Racism is a topic that the Good Men Project takes seriously and that many of its writers frequently cover. Yet, despite the efforts of anti-racists in the media, in communities, and beyond, White men have a woefully biased lens when it comes to Black men.
The results of a new study commissioned by Dove Men+Care indicate that White men continue to view Black men as athletes first—not as scientists, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, etc. Similarly, White men see Black men as less intellectual and more physically capable than Black men see themselves.
(Full disclosure: As a white man, I find this appalling).
The study is called “Bias Against Black Men – Understanding Perceptions and How They Impact Black Men & Boys,” and its findings are the driving force behind Off Court Champs, the latest effort of the Commit to C.A.R.E. Now Initiative launched by Dove Men+Care in 2020 to address these harmful perceptions and misrepresentations.<
As a sports fan, I have noticed that even in contexts where everyone judged and evaluated is an athlete, White commentators tend to label Black male athletes as physical first and intellectual second whereas White male athletes often get the opposite treatment. Needless to say, it does not take a careful observer to notice that there are numerous examples of cerebral Black men who play baseball, football, basketball, and/or (name your sport)—along with plenty of White men of below-average intelligence who happen to be physically gifted.
Off Court Champs is about showcasing Black male athletes as the complex, multifaceted individuals that they are, with the hope that they will be admired for more than their superior athletic ability. And as the name Off Court Champs implies, these athletes are all basketball players—former NCAA® student-athletes no less. While it is no longer March at the time of this writing—and Baylor took home the trophy a few days ago—March Madness® (an official partner of Off Court Champs) was the perfect backdrop on which to shine a spotlight on these seven men who have since left basketball to pursue other noteworthy undertakings.
Check out this powerful video:
You can learn more about them here, and you should.
The summary version is that they have founded companies, won awards for things unrelated to athletics, produced works of art, renovated playgrounds, published books, and received PhDs. They have achieved so much that non-athletes and even non-sports fans can learn from them and be inspired.
I know I was. And thinking back to the recent presidential election, nothing made me happier than to see athletes encourage their fans to vote. One of the seven Off Court Champs founded an organization called Democracy Matters that is deeply tied to the overall shift toward more participatory politics in the United States.
But the primary goal of Off Court Champs is to reach current student-athletes who may not (yet) see other athletes or even themselves outside of the jersey. They may not realize that those same athletes they watch on television—whom they always wanted to be growing up—also wear business suits, casual wear, and comfy weekend clothes. More importantly, they may not realize that athletic careers are preciously short in duration, and that most professional athletes must one-day become professional salesmen, lawyers, accountants, teachers, journalists, and so on. Still, plenty of victories can be won outside the court, arena, and/or field, and these seven men (and countless others) have proven this fact.
I just hope the younger generations take notice.
Meet the Off Court Champs
- Justin Drummond is a former Division-1 student-athlete who won multiple conference championships along with NCAA & NIT Tournament wins during his education at Loyola University Maryland & University of Toledo. While earning numerous all-conference awards and 6th man of the year honors in basketball, he founded SparkC in 2013. Though only 20 years old at its inception, Drummond grew the company into a thriving, successful brand. In 2016, he founded a high-value, cost effective suit company with the goal of providing professional attire to those who could not afford it.
- Terrance Hayes is a 2014 MacArthur Fellow at Coker College where he studied painting and English and was an Academic All-American on the men’s basketball team. After receiving a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Pittsburgh in 1997, he traveled the world to teach, eventually setting roots at New York University as a Professor of English.
- Michael C. Thorpe is a rising star in the world of quilting as an artist who makes large-scale portraits using quilting techniques inspired by the rich historic artistry of the African American quilters of Gee Bend Alabama. His quilts have garnered major attention, being acquired by museums and by galleries such as The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
- Onaje Woodbine is a former star student-athlete, voted as one of the top 10 best student-athletes in the Ivy League during his time at Yale. With his academic passion off the court, Onaje decided to pursue philosophy and religious studies, leading to the attainment of his Ph.D. from Boston University, his teaching career at American University, and the development of his book, “Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball.”
- Adonal Foyle is a former NCAA student-athlete from Colgate University and NBA star whose many passions stem far beyond the game, focusing on giving back to the next generation by providing education and advice beyond sports. Adonal founded Democracy Matters – an organization centered on empowering kids from all over the country to have their voices heard – as well as the Kerosene Lamp Foundation and is an author of several published books.
- Desmond Mason is a former Slam Dunk Champion who was drafted out of Oklahoma State University by the Seattle SuperSonics. After retiring in 2010, Desmond pursued his dreams of being a full-time artist, creating work for George Clooney, former League Commissioner David Stern, and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Desmond won the U.N. Athlete for Peace award in 2016 in recognition of his artistic talent and philanthropic work.
- Terry Dehere played for Seton Hall University and spent six seasons in the NBA. Following his career, Terry returned to his neighborhood in South Orange, New Jersey to help rebuild and support the community. Terry’s work has centered on renovating local playgrounds, restoring abandoned buildings to provide low-cost housing for seniors and low-income families, and developing sites for similar purposes. In addition to this work, Terry formed the Jersey City Community Housing Corporation, involved in the construction of affordable housing.
Photo courtesy Dove Men + Care. This post has been sponsored by Dove Men+Care