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Op-Ed

The Black Athlete: Year of the Black Quarterback

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Omar Tyree

By Omar Tyree
NNPA Columnist

 

African-American quarterbacks have come a long way in American football, not just to play and to start, but to win and win big. I remember watching my hometown Philadelphia Eagles in the mid- to late 1980s when athletic quarterback, Randall Cunningham, would only see action off the bench during the third down and 17 plays, with the hope that he would run around and make miracles happen. We had four major universities vying for the first NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Playoff Championship title, while starting three African-American quarterbacks and one Samoan.

Alabama started a fifth year senior in Blake Sims out of Gainesville, Ga., second-ranked Oregon started the current Heisman Trophy winner and Hawaiian-born and raised Samoan, Marcus Mariota, third-ranked Florida State started last year’s Heisman Trophy winner and champion, “Famous” Jameis Winston out of Bessemer, Ala., and the fourth-ranked Ohio State started Cardale Jones, a third-string redshirt sophomore from Cleveland, who stepped in for only one game after first-string starter J.T Barrette and second-string starter Braxton Miller both went down to season-ending injuries. And get this, all three Ohio State quarterbacks are African-American.

That’s unbelievable. I’m old enough to remember when African-American quarterbacks were still not considered smart enough to lead their teams to championships. I even rooted against Doug Williams out of Grambling University when he lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 9-0 NFC Championship loss to the Los Angeles Rams in 1980. What can I say? I was 10-years old and a huge Wendell Tyler, Vince Ferragamo, Billy Waddy, Jim and Jack Youngblood, Nolan Cromwell and the Los Angeles Rams fan that year. But when Doug Williams later led Washington to a 42-10 NFL Super Bowl XXII win over John Elway’s Denver Broncos in 1988 and became the first African-American quarterback to win in all, I rooted for him then, even though Washington was enemy territory for us Philadelphians.

As a freshman in college that year, I finally understood how big of a deal it was for an African-American quarterback to win it all. And I actually liked John Elway. He was one of my favorite quarterbacks of the 1980s and 90s. However, Doug Williams’ MVP performance and big win was about more than just playing football. His victory represented national pride in our African-American race and culture, along with respect for our continued struggle to fight against stereotypes and discrimination as professionals competing at the highest levels of American society.

So I rooted for Warren Moon in all of his record-breaking years with the Houston Oilers and the Minnesota Vikings with no championships. I rooted again for Randall Cunningham and his high-scoring, 16-1, Minnesota Vikings team in their disappointing 30-27 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the 1998 NFC Championship. I rooted for Kordell “Slash” Stewart in his years of doing everything in Pittsburgh. And I rooted for Steve “Air” McNair when his upstart Tennessee Titans lost Super Bowl XXXIV in a nail-biting 23-16 game against the St. Louis Rams. Until, finally, Russell Wilson was able to win it all for the Seattle Seahawks in last year’s 43-8 demolition of Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

On the college level, African-American quarterbacks have had a lot more success, particularly over the past t20 years. Who could ever forget Tommie Frazier and his back-to-back championships for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1995 and 1996? What Peyton Manning was unable to do—bring home a University of Tennessee championship title, while quarterbacking the Volunteers from 1995-1998—was achieved by Tee Martin with MVP honors after an undefeated 13-0 season and a 1999 Fiesta Bowl win over Florida State. Vince Young did the same for the Texas Longhorns in a classic 2006 Rose Bowl Championship win over the heavily favorite USC Trojans.

Then we had Cam Newton, who led the Auburn Tigers to an undefeated season through the torturous SEC for a National Championship title over the high-scoring Oregon Ducks in 2011. Newton won the Heisman Trophy, became the #1 pick in the NFL draft, and changed the way the quarterback position is now played at the professional level.

Last year we had Jameis Winston, a quarterback just as big and as strong as Newton, who led the ACC’s Florida State Seminoles back to a BCS National Championship title by finally dethroning the mighty SEC school’s domination with another great game and a win over Auburn, mostly using his arm.

And please don’t forget Charlie Ward, the all-athletic, 1993 Heisman Trophy winner and 1994 Orange Bowl Champion from Florida State, who eventually went on to play professional basketball for the New York Knicks. Or, the Florida Gators Chris Leak, who won the BCS National Championship Game in 2007 over Ohio State in the middle of early Tim Tebow excitement—who only came in for short yardage running plays or jump-passes at the goal line.

So here we had it in 2015; Blake Sims, Jameis Winston, Cordale Jones and Marcus Mariota in the first 4-team, NCAA Playoff Championship series of FSU Division 1 football.

Diversity is exciting, pulling millions of inspired people to the games for much more than just sports, but for cultural identification, pride and the continuous struggle to compete and win regardless of your race, creed, gender, economics or historical circumstances. That’s what makes sports so great an international equalizer. We all get a chance to line up and go for it. Next year, they all start over again with 0-0 records.
Omar Tyree is a New York Times bestselling author, an NAACP Image Award winner for Outstanding Fiction, and a professional journalist, who has published 27 books, including co-authoring Mayor For Life; The Incredible Story of Marion Barry Jr. View more of his career and work @ www.OmarTyree.com.

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Bay Area

GETTING TO YES 

BAYSIDE BALL PARK OR WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT

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Howard Terminal Courtesy Port of Oakland website

Arguably, development of Howard’s Terminal has been in the making for long time.  According to Councilmember Gallo, Oakland’s previous city officials Robert Bobb and Jerry Brown entertained development of Howard’s Terminal, for the Fishers and A’s, during their tenure as city manager and mayor respectively. 

Let’s be clear, the A’s initially pitched its development project at Howard’s Terminal as a Bayside Baseball Stadium, when in essence its project goal has always been a major condominium-housing and business development, along Oakland’s waterfront … the stadium was then and is now just the shinny thing.  Many argue the Coliseum site is more suited for a new stadium development, if that’s really what the A’s want. 

On Tuesday, July 20, 2021, Oakland City Council held a special meeting to consider the Oakland A’s proposal submitted in April 2021; the A’s pressed Council for this special meeting so as to give the A’s an up or down vote on their proposal.  Council voted 6-1, with one abstention, not to support the A’s proposal as submitted.  Council did agree, however, to support the A’s project proposal with certain City amendments.   

Oakland City Council considered their vote to be a big win for Oakland.  On the other hand, A’s President, Dave Kaval, called the City Council’s vote “a swing and a miss.” Based upon the complexity of the pending issues, it appears more time – extended ending – will be necessary for both sides to get to a mutually beneficial yes. 

According to the A’s Kaval, progress has been made in negotiations but, the plan Council voted for on Tuesday “is not a business partnership that works for [A’s] us.”   Moreover, Kaval claims the A’s had not seen some of the amendments Oakland city staff presented to the City Council Tuesday morning before the council’s vote. 

Council-member Rebecca Kaplan said the City Council’s amendments addressed the A’s biggest concern, having to pay for offsite transportation, and infrastructure improvements. However, the A’s still could not agree with the city’s overall offer.   

 Also, the A’s waterfront development project proposal includes some 3000 units of condominium-housing, but the A’s proposal ignored adequate provisions for affordable housing.  The A’s wants the City to waive the A’s legal requirement to provide for affordable housing.  Oakland’s City Council determined that fact to a major sticking point. 

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, who worked on the amendments with Vice Mayor Kaplan, said, “It’s (now) at the beginning of the eighth inning.”  As a matter of fact, Council advised the A’s to use Council’s just approved amended Term-Sheet as a road map for further negotiations. 

Following the City Council meeting, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the City and A’s are very close to an agreement, but Kaval said “in some ways it’s too early to say how close the two sides are.”  

Kaval expressed hope that the A’s can get the City Council vote on some terms his team could agree on before Council’s summer recess.  Council President Bas’, office said no council meetings are scheduled before the recess to further negotiate the A’s new waterfront proposal.  

 Negotiation between Oakland’s City Council and the Oakland A’s appears to be headed for extra innings.  The complexity of the issues and public reactions, after Tuesday’s Council vote, gives many citizens cause to pause and wonder if we are at the end of the seventh inning stretch or the bottom of the ninth; either way, getting to a mutually beneficial yes will require a walk-off hit. 

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Activism

Formerly Incarcerated Can Help Bring Peace to the Streets

This wave of violence is very brutal but not new. And unless there is a miracle from our most high God, this violence won’t be eliminated.

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Hasan Almasi/Unsplash

The uptick in violence and discord that we see permeating the Bay Area is also occurring nationwide.  It seems that we are entering a state of vindictive racial, cultural and religious chaos that is affecting all segments of our society.

This wave of violence is very brutal but not new. And unless there is a miracle from our most high God, this violence won’t be eliminated.

But we, by working together in harmony, can do something to develop pathways towards quelling the violence.

Through collective effort we can design an approach that focuses on the causes of these random acts of violence.

As we address the root causes of this daily increase of violence in our community, we will discover that it can be attributed to a variety of reasons which include acts of domestic violence, turf struggles and revengeful acts by some gangs, some rogue activity by a few police officers along with many other senseless racially motivated crimes toward Asians, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans.

To help find solutions to some of this frightening violence we must conduct an extensive outreach to our neighborhood and community groups, civil rights groups, churches and non-profit organizations to find knowledgeable persons who also have extensive experience in the streets of Oakland.

I responded to a challenge from Paul Cobb, the publisher of the Oakland Post, to utilize the network of the readers of my column to solicit solutions to crime and violence. Mr. Cobb and his wife, Gay, attended my graduation while I was in San Quentin and they told me to use my voice to help bring peace and healing to Oakland. 

When I heard that he, along with the Pastors of Oakland and several groups such as the NAACP, Chinatown and the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce had called for peace and unity at Chief Leronne Armstrong’s rally, I accepted his challenge to do outreach to members of the formerly incarcerated community.

I participated in a meeting with the formerly incarcerated and asked them to join with me to meet with Armstrong and any other official who want to employ solutions to the root causes of violence.

Some of the formerly incarcerated who were once complicit in carnage and destructive actions now say they truly understand why they must use their stories to help bring peace to our communities. 

More importantly, they know the ways of the streets and they know how to communicate with and are not fearful of the youth and others who are involved directly and indirectly in destructive acts.

They know they won’t be able to curb the violence in its entirety, but they have clearer insights as to why and what methods or solutions should be employed.

Many of the formerly incarcerated individuals who I have talked to want the media, the police department and our elected leaders to use their power to provide resources to help them bring peace to our community.

Under the auspices of “R.O.C.S.” (Restore Our Community Services), the formerly incarcerated want to work with the churches and other people of power and influence to bring positive approaches so we can witness some positive more peaceful results.

Let’s not allow violence to become the universal panacea for everything that is wrong within our minds. Violence can’t be allowed to replace the practice of civility. Let’s also use community diplomacy to resolve our differences.

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Commentary

Texas Democrats Are Getting into ‘Good Trouble’

Here’s why dozens of Texas lawmakers are in Washington, D.C. this week.

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Person casting vote/Unseen Histories via Unsplash

One year after the death of the great civil rights icon John Lewis, a group of Texas Democratic lawmakers is following Lewis’s lifelong call for people to make “good trouble” and “necessary trouble” to secure equality and justice for all. 

Congressional Democrats should bring the same level of commitment to resisting and overturning a new wave of voting restrictions that voting rights activist Stacey Abrams has labeled “Jim Crow 2.0.”

Here’s why dozens of Texas lawmakers are in Washington, D.C. this week.

Texas is the latest Republican-run state where legislators and the governor are trying to impose new voting restrictions—banning drive-through and 24-hour early voting, restricting distribution of absentee ballots, imposing new voter ID provisions—that they hope will make it harder for Democrats to win future elections. Their voter suppression laws are aimed at Black and Brown voters and others more likely to support Democratic candidates.

Republican officials are also trying to make former President Donald Trump happy by giving credibility to his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. They’re using his lies about “election fraud” and “election integrity” to justify new restrictive voting rules.

In Texas, Republicans control the state House and Senate. And hard-right Gov. Gregg Abbott is eager to do Trump’s bidding. Back in May, Texas Republicans tried to push their election bill through the House just before the close of the legislative session. 

Because the Texas House is required to have two-thirds of its members present to conduct official business, Democratic legislators stopped the bill from passing by walking out of the chamber.

But Abbott is so set on getting his new voting law that he ordered legislators to come back into session this month to push it through. To prevent the state’s Republicans from forcing new voting restrictions into law, more than 50 Democratic legislators left the state.

Abbott and Republican Senate leaders have threatened lawmakers with arrest to try to force them to attend the session. And he has said he will keep calling special sessions until he gets his way. That’s why the Texas legislators came to Wash., D.C. They brought an urgent message to members of Congress: the only way to protect voters from voter suppression at the state level is to pass national voting rights legislation.

The House of Representatives has previously passed the For the People Act, which would reverse many new voting restrictions and includes several priorities specifically outlined by John Lewis during his lifetime, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would help prevent future voter suppression efforts from taking effect.

Both are essential to protect democracy and voting rights. But right now, U.S. Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to block the For the People Act, and they could do the same to the VRA.

President Joe Biden has just made a strong speech in defense of voting rights. He denounced new voter suppression efforts. And he called for the Senate to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

I am grateful that President Biden has called attention to the urgent need for congressional action. Now we need him to use his leadership to get voting rights legislation through the Senate. And if Republicans continue to block it using a filibuster, he must work with Senate leaders to break through that obstruction.

John Lewis nearly died in the struggle to pass the national Voting Rights Act. He dedicated his career in Congress to defending it. I am steeling myself for the disgust I will feel when Republican officials praise him on the anniversary of his death at the same time, they are undermining the cause to which he devoted his life.

Texas Democrats are honoring John Lewis by making good and necessary trouble. It is time for Democrats in Washington, and any Republicans committed more to country than party, to do the same.

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