote a book titled “The Confessions of Dirty Football Player” in a Legends of Inside Sports Roundtable, I teamed him up with All-Pro safety Willie Wood, All-Pro WR Roy Jefferson, young CB JB Brown of the Miami Dolphins, sports talk show host Sonny Hill and celebrity host All-Pro NFL legend, Jim Brown. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzY5Mki8OVE / stay tune the screen goes blank for 2 minutes.
Johnny should be in the NFL Hall of Fame, I understand there is a move underfoot to petition the hall of fame. The problem, there are no Harold Bells, or sports columnist like the late Dick Heller of the Washington Times or Presidents of NFL teams with the mentality of NBA Red Auerbach to right these kinds of wrongs in pro sports. Today’s radio and television sports host and talkers like NFL/CBS studio host James Brown, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, ESPN’s Kevin Blackistone, all came through Inside Sports before their 15 minutes of fame, they are all talk, but no walk.
Willie thanks the late Dick Heller for helping to get him inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame
Let us not forget Phila. native son ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and my mentor and Johnny’s good friend, talk show host Sonny Hill. I would think that Sonny would be leading the petition drive to get his friend inducted, but I have no clue! I know James Brown was once a close friend of Johnny’s daughter Evelyn. Elmer Smith is a former sports columnist of the Phila. Inquirer would be a great asset, that is a great foundation to get the ball rolling, but what do I know!
Someone might really need to throw a cold bucket of water on James to wake him up.
Note Worthy: There is a documentary titled “The First to Play” the life story of NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd the first black to play in a NBA game. The documentary is a scam organized by a scam artist named, Arka Senguta of Indian descent. He has already scammed thousands of dollars from NBA players as investors. He bounced several checks to his researcher in Alexandria, Virginia and has reneged on paying his office staff. I requested that my scene in the documentary be deleted.
The documentary is to be aired during Black History Month during the NBA All-Star Game. I have already alerted, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, San Antonio Coach, Greg Popovich, Michelle Roberts (NBPA), Michael Wilbon, James Brown, Mike Wise (ESPN’s Undefeated), Dave McKenna (ESPN’s Dead Spin), Sonny Hill, it looks and sounds like all my contacts are deaf and dumb with exception of one, but he is on an Island. I never had a major media platform to toot my horn. Inside Sports was heard on low-signal AM stations if you drove around the corner you could not hear my show. Despite the odds I still campaigned and help get two pro athletes inducted into their respective hall of fames. They were Willie Wood (NFL 1989) and Earl Lloyd (NBA 2003). They were both black balled and ignored by their peers and beat writers on the voting committee.
In the final analyst, The State of the Black Athlete, he is on a runaway train going to hell in a hurry with no station in sight.
You can read my Bleacher Report blog on Johnny Sample titled, “He was a Dirty Football Player—but he was a stand-up brother!” and my other blogs can be read on theoriginalinsidesportsblog.com and blackmeninamerica.com