fifty years ago this spring, Jackie Robinson broke the color bar in baseball. The events that followed provide a lesson for Black History Month — which ends this week — that many civil rights leaders seem to have forgotten. Following Robinson’s historic breakthrough, as everybody knows, other black athletes followed his example and professional basketball and football also became multiracial sports. Over the years, however, there were many doubters that these gains were possible or that the revolution would continue. The doubters said whites would never accept more than a few black players. There would always be quotas to limit the number of blacks. Whites, they said, would never allow blacks to become managers or quarterbacks or the owners of clubs. They said that if blacks became the majority of the players in professional basketball, for example, whites wouldn’t go to see the games.
But history has shown that on all counts the doubters were wrong. Blacks did become quarterbacks and managers and general managers. Superstars like Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson even became owners. So thoroughly did blacks come to dominate sports that were once the exclusive province of whites that in basketball today almost 90 percent of the starting players are black. When the NBA All-Star Game was played last year, it was televised to 170 countries worldwide, and nine out of the 10 starting players were black multimillionaires, some with contracts totaling $50 million, $80 million and even $100 million. But despite this overwhelming tide of color in the sport, 80 percent of the paying customers are still white.
The most telling point in the history just summarized is the following neglected fact: This was all accomplished without government intervention and without affirmative action. There were no government policies or official guidelines laid down for owners of athletic teams, no EEOC investigators hovering around stadiums or summoning owners to court. No lawsuits were filed by NAACP lawyers, no consent decrees ordered by federal judges, no heavy government hand compelling owners to redress “past injustice.” Only two things were required to achieve this momentous change in America’s race relations: a single businessman with a vision, and a public to support him.
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- From the Pen of David Horowitz: December 9, 2009
- From the Pen of David Horowitz: December 16, 2009
- From the Pen of David Horowitz: December 18, 2009