Intoxicating as the reality may be, there’s a sobering symmetry in learning that in the same week Forbes Magazine deemed not a single African-American worthy of inclusion on its top ten most influential athlete list, rap icon and New Jersey Nets minority owner Jay- Z was ethered by a NYC tabloid in an even graver diss largely because he dared to seek to upgrade the overall fortunes of either party.
The separate but equally compelling episodes stand as reaffirmation that even now, full-blown reelection season in the era of Obama, there are still those who simply refuse to view Blacks as anything more than ‘the help’ or ‘the talent’.
How else can you explain how in a matter of mere moments both Forbes and the Post arrived at such draconian, yet clearly interrelated conclusions, each of fully replete with the same maddening undertones?
“Some may see an athlete as influential in his sport, while others see him as crossing over and being influential in society at large,” Forbes wrote in justifying its selection of Tim Tebow as the world’s second most influential athlete. “example: his clean living and public religious values make him a role model for many, even if they render him polarizing in some quarters.”
Are the editors at Forbes not familiar with, say, LeBron James? Long before “Tebowing” was even remotely in vogue all the world was enamored by the thought of the King’s “decision.” Thing is, in all that added baggage both men carry, with James at least there lies a pair of league MVP trophies, five all-NBA first team honors and an Olympic gold medal.
Beyond that, why does the name “Kobe Bryant” not carry much clout at Forbes? The Williams sisters? What of the legend of Tiger Woods, or even that of reigning NBA MVP and current GQ Magazine cover boy Derrick Rose— he of the added distinction of having just inked a $200 to $300 million lifetime endorsement deal with Adidas and rising status of having the league’s top-selling jersey— all of it before family and friends mere blocks from the Chicago neighborhood where it all began?
At the Post, Phil Mushnick’s words relating to Jay-Z were much less coded and far more offensive than even Forbes. “As long as the Nets are allowing Jay-Z to call their marketing shots…why not have him apply the full Jay-Z treatment?,” queried Mushnick, long a staunch critic of the Brooklyn-born rapper.
“Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N——s? The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B—-hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath.”
Smokescreens and damage control being what they are, Mushncik is now insisting the stance he took was all to the common good, that he was somehow saving African Americans everywhere from themselves with the stance he took.
“Jay-Z profits from the worst and most sustaining self-enslaving stereotypes of black-American culture and I’m the racist,” he said. “Some truths, I guess, are just hard to read, let alone think about.”
Memo to Phil Mushnik: Sure, right, and you’re one of the leading voices for the New York Post, have been for quite some time now, an era when the tabloid has given life to such dastardly deeds as comparing Obama to a dead chimpanzee as well as blatantly misguided representations depicting the first African American President and the First Lady as nothing more than fist pumping extremists. Mr. Mushnik, you have incessantly poured salt in the proverbial open wound by, at best, insensitively attacking everyone from Stuart Scott to Steven A. Smith to Joe Morgan in rants thinly veiled in racist overtones and calling each of their credentials into question. Forgive us, one and all, Sir, if the matter of which team you actually are a part of sometimes resonates as a little blurry.
In all fairness, it seems obvious that a next generation of socially aware athletes like Muhammad Ali— or even John Carlos— don’t appear likely to be walking through the door anytime soon. But in the terms of the criteria Forbes advanced for its purposes (being a leader, approachable, handsome) what makes Tim Tebow any more appealing than LeBron James?
Not too surprisingly at the other end of the Forbes’ spectrum, the mag’s latest polling on the “most disliked athletes” list is riddled with the likes of James, Woods, Bryant, Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress, Terrell Owens and Ndamukong Suh, all at the head of the list.
It’s been said recognition is always the first step in any recovery. In this case, hopefully it’ll also serve as a further source of motivation.
Glenn Minnis is a veteran sports and culture writer who has contributed to the likes of ESPN, Vibe and the NFL Magazine. He has also been on staff at AOL Sports, the Chicago Tribune and was the founding sports editor for 360HipHop.com.