What’s Plan B?
How the Pro Sports Lottery is Destroying Black America
By Damario Solomon-Simmons, Esq.
According to the NFL Players Association, 2 out of every 1,000 high school football players will make the NFL. For those who make it, the average career is 3 years. What do you do when you’re 25 and retired? Why is sports Plan A for black youth? Time to make it Plan B.
On June 21, 2014, former Baylor center Isaiah Austin, who left school after his sophomore year for the 2014 NBA draft, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, Marfan Syndrome. The life threatening condition ended Austin’s NBA career before it began. It is hoped that he will return to Baylor to complete his degree and become a coach in the school’s basketball program.
Career-ending. Left as a sophomore. Return to complete his degree.
We hear those brave, rueful words again and again in collegiate and professional sports. They camouflage a harsh reality: the sports world is making a fortune (the NCAA alone grossed $1 billion in 2013) by luring talented young black men out of inner city communities with the million-to-one promise of a big-money pro football or basketball career.
However, the vast majority of those young men arrive at D-1 universities woefully unprepared to take advantage of their “free” educations. Most flunk out, get derailed by injury or disciplinary problems, or just aren’t good enough to be drafted. They’re thrown back into the ‘hood with no degree, skills or prospects—just anger at a system that convinced them to play the lottery with their futures, exploited them for massive financial gain, and then kicked them to the curb. Likewise, even for the few lucky sports lottery winners who make the pros most of them will crippled by the destructive Rule82™ which stands for the fact that almost 80% of professional, within 2 years, are “broke, busted, and disgusted.”
What’s Plan B? is a candid, scathing look at the New Colonialism that treats Black males as raw material for the Sports Industrial Complex. It’s an indictment of a culture that begins with parents and teachers who put jump shots and touchdowns before grades, influencing kids to reject attainable careers to go all-in on a sports dream that can come crashing down with a failed drug test or torn ACL, celebrates million dollar AAU and college coaches who utilize the labor of mostly poor Black boys to afford their lucrative lifestyles, and a mostly white paying public in love with (in the words of Donald Sterling) “beautiful Black bodies” literally risking life and limb to entertain them.
In this revealing book, author Damario Solomon-Simmons—who witnessed the effects of the college sports machine firsthand as a University of Oklahoma linebacker—pulls back the curtain on the lies, myths and policies that are squandering the intellectual potential of a generation of African-American boys. Did you know…
– …that those playing contact sports like football are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than those who don’t?
– …that a “full ride” scholarship is not a four-year guarantee of an education, but a series of one-year contracts that a university can revoke at any time?
– …that 60 percent of NBA players and 73 percent of NFL players are broke within five years of retirement?
– …that only 50 percent of black male athletes graduate within six years from colleges in the seven major NCAA Division I conferences, compared with 67 percent of athletes overall?
– …that a 2010 study showed that the average NCAA athlete in revenue-generating sports ends up paying $2,951 per year in school-related costs? Some “full ride”!
But What’s Plan B? is about more than problems. As Solomon-Simmons—attorney, legislative liaison for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, creator of the MVP Foundation Fatherhood Weekend, and a member of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.’s Rainbow Sports Commission—shows, it’s also about solutions. In the book, he presents forward-thinking, transformative solutions that can be—and must be—implemented today, in the communities that are at greatest risk. They include:
– Continuing legal action that will open the door to collegiate athletes being paid a fair wage and receiving compensation for the use of their names and likenesses.
– Mentoring programs in which black professional men—physicians, attorneys, engineers, architects, entrepreneurs—show young black athletes that there are other, easier paths than sports to wealth and a great lifestyle and continue to act as role models and advisors to young men all the way through high school.
– Ongoing life skills and financial workshops for athletes ranging from high school freshmen all the way into college.
– Community outreach programs designed to change the dialogue in families and communities—away from “sports first, everything else second” to “education first, sports as Plan B.”
– A campaign to convince successful black athletes to move away from the sports camp model and start giving back to their communities by sponsoring and promoting things like career fairs, academic STEM and financial literacy academies, fundraisers and Black male mentor recruitment drives for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Public Policy and advocacy organizations, and fatherhood classes for young black dads.
The book will be promoted via numerous channels, including:
- Partnerships with sports, Education, Religious, and African-American advocacy organizations, including National Association of Black The National Alliance of Black School EducatorsEducators Omega Psi Phi, the NFL Players Association, the National Bar Assn., the National Assn. of Black Journalists, the NBA Players Assn., Rainbow Push, the NAACP, the National Baptist Convention, the University of Oklahoma and many others.
- Partnerships with Inner-City School Districts, Independent Educational Organizations, and Black Male Centered Foundations and Initiatives, including Tulsa Public Schools, Oklahoma City Public Schools, KIPP Schools, Teach for America, and White House’s My Brother Keepers Initiative.
- Partnerships with a wide range of “key influencers,” including the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.; TV Judge Mathis, Publishing legend Susan Taylor, Bishop T.D. Jakes; Hollywood producer and author DeVon Franklin; NBA legend Isaiah Thomas; former and current professional athletes Terrell Fletcher, Etan Thomas, Mark Anderson, and Gerald McCoy; entertainment legends Reverend Run and Russell Simmons; journalist ESPN’s J.A. Adande and Chris Boussard and FOX1’s Mike Hill; educator and authors Dr. Steve Perry, Dr. Boyce Watkins, and Prof. Charles Ogletree, and many more.
- Media coverage in outlets such as BET, ESPN, Ebony, Essence, Jet, USAToday, TV One, the Tulsa World, the Daily Oklahoman, Huffington Post, Your Black World, Al Jazeera America, National Public Radio and more.
- An aggressive social media and blogging campaign centered on whatsplanbbook.com.