“The League” Trumps Ivy League Dreams: Why Are Black Males Chasing Pro Sports Almost Exclusively

Any cursory review of current socio-economic statistics could easily make one believe that African-American males are worthy of being declared “an endangered species, worthy of federal protection.”  For example, the unemployment rate for Black males is the worst in the country at almost 20%, there are far more Black men involved in the criminal system than in college, and homicide is the biggest killer of Black men ages 15-24. However, by far the most severe crisis within the African-American community, is the disaster regarding Black males throughout our nation’s entire educational system.  For example, on the high school level, according to The Schott Foundation for Public Education, the graduation rate of Black males nationally was an appallingly low 48%. Worse, nationally less than 5% of Black males who actually do graduate are college ready! In fact, throughout their educational experience, most Black males encounter under resourced schools, under prepared teachers, higher rates of family and community poverty and lower levels of education, and low expectations for academic success.  Further, with so many Black males lacking the presence of a strong, positive Black male in their lives, many do not learn the basic fundamentals of  true manhood, and instead are trapped in the destructive and unproductive state of “boyhood,” or, even more problematic, strapped in a perpetual state of “malehood.” Worse, warns highly touted sports sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards “young Blacks are encouraged toward attempts at ‘making it’ through athletic participation, rather than pursuit of education and other viable occupations.  So, with so many Black males wholehearted belief that “making it out the hood” requires a career in professional athletics. To many  Black males single-mildly pursue that Pro sports to the exclusion of academic interest, and are sadly eager or at least OK with being exploited, injured, or uneducated because they view it as just “temporary occupational hazard on the road to the riches of the League. To learn more about the thought process behind more Black males dedicating their lives to “the league” vs. the Ivy League,  check out this CNN opinion piece entitled Education vs. The Lure of Pro Basketball the obsession with striking it rich in the sports lottery at the expenses of anything else if explored in-depth.

Damario Solomon-Simmons, a former NCAA D-1 student-athlete, is the managing partner of SolomonSimmonSharrock & Associates law firm and an adjunct professor of African & African-American Studies at the University of Oklahoma.  He can be contacted at www.solomonsimmons.com or @solospeakstruth.