Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Willie Randolph battles the media and his opponents


New York Mets manager Willie Randolph has been labeled by the media as soft because his team is losing games. Randolph continues to get his team in top form while battling the media’s portrayal of him.

Despite taking his team to the doorstep of the World Series in 2006 and a game from making the playoffs last year the media is creating a stir because Randolph publicly stated his displeasure with the media.

First off, Randolph is not soft. He was raised in the streets of Brownsville-a section of Brooklyn, New York where Mike Tyson once roamed. Many who grew up there either succumbed to the streets or found a way out through sports.

Randolph’s ability and tenacity enabled him to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1972. He was traded to the New Yankees in 1975 where he’d win two World Series in 1977 and 1978 playing second base. He was voted to 6 all-star teams in a career that spanned 18 years.

How can a person who overcame grim circumstances to have a great career be labeled soft?

To me the latter showcases the subtleties of racism and the power of the media to shape perception.

May 19th when asked if he’s scrutinized more because he’s African American Randolph responded, "I don't know how to put my finger on it, but I think there's something there. Herman Edwards did pretty well here and he won a couple of playoff [games], and they were pretty hard on Herm. Isaiah [Thomas] didn't do a great job, but they beat up Isaiah pretty good. ... I don't know if people are used to a certain figurehead. There's something weird about it.”

A day later after reflecting Randolph apologized for his assertions. "First of all, I want to apologize to the Mets ownership, SNY and my team for the unnecessary distraction that I created, that I caused the last couple days," he said. "I shouldn't have said what I said. It was a mistake. As simple as that. It was a mistake.”

After his apology Randolph stated he must handle himself a certain way. "I have to stay in control and keep my total wits about me, no matter what." He continued, "I think it's very important ... that I handle myself in a way that the [African-American managers] coming behind me will get the opportunities, too."

I understand Randolph’s logic but I respectfully disagree with it. One should issue apologies only when they’re wrong. Randolph’s assertions about the media were true.

So why apologize?

Despite some of the most significant advancements made by African Americans in society and sports there still lies a collective fear of the white power structure. African Americans walk a fine line a between freely expressing themselves while simultaneously being careful not to anger white America.

Jack Johnson was a person who lived as he pleased-not the way white America wanted. He was the first African American to win the heavyweight championship. He reined supreme from 1908-1915. Johnson destroyed white opponents, married white women, dressed sharp, and spoke several different languages.

During Johnson’s time African Americans were being lynched and Jim Crow was the law. There was no inclusion in society and sports. White America wasn’t ready for an African American man who was articulate, strong, and not compromising.

Unlike many African Americans today, Johnson didn’t have time to fear racism because he was busy living his truth.

Future white champions refused to fight African American opponents because of the legacy of Jack Johnson. There wouldn’t be another African American heavyweight champion for 22 years after Johnson lost his crown. Joe Louis finally captured the crown in June of 1937.

Randolph, like other African Americans in authoritative positions, often must choose between freely expressing themselves or to read a prepared script to keep peace.

Randolph opted for the script.

Unfortunately, because of racism African Americans have items entailed in their collective job descriptions others don’t. When racial incidents occur the African American is forced into compliance. By speaking up they’d be labeled as an agitator and eventually fired. But what the script writers cleverly fail to mention by African Americans adhering to their scripts ensures the power will remain where it is now.

It’s too bad Randolph is forced to be something that he’s not. I guess that’s just the power of racism and the media at work.