By Alan W. Cohen
I am so ashamed. For decades (that is when St. Louis had an NFL team), I joined millions of football fans in taking in every bit of information available to determine what college player would be the best fit for my team, which player has the height, the weight, and the right skill set. I engaged hours watching Path to the Draft, reading whatever material I could get my hands on before hunkering down for days to see my team’s selections, and to spend hours watching the evaluations from the so called experts who graded it.
Now I know better. I was being a racist. Never mind that I only exist because my great grandparents fled the pogroms of Tsarist Russia for the freedom of America, and because my father was the one in ten that survived his World War II battle and was the one in ten Jewish prisoners of war that survived the Nazi death camp he was sent to when he was captured. Obviously, I am White. So, I don’t understand. I couldn’t. My father was not a slave, nor was my great-great-great grandfather. As it was, however, my father despised racism, and he taught me well. So I thought.
But obviously I was wrong.
In the recent film, Twelve Years a Slave, the hero bears the humiliation of the slave auction, how the white plantation owners checked his strength, prodded his body, and evaluated his value as a servant before determining his price. It never occurred to me until today, when reading about Odell Beckham, Jr.’s complaint about a Fantasy Football Draft on ESPN, how wrong I was. He was insulted that a bunch of white men were “bidding” for his fantasy services in a pretend auction. And it doesn’t matter that being of African descent was not a prerequisite to becoming a slave. Millions of serfs fed Tsarist Russia for hundreds of years, all subject to the same humiliation as those in America in our first 88 years. Thus, it does not matter that 30 percent of NFL players are not of color. The NFL draft is nothing short of racism, the result of so called experts, mostly at the Combine, to prod, measure and to evaluate men for their physical capabilities just like those slaves that went to auction.
It is irrelevant that those same NFL teams are willing to pay millions for their services. It’s like the joke about the man that offered to a beautiful woman to pay a million dollars to have sex with her. When she said yes, he reduced his price to a dollar. That insulted her because all he was doing was negotiating the price of her prostitution. In the same order, African American athletes should honor their mores regardless of the price. If they are so insulted about being bid on by White owners, does it really matter how much they receive for their services?
Perhaps, Odell Beckham Jr. should quit football, and surrender his millions in salary. Wouldn’t that send a message to the rest of White America that those of African American descent are not for sale at any price? After all, if it weren’t for those White people that prodded and measured his body for the slave auction that is the NFL draft, he wouldn’t have been rendered “speechless” at the video of that pretend auction on ESPN.
But perhaps that should not be his choice. After all, the entire spectrum of the NFL is about the physical capabilities of mostly African American men. After about five years, they put themselves up for bid on the open market just like their slave brethren, being prodded and measured by a bunch of White men judging their value. That is so racist. They should all be ashamed.