Every athlete, including black ones, should be given equal consideration
In sports you will always hear about black pioneers such as Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, and Jim Brown. Sports and the civil rights movement have often gone hand in hand. In the past few years, we have seen events in the sports world that represented everything that these men and others have worked, played, and sacrificed for during their careers. Not only was Russell Wilson the second black starting quarterback since Doug Williams in 1988 to win a Super Bowl, but his team, the Seattle Seahawks, became the first team to ever win a Super Bowl with their top two quarterbacks being black. The number of black NHL prospects increases with each passing season and a plethora of black players are now franchise players or solid contributors to their teams.
However, there are many unsung black heroes that have shaped today’s professional sports and not all of them were athletes.
Tony Dungy, one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, was the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl — incidentally against another black head coach. Mike Tomlin has led the Pittsburg Steelers to two Super Bowls, winning one and becoming the second black head coach to win a title. Since becoming a head coach in 2007, never has a Tomlin-coached Steelers team finished a season with a losing record. Tomlin was not only a champion as a head coach but also as an assistant with the 2002 Buccaneers. Not only is he one of the youngest head coaches, he is one of the smartest and is beloved and respected throughout the sports world.
Wayne Gretzky is often considered to be the best player in hockey history and at the head of the dynasty that was the 1979–88 Edmonton Oilers. However, the narrative might have been different if Grant Fuhr wasn’t in net during those Oilers championships. Fuhr didn’t just succeed at the professional level, but also won gold twice while representing Canada at the Canada Cup. He was an all-star and a Vezina trophy winner. Although he was way past his prime, Fuhr was key to St. Louis Blues making the playoffs in the mid ‘90s. Often referred to as the greatest goalie ever by Gretzy, Fuhr became the first black man to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. When it is all said and done, Jarome Iginla might be the greatest black hockey player of all time, but when you speak about the history of blacks in hockey, Fuhr’s name deserves a mention too — maybe even more so.
Sports would not be what they are today if it were not for the media. Michael Wilbon has been covering sports as a professional since 1979. Since 2001, he has been co-hosting one of ESPN’s shows, Pardon the Interruption. Wilbon is one of the most beloved personalities not only among his peers, but among athletes. He was always known for “keeping it straight.” Many prominent black sports writers and media personalities, such as Stephen A. Smith of ESPN’s First Take, have acknowledged the fact that Wilbon is one of the head figures for black people in the sports industry.
Cam Newton, Wilson, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick are the faces of the future not only of black quarterbacks, but also the NFL. These young men are capable of creating plays with their arms as well as their legs. These dual-threat quarterbacks have Hall of Fame potential, but there is one man who did what they do long before now. Warren Moon was one of the first dual threat quarterbacks in the NFL. Coming out of high school, many colleges doubted him since he refused to play another position, as many other black high school quarterbacks of that time were forced to do.
He went undrafted in the NFL, and many people, including himself, thought teams had doubted his ability based on the colour of his skin. Moon decided to play football anyway, and took his talents to the CFL where he won a handful of rings. He then tried his hand at the NFL once again, and was signed by Houston. Though he never won a Super Bowl, his superb NFL career begs the question of why he wasn’t drafted in the original draft in the first place. Moon is one of the few players to have been inducted in the Hall of Fame on both ends of the American-Canadian border.
But he wasn’t one of the few players to have been ignored, treated differently, or overlooked because of his skin colour.