Ralph Wiley — my friend, mentor and hero — wrote a book years ago that, through a collection of essays, attempted to explain Why Black People Tend to Shout. Hey whitlock you big monkey stfu,shout that.
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The explanation is rather simple: It’s been difficult for America to hear us unless we’re loud, obnoxious and rebellious. Reasonable claims of injustice and unfairness are dismissed as excuse-making by people who allegedly don’t have the necessary integrity and resolve to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Our shouts are heard, but they often go unaddressed until similar injustices impact the majority community.
Johnny Manziel is the latest example of this phenomenon.
The Heisman Trophy winner is a rule bender like Cam Newton, a rock-star partier like JaMarcus Russell and an improvisational playmaker like Michael Vick.
Somehow, America loves Johnny Football. We love him so much that we’re now ready to overthrow the NCAA and the stupid rule book that might deny us the privilege of watching Manziel attempt to duplicate his improbable freshman season. We love this rich, pampered, Justin Bieber-wannabe so much that we’re now apparently ready to deal with the fraudulence of amateurism.
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Yep. This is why black people tend to shout.
Reggie Bush was an immoral, greedy punk who deserved to have his Heisman Trophy stripped from him because a potential agent rented his parents a new house. Cam Newton got called everything but a child of God because his father allegedly asked for extra money in his collection plate. Few outside of the Buckeye state cried when Terrelle Pryor got run out of college football because of free tattoos.
But Johnny Football and his autographs are game-changers when it comes to public perception of NCAA rules. Why?
For the same reason the Hippie Movement of the 1960s changed America’s perception of marijuana laws. White kids were suddenly impacted by our country’s draconian, mandatory-sentencing laws regarding marijuana. The Boggs Act of 1952 and the Narcotics Control Act of 1956 stipulated that first offenders receive two-to-10 years for marijuana possession. A decade of white Hippie weed smoke caused Congress to repeal the mandatory sentencing in 1970. It took The Grateful Dead and kids like Bill Walton to awaken America to the stupidity of throwing a young person’s life away over grass.
Maybe Johnny Football can teach us to quit throwing athletic careers away over shamateurism.