Expanding the platform
It's a black mark if we don't value Black minds as we do Black bodies
Last week, Masai Ujiri’s Giants of Africa foundation held its annual gala in Toronto. The foundation’s mission is to use basketball as a platform to cultivate and provide leadership opportunities for African youth. The timing of it — though coincidental — was, er, timely.
Morocco’s football team just made history by becoming the first African country (and first Arab country) to reach the semifinals of a FIFA World Cup. This year’s tournament also marked the first time that two African teams made it past the group stage. Notably, all five African teams to qualify for the tournament were led by managers who were born in the countries they manage.
In a vacuum, a national football team with a homegrown manager is pretty normal and not noteworthy. But for African countries participating on the international stage, bringing in a foreign (read: European) coach is commonplace. On ten occasions, an African team has made it past the group stage and only in the past three times did it happen with a manager from the same country leading the way.
So why have they traditionally passed over managers from their own country? It comes down to opportunity. Most national team managers have built up their experience by coaching in the upper echelons of domestic leagues. In those jobs, there’s still a glaring paucity of Black/African hires. As an example, in 30 seasons of the English Premier League, there have been a dozen POC managers (only one serving currently), and two of those were interim positions.
The tired trope of Black/African persons being incapable of filling leadership roles continues to pervade sports on many continents, at many levels. Black quarterbacks are still seen as an exception and not a rule; a Black NBA head coach is inevitably labelled as a “player’s coach” (because somehow a guy like David Fizdale couldn’t possibly be thought of as a tactical genius); and until recently, the top African national football programs were largely run by European managers. The gross oversimplification here is that the sports establishment values Black bodies far more than they do Black minds.
It’s disappointing but not surprising, of course. This year’s World Cup gives hope that the tide is turning — at least on the football side. But this isn’t just about providing opportunities to managers for one highly visible event that takes place every four years; these opportunities must be available at all levels of the game, and on a regular basis.
In an industry where these roles have a higher turnover rate than Russell Westbrook, there’s plenty of openings for a change to take place.
In the Super Bowl era, four teams have started an NFL season 14-0. Each time the team made it to the Super Bowl, but which team is the only one that went on to win it?
Only one NBA team has retired both #12 and #14 where the two players in question played together on that team at the same time. They shared a backcourt for 6½ seasons, and made two straight NBA Finals appearances. Who are they?
Five forwards have won 4+ Stanley Cups while wearing the #14 shirt. None of them ever scored 40 goals or 80 points in their career. Who are they?
Twenty pitchers have ever recorded a season of 14+ wins and 12+ saves. The last time this happened was in 1986, when the pitcher was his team’s closer. Six years later, he made his only acting appearance, in a sitcom episode with one of his teammates. Who is he?
Answers from last week’s issue
In the film He Got Game, Jake Shuttlesworth (played by Denzel Washington) explains to his son (played by Ray Allen) the origin story of his unusual name. It was derived from the nickname of an NBA legend who starred in the same city as the junior Shuttlesworth, and who was often known by another nickname. What is that other nickname?
Jesus Shuttleworth was named after Earl Monroe, known as Jesus (and later Black Jesus). Before Monroe reached the NBA, he starred at Winston-Salem State University. At WSSU, beat writer Jerry McLeese referred to Monroe’s standout performances as “Earl’s Pearls” and that evolved into Earl “the Pearl.” McLeese is also credited with coining the Pistol nickname for Pete Maravich.
Two pitchers, both born in Hawai'i, made their MLB débuts within two weeks of each other. Three years later they won a World Series as teammates in the same starting rotation. Who are they?
Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling started their MLB careers in 1983 and won a championship together with the New York Mets in 1986.
Who is the highest-drafted NFL player born in Hawai'i? Hint: he’s currently active.
Honolulu-born Marcus Mariota was drafted second overall in the 2015 draft by the Tennessee Titans.
The Arizona Coyotes' worst shelling (post-move from Winnipeg) came last year, when they lost by eight goals to a team that had four 30-goal scorers. All four players scored against the Coyotes that night. Who are they?
In that game, the Flames won 9-1. Andrew Mangiapane scored his 32nd goal of the season, Matthew Tkachuk scored twice (38th and 39th goals), Johnny Gaudreau scored a pair (35th and 36th), and Elias Lindholm got his 39th goal.
Many thanks to Sabrina Ionescu for being named her name and to you for being named your name, unless your name is Nasser Al Khater because death is not a natural part of life when it’s preventable and happens in the workplace.
Until next week, be the Ezequiel Carrera you wish to see in the world.