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WRIGHT: Black athletes continue making their mark

Column: The Black Light

With Black athletes, like those on the World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers, proving their greatness again, sports have become a bastion of Black excellence. – Photo by Los Angeles Dodgers / Instagram

​For this week's article, I had planned to write about the upcoming election, but after Tuesday night’s World Series win by the Los Angeles Dodgers, I realized that there is a growing conversation of Black players as the best players of their respective sports. 

Now, this is not a sports column, but I must let it be known that I am of course an avid sports fan and lover of sports.  

Watching game six of the 2020 World Series put me in awe that I am in a special time in sports as a Black man in America. This special time is seemingly convincing me that Black athletes are excelling at rampant rates in their respective American sports, so much so that they are among the top of the top in their leagues. 

Look at the NBA, where more than 80 percent of the athletes identify as Black. The top five players in that league currently are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and Anthony Davis, in no specific order – besides LeBron James first.

Then when we jump into the NFL, the most important position (maybe in sports) in American football is overwhelmingly the quarterback. And, over the years, even though the NFL’s racial or ethnic make-up consists of approximately 70 percent of their 32 teams' rosters being Black men, the quarterback position has overwhelmingly been white men until approximately 2017

In 2017, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes II, 10th overall. The pick of Mahomes was one that stunned fans of the team because, approximately a year earlier, they had signed veteran quarterback Alex Smith.

A year after that in 2018, Lamar Jackson was drafted to the Baltimore Ravens, with a similar situation as Mahomes. With a veteran quarterback as the starter, it drew confusion from fans once again, but in Jackson’s case, there were notions, from the other 29 teams that did not sign him, that he was not fit for the quarterback position and should change his position to a wide receiver in order to “fit” in the NFL as a quarterback.

Fast forward to 2020, Jackson was crowned the most valuable player (MVP) for the 2019-20 NFL season, and Mahomes won the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl MVP. This feat had not been seen in the NFL, up to that date. Two black quarterbacks being deemed the MVPs in the NFL. And in July, Mahomes signed a 10-year $500 million contract to the Chiefs.

As the NFL 2020-21 season was getting kicked off, another Black quarterback was drafted into the NFL – 5-foot-11 Kyler Murray to the Arizona Cardinals. 

As the season began, the NFL’s starting Black quarterbacks' numbers were around 10 out of the 32 NFL teams in the league, a number that has not been seen by myself any time before. And as the season progressed, the front runners for the MVP race for the regular season are currently two Black quarterbacks leading the pack out of the four candidates. 

In the MLB, there have been a number of Black players who have done extraordinary things in the realm of professional baseball, but in the past three seasons, the emergence of right fielder Markus Lynn "Mookie" Betts has been a sight to see in the MLB. 

After the Dodgers first World Series win on Tuesday since 1988, it was a sight to see that Mookie Betts was leading yet another MLB team to the World Series in a span of two years' time.

As a big sports fan and Black man, these types of things are major victories for me. I see these men who are relatively my age flourishing in the biggest three stages in American mainstream sports, and it just makes me recognize that this is just the start of what is next to come.

And as for the young Black athletes who are seeing these Black figures in their glory leading, it must be an amazing and encouraging sight, as they get to see people who look like them, are from some of the same places as them and also play the same sports as them, being the best of the best in their respective sports, giving them positive role models to look at for the next years to come.

Amir Wright is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in africana studies. His column, "The Black Light," runs on alternate Fridays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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