Missing the Forest for the Trees

This week, Sacramento Kings TV play-by-play announcer Grant Napear was fired after he tweeted “All Lives Matter…Every Single One!” In the same week, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was wiping egg off his face for saying in an interview that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.” The anybody he was referring to was Colin Kaepernick, hence the egg.

Public scorn was not limited to the above, admittedly, misinformed and tone deaf sports personalities. UCLA head coach Chip Kelly got an earful from some of his former players because apparently quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. in a tweet was too vague for them. Those words from Evelyn Beatrice Hall about defending with our lives the right of people to say things we may disagree with might as well have been written in sand script for all the good they seem to be doing.

Look, these are troubling times in America. Black men and women are literally being murdered by cops; some in broad daylight, others in the privacy of their own homes. Not one of these deaths was even remotely justified under any reasonably objective standard. African Americans have every right to be outraged at what is going on and to take to the streets in protest to demand change. Polls show that the vast majority of people are with them. But going after Napear, Brees and Kelly, however comforting that might be, is not the answer. If anything, it’s a distraction.

Put succinctly, there are bigger fish to fry than throwing a few privileged knuckleheads under the bus. Consider that of the combined 123 professional sports franchises in the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL, only one – the Charlotte Hornets – is majority owned by an African American (Michael Jordan). Meanwhile the percentage of black players in the NBA and NFL is 81 and 73 respectively.

It isn’t much better outside the arena of sports. As of 2019, only four companies in the Fortune 500 had CEOs that were black. None were owned outright by African Americans. According to data from the Small Business Administration, white-owned businesses account for 71 percent of all businesses and 88 percent of all sales receipts. Conversely, black-owned businesses account for only 9.5 percent of all businesses and a paltry 1.3 percent of all sales receipts. Even worse, those black-owned businesses employ only 1.7 percent of the nation’s workforce.

MSNBC, a bastion of progressive thought, has only two black anchors – Joy Reid and Craig Melvin – on its staff. And neither work during the weekday prime-time slot. How is it possible that the number one liberal network in North America has an all-white lineup from 5 p.m. to midnight Monday thru Friday? Talk about not having a seat at the table.

Pick any segment of the economy you want, from entertainment to manufacturing to hospitality, and the results are the same. The white majority has a virtual lock on the power structure of this nation. While whites make up only 60 percent of the overall population of the country, they control over 90 percent of its resources.

Until there is substantial movement in those numbers, things will remain pretty much as they’ve been since the founding of the Republic. If change is going to come, it will have to be from the top on down, not the other way around. In 2003, the NFL instituted what it called the Rooney Rule, which required every team to interview at least one African American for a head-coaching vacancy. It is now toying with the idea of “bribing” teams with a better draft pick if they actually hire an African American coach.

I propose going one step further. Incentivize each team to sell part ownership to an African American by dangling multiple supplemental number one draft picks over a period of several years based on the percentage of minority ownership. 25 percent gets you two number ones, 40 percent gets three number ones and 50 percent gets five number ones. Additionally, each team would get a supplemental second and third round pick for the next two years regardless of how much it sold off. Would that be enough of an enticement for John Mara and Steve Tisch to sell part of the Giants? Maybe. Five additional number one draft picks over five years might mean another Super Bowl or two.

This technique could be utilized in the other leagues, as well, and properly executed, I believe it would eventually lead to African American-owned franchises popping up in every sport across the country. Changes made to the tax code could lead to tectonic shifts in capital investment that would result in tripling, if not quadrupling, the percentage of black-owned businesses in America. Criminal justice reform should include provisions that mandate that all defendants get access to the same quality of legal counsel regardless of race or economic circumstances. No more public defenders. The state has to pick up the tab for a lawyer of your own choosing. All lives will matter when all lives are treated equally under the law.

These are not pie-in-the-sky pipe dreams. They are achievable if we as a society have the will to bring them about. But they will never materialize if the agents of change allow themselves to be distracted by minutia. Getting all hot and bothered by the ramblings of fools makes about as much sense as sitting down to a five-course dinner and complaining about the size of the croutons in your salad.

Author: Peter Fegan

Progressive but pragmatic. Lover of music, die-hard Giants' fan and reluctant Mets' fan. My favorite motto? I'd rather be ruled by a smart Turk than a dumb Christian.

What say you, the people?