The Re-Emergence of Black Consciousness Within the Sports Community

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The term ‘Black Consciousness’ stems from the great Black sociologist W.E.B. Dubois’ development of the concept of the ‘double consciousness.’ Seeking to make sense of the Black American experience a century ago, DuBois coined the term in an Atlantic Monthly article titled “Strivings of the Negro People.” It was later republished and slightly edited under the title “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” in his famous book, The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois describes double consciousness as follows:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.”

Black consciousness among athletes reached it’s zenith in the 1960s.  Perhaps, the most glaring example of Black social consciousness during that era took place on June 4, 1967 at 105-15 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. On this glorious day, Jim Brown (Cleveland Browns), Bill Russell (Boston Celtics), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (UCLA), John Wooten (Cleveland Browns), Jim Shorter (Washington Redskins), Willie Davis (Green Bay Packers), Curtis McClinton (Kansas City Chiefs), Sid Williams (Cleveland Browns) and Bobby Mitchell (Washington Redskins) met with Muhammad Ali and then held a news conference in support of his refusal to be drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967.

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Prominent Black Athletes Supporting Muhammad Ali, June 4, 1967

Twenty years later, John Chaney and John Thompson boldly and brazenly exhibited their Black consciousness by condemning the NCAA’s naked attempt to “close the doors of opportunity to poor Black student-athletes.

“The NCAA is a racist organization of the highest order,” said John Chaney on January 12, 1989. “On this day, it instituted a new punishment on black kids who have already been punished because they are poor. Any time the NCAA, which is 90 percent white, considers the youngsters in Division I basketball and football, it discriminates, because 89 percent of the kids are black. I wonder what message they are sending. It’s another hardship for black kids made by white folk.”

CHANEY ALLEN ROBINSON

Hall of Fame Coach, John Chaney

A couple of days after John Chaney excoriated the NCAA, John Thompson, then coach at Georgetown, walked off the court before a Big East Game against Boston College. Thompson said that he would not coach in an N.C.A.A. sanctioned game ”until I am satisfied that something has been done to provide these student-athletes with appropriate opportunity and hope for access to college.”

There can be no doubt that Chaney and Thompson were conscious. They obviously felt their two-ness. They are both American  and Black. In their public pronouncements one can almost literally see their “two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

These days we are bombarded with stories of urban Black student-athletes and student-athletes from Africa being declared ineligible by the NCAA. They window is closing… Just as Chaney and Thompson noted nearly 30 years ago, the NCAA has “instituted a new punishment on black kids who have already been punished because they are poor.”

Fortunately, there has emerged a level of consciousness among some prominent Black members of the basketball community. Accompanying this increased consciousness, has been some innovative and exciting efforts to lift up young Black students and student-athletes. Athletes are helping younger Blacks understand what they have to accomplish and they are working to provide the necessary tools.

The greatest example of contemporary Black consciousness among athletes has to be LeBron James giving kids from Akron — ones with challenging backgrounds like his — the chance to go to college for free. Jame has partnered with the University of Akron to provide a guaranteed four-year scholarship to the school for students in James’ I Promise program who qualify. The scholarship will cover tuition and the university’s general service fee — currently $9,500 per year.

The developers of the kwalifī smartphone app are trying to empower and increase the level of consciousness among high school student-athletes and their families. They want to put famileis in position to take advantage of scholarship opportunities. The kwalifī smartphone app makes it easy to track individual progress toward meeting NCAA and NAIA eligibility requirements.

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The kwalifi app has been embraced by some of the most prominent and influential members of the Black basketball community. In cities like Newark, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Baltimore, MD, Washington, DC and Houston, TX socially conscious Black men are working to increase awareness of NCAA rule changes. Conscious Blacks in the basketball community are working to increase the level of awareness among those coming after them.

Seton Hall great Marcus Toney-El (NJ Playaz), Vincent Robinson (Robinson School) and Roland Whitley (NC State) are leading the charge in Northern New Jersey. Kamal Yard (Philly Pride), Rodney Veney (Philly Pride), Amauro Austin (Philly Pride), Eric Worley (Philly Triple Threat), Charles Monroe (All-City Classic) Paul Gripper (Team Phenom), Steve Pina (ASM Sports) Lonnie Lowry (Team Philly), Terrell Myers (WeRone Hoops) and Aaron Burt (Team Final) are educating Philadelphia area student-athletes and parents about the new rules. In Baltimore, Nick Myles (St. Frances) and Rod Harrison (Mount Zion Prep) are trying hep Black kids access college scholarship opportunities.

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Rich Paul, Klutch Sports Group – LeBron James’ Agent

Curtis Symonds has embraced the kwalifi movement after a spectacular career as a Senior Executive with ESPN and BET. He is working to increase awareness of the rule changes in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC and Prince George’s County, MD. Former McDonald’s All-American Jawann McClellan is working with Houston families.

There is widespread consensus that the recent rule changes will have disparate negative impact on poor Black and African student-athletes. The is also widespread commitment to helping families take control of their eligibility process. The kwalifi app is a tool that empowers individual student-athletes.

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Josh Selby and Bay Frazier, Frazier Sports Management – Carmelo Anthony’s Business Manager

Social consciousness is re-emerging amongst Black athletes. The kwalifī app is THE tool for conscious student-athletes and their families.

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www,kwalifi.com

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kwalifī Smartphone App: Take Control of NCAA Eligibility Process

‘kwalifī EligibilityTracker’ available on the Apple App Store and the Android Market

An app that allows high school student-athletes to track progress toward meeting NCAA and NAIA eligibility requirements, now available for IOS and Android devices

PHILADELPHIA – November 16, 2015 – Available today, the app kwalifī allows college-bound high school student-athletes to instantly understand where they stand regarding NCAA and NAIA scholarship eligibility requirements. Increasingly stringent NCAA academic requirements have resulted in hundreds of elite student-athletes being deemed ‘ineligible’ across the country. Low-income minority student-athletes and African student-athletes have been disproportionately impacted by changes in eligibility standards. Our goal is to help parents and student-athletes take control of the scholarship eligibility process.

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Utilizing a simple and intuitive interface, parents, coaches and/or student-athletes enter identifyng information, core course grades and SAT/ACT scores. kwalifī instantly computes the student-athletes progress toward meeting NCAA and NAIA eligibility requirements. Interpretation of the NCAA sliding scale and accurate core course GPA calculations are crucial for ensuring eligibility. No more depending on overwhelmed guidance counselors. Simple, easy to understand and very useful! Specific steps are outlined to help student-athletes meet NCAA and NAIA requirements.

kwalifī Eligibility Tracker is now available for $9.99 in the US and is priced accordingly in other regions. The app is available world-wide, in several languages on the Apple AppStore and the Android Market. Perfect timing for the app, as the NCAA applies a new set of eligibility requirements for 2016 high school graduating class.

Please visit http://www.kwalifi.com for more information including a demo and screenshots of the app.

The kwalifī EligibilityTracker was developed by Black Cager Web Development, LLC a Black-owned web and mobile development company based in Camden, New Jersey.

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If you would like further information on kwalifī EligibilityTracker, or you would like to schedule an interview, please contact:

Delgreco Wilson, Managing Partner, Black Cager Web Development, LLC
Phone: (267) 251-1355
EMail: delgrecowilson@kwalifi.com
Twitter: @DelgrecoWilson

Learning Disabilities and NCAA Eligibility: Open Letter to Parents

Say your son or daughter has a learning disability. They are bright and inquisitive, but they learn differently.

If your child receives special education services, he must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). That’s the law. An IEP is an important legal document. It spells out your child’s learning needs, the services the school will provide and how progress will be measured.

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Several people, including parents, are involved in creating the document. The entire process can be a great way to sort out your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Working on the IEP can help you figure out ways to help him succeed in school.

Creating an effective IEP often takes time, effort and patience.

If your child is also an elite scholastic athlete, there are some other very important factors that must be taken into account.

Your child’s AAU/Grassroots coaches and High School coaches should help walk you through the legal language and procedures so it’ll be easier for you to participate. The more they know about the process, the better they can advocate for your child.

Even with an IEP your child will be required to complete 16 NCAA approved core courses.

The AAU/Grassroots coaches should help you identify a high school with a strong special education component. They should help you find a school with NCAA-approved core courses for special education students.

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IMHOTEP High School in Philadelphia is one such school. As you can see, IMHOTEP has 18 special education classes listed on their NCAA APPROVED Core Course list. If your son or daughter has exhibited elite-level athletic abilities and you are NOT in a position to pay $40,000 to $65,000 to cover the cost of the first year of college, ask questions…

Ask to see the list of NCAA APPROVED Core Courses… If they don’t have a strong special education program, consider another placement. If they do NOT have NCAA APPROVED special education Core Courses, find a high school that does.

Because of your son’s or daughter’s athletic abilities, many people will have opinions. They will criticize your school selection. They will question your motives. Ignore them.

They will NOT help you pay for college if your son or daughter is not eligible. Put your child in the best possible situation to excel athletically and meet increasingly stringent NCAA eligibility guidelines.

Andre

Andre Noble, Imhotep Boys Basketball Coach

Find a school that has taken the time, like IMHOTEP, to make sure that their special education classes were reviewed and approved by the NCAA.

albie-crosby-imhotepAlbie Crosby, Imhotep Football Coach

Give your child the best possible chance to earn a college scholarship… Everything else is bullshit… I’m just sayin’….

Dealing with Barriers to NCAA Eligibility: The kwalifī Strategy?

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

Historically speaking, from 1906 through the early 1970‘s the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sanctioned and supported Apartheid-like Jim Crow segregation among it’s member institutions. For the better part of seven decades, the NCAA perpetuated a system which, more or less, formally excluded people of color from widespread participation. A few exceptional Black athletes like, Paul Robeson (Rutgers), Jackie Robinson (UCLA) and Jesse Owens (Ohio State) slipped through the segregationist cracks in the northern and western parts of the country. In the South, however, big-time college athletics was the exclusive purview of white people.

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Following a massive and sustained struggle for respect, dignity and basic Human Rights during the 1950’s and 1960’s, overt and blatant segregation waned considerably. By 1971, Blacks, heretofore excluded from collegiate athletics at Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina State, Louisiana State and other powerhouse football and basketball programs, became all the rage. Between 1970 and the early 1980’s Black student-athletes became a dominant force in mainstream collegiate athletics. Simultaneously, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) suffered as they steadily lost the most talented Black athletes to wealthier predominantly white institutions.

What was the response of the NCAA to this rapid “tanning” of the high profile revenue generating sports? For some white University Presidents, Athletic Directors and University Donors it must have seemed like an invasion…

Something had to be done… But what?

They couldn’t just contract with Donald Trump to build a “HUGE” wall around football and basketball locker rooms… Nonetheless, they needed a means of stemming the rising tide of Black bodies flooding Basketball and Football programs across the nation…

The problem was that formal segregation was no longer acceptable in America circa 1982-83. It was no longer politically viable to resurrect and reinstall “White Only” signs that had been removed 15 years earlier… A more nuanced and subtle means of denying access was needed. They devised on strategy centered on the development and implementation of “initial freshman eligibility rules.”

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

These eligibility rules were, and remain to this day, discriminatory against Blacks. John Chaney and John Thompson, II throughout much of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, passionately campaigned against what they referred to as  intentionally “racist” eligibility rules. Following eligibility reforms in 1989, Chaney, Temple University’s Hall of Fame Head Coach, unequivocally stated, “The NCAA is a racist organization of the highest order… On this day, it instituted a new punishment on black kids who have already been punished because they are poor. Any time the NCAA, which is 90 percent white, considers the youngsters in Division I basketball and football, it discriminates, because 89 percent of the kids are black. I wonder what message they are sending. It’s another hardship for black kids made by white folk.”

John Chaney

In response to the same reforms, Georgetown University’s John Thompson, II noted, ”I think it’s sort of ironic when they began to integrate the South athletes were the ones used to pave the way, and they were used under the pious assertion that ‘we’re helping these poor kids… Now, apparently someone has said, ‘Enough,’ so they don’t need the kids anymore. They’re using the same rationale they used to get them in to begin to keep them out. I guess it’s a situation where we’re like shoes and clothes. We’re not in style anymore.”

John Thompson

John Thompson, II

These legendary Black coaches used their positions of prominence to consistently and fervently denounce the NCAA’s racist actions. Since then, every four or five years, the NCAA has implemented increasingly stringent initial eligibility standards. Each set of reforms disproportionately impacting Black student-athletes in a negative manner. The most recent 2016 reforms have, once again, led contemporary prominent Black coaches to openly question the disparate racial impact.

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development (NACED), a group led by Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith, Georgetown coach John Thompson III (son of John Thompson, II) and former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, recently issued a statement to The Associated Press observing that the standards disproportionately target minority and less affluent students in “an unintended consequence beyond acceptability.”

Whereas Chaney and Thompson, II contended that the NCAA acted with malice and fully intended to harm Blacks, the contemporary Black coaches recognize the same harmful impact but chose to consider it “an unintended consequence.” The raw, unfettered and direct accusations of racist behavior on the part of the NCAA put forth by Chaney and Thompson, II stand in stark relief to mild objections of “unintended consequences” emanating from Tubbs, Hewitt and Thompson, III.

John Thompson, III

Nonetheless, today’s coaches are voicing objection… “That dream could be taken away after six semesters in high school,” John Thompson III said. “So for someone that’s a late bloomer, someone that the light bulb doesn’t go on until later, now it’s too late. And just the disproportionate number of minorities that’s going to affect, the number of people in general that’s going to affect, is not good.”

The 2016 rule changes, coupled with a 2007 rule that allows for only one course from prep school to be applied to an athlete’s transcript, will have a major impact on the number of Black athletes that will be eligible to compete as freshman, especially in the NCAA’s two biggest moneymakers: football and men’s basketball.

A recent NCAA report found that 43 percent of men’s college basketball players, 35 percent of football players and 15 percent of Division I athletes overall who were competing as freshmen in 2009-10 would not have qualified under the new standards. Whether it’s intentional as argued by Chaney and Thompson 25 years ago or “unintentional” as posited by Tubby, Thompson, III and Hewitt, the end result is clear.

A disproportionate number of Black males are going to be excluded from collegiate competition.

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

If I wanted to identify a scheme that would disproportionately harm Black student-athletes I would set the minimum SAT score, with a minimum GPA, at 900. As you can see on the above chart, there is a persistent “performance gap” between racial/ethnic groups on the SAT exam. Asians excel, whites do well and ONLY Blacks have average SAT scores below the 900 cutoff point.

In the “real world,” the “average” white student with a 2.3 GPA will be eligible and the “average” Black student with a 2.3 GPA will be ineligible.

This a perfect scheme… if the aim is to limit opportunities for Blacks while appearing race-neutral.

I’m NOT sayin’ it’s a racist organization, but….

How can Blacks counter this scheme that will, undoubtedly, have racist and discriminatory impact?

While it is certainly interesting to note the evolution of the responses from Black coaches, it really does not matter if the NCAA is intentionally or unintentionally trying to decrease opportunities for Blacks? We must deal with the simple fact that they are decreasing opportunities for Blacks.

The inevitable outcome will be fewer eligible Black student-athletes.

So… What are our strategic options? What should Blacks do about it?

The Black Cager has been discussing this very question with prominent and influential members of the Black youth basketball, AAU/Grassroots and educational communities. Although a lot of different ideas emerged during these conversations, there was a recurring theme in all the discussion.

“We have to EDUCATE the young student-athletes.” Over and over, it was concluded that the best thing we could do was to provide student-athletes and their parents with easy to understand and accessible information regarding the rule changes.

Kamal Yard, Philly Pride/Triple Threat

The Black Cager has had strategic discussions with Kamal Yard, Eric Worley, Rodney Veney and Amauro Austin (Philly Pride/Triple Threat AAU/grassroots organization). They immediately embraced and acted upon the strategy. Rob Brown and Aaron Burt (Team Final) agree that educating families and student-athletes is the most useful tactic at this point. Lonnie Lowry (Team Philly) continues to be a staunch supporter of educational efforts by the Black Cager. Terrell Myers (WeRone Hoops) has also embraced the educational outreach strategy.

Terrell Myers and Sedee Keita

Others have embraced and incorporated the educational outreach strategy as well. Littel Vaughn Charles Monroe consistently make sure they incorporate NCAA eligibility education in every event/league they organize. Philly’s High School Coaches have been very proactive with regard to getting information out to the families. John Mosco (Archbishop Wood), Paul Ramczuk (Archbishop Carroll), Rob Moore (Constitution), Andre Noble (Imhotep), Jazz Williams (West Catholic), Kenyatta Bey (Audenreid), Larry Yarbray (Chester), Pervis Ellison (Life Center Academy), Carl Arrigale (Neumann-Goretti), Chris Clahar (Parkway, CC) and Clyde Jones (Penn Wood) have demonstrated a strong commitment to working with families to increase opportunities for their players to access high learning institutions.

The Black Cager has consulted with Paul Gripper (Team Phenom), Vincent Robinson (The Robinson School) and Sam Rines (Rise Academy) on numerous individual cases. These guys fight the fight and walk the walk with their players. They win some, they lose some… But they always try to arm the players/families with accurate information as early as possible. Lou Daniels, Betty Givens, Mo Howard and Claude Gross are always available to provide counsel and guidance. They treat every kid as if he/she were their own.

But…

Even with all of these efforts we are just scratching the surface of an enormous problem affecting tens of thousands student-athletes of color. This is a national, perhaps even international, issue.  Many African, Latin American and European student-athletes have also been experiencing great difficulty meeting eligibility requirements.

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All agree that we need interventions capable reaching tens of thousands of families. Hence, after consulting with all of the above members of the youth basketball community, we have developed the kwalifi smartphone app. kwalifī is a simple and powerful app for tracking progress toward meeting NCAA Division I, Division II and NAIA scholarship eligibility requirements. It allows parents, students and coaches to take ownership of the eligibility process. Core course grades, sliding scales, core course GPA calculations are made easy to understand. No more depending on counselors. It is simple, easy to understand and very useful! Specific steps are outlined to help student-athletes meet NCAA and NAIA requirements.

Bay and Josh

Josh Selby and Bay Frazier

Moreover, with the assistance of people like Rodney Veney, we have discussed ways to ensure that every Black kid has access to the kwaifi app with Bay Frazier (Carmelo Anthony’s Manager), Rich Paul (LeBron James’ agent), Curtis Symonds (retired BET Executive) and Kevin Chiles (Publisher, Don Diva Magazine). As we develop marketing distribution strategies, The Black Cager welcomes input from all concerned parents. players, coaches and others committed to improving the educational opportunities for Black student-athletes. This is merely one step in a struggle to ensure our young people continue to have access to educational opportunities commensurate with their academic and athletic abilities.

Rich Paul

Rich Paul, Klutch Sports Group

We have to EDUCATE the young student-athletes… If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions as to how we can do a better job of pursuing this strategy please shoot us an email at blackcager@gmail.com. If you know of youth organizations or schools that will benefit from the kwalifi app, let me know!

Delgreco K. Wilson
The Black Cager

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