Yesterday I crashed on the couch for the afternoon to get caught up on some reading. One of the interesting articles that caught my attention was in the June 26th Sports Illustrated and was called “Forty Million Dollar Slaves.” The article talks about a new book by William C Rhodes that “questions how well integration has served thee modern black athlete.”
Partway through his article Farrell Evans wrote, “the title dereives from an episode involving former forward Larry Johnson, who called himself a ‘rebellious slave’ after the NBA fined him during the 1999 playoffs for not talking to reporters. The next season a white heckler hollared at Johnson, ‘you’re nothing but a $40 million slave.’ Rhoden, 55, an African American, uses the episdode to show how black athletes labor under a plantation system. ‘(Johnson) saw himself as still being heavily policed and clearly owned,’ writes Rhoden. ‘His success… would always be at the pleasure of the white men who signed the checks.'”
Later in the article Evans wrote, “full disintegration, Rhoden says, created a modern black athletes who, mollified by money, feel unconnected to their community. They don’t invest in local businesses or change the ‘unfair, corrupt, destructive system’ that is sports. If they knew their history, Rhoden says, they would understand what sacrifices were made so that they could prosper. And they would create a ‘black economy’ the way Magic Johnson does when he opens a movie theatre or Starbucks in Harlem or South Central L.A.”
While I’m impressed that SI would mention a book like this I’m also a little disappointed about the mixed messages they sent with the placement of this article. Evans points out a quote that stipulates that white owners “own” black players on one page and they SI has an article on the opposite pages that focuses on African American owner on the opposite page.
I found the concept of this book interesting because it’s a different and unique that the media usually avoids talking about and it will be a book that I’ll try to this summer. If you want to pick up a copy of this book Chapters has it on sale for $21.