Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was accused of not being Black enough and essentially called an ‘Uncle Tom,’ within the confines of his own locker room. It’s unfortunate that every person in that locker room that looks like Wilson doesn’t see him a as a brother because Wilson embodies everything that is Black and everything that is American.
He is the great-great grandson of a slave to a Confederate colonel, who was freed after the Civil War. His grandfather is a former president of Norfolk State University, a historically Black College who played basketball at Kentucky State, also an HBCU. Wilson’s father was a lawyer who played sports at an Ivy League School. Both of his parents are African-American, which again begs the question, when does one stop being Black?
Wilson is not the first and definitely won’t be the last Black person accused of not being Black ‘enough.’ Most of us, who grew up in poor, working or middle-class households, who are first generation college graduates, who leave home and experience life outside of the neighborhoods we grew up in return home to much a different reception – perceived or otherwise.
“It’s complicated but it’s wrapped up into basically they see him as kind of a teacher’s pet,” said Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, who appeared on The Dan Patrick Show to discuss the widespread reports of friction in Seattle and the players’ opinions of Wilson.”From talking to some of these guys, they think he’s just too close to management. They think he’s too corporate. They want him to be more like them.”
What exactly is more like them? Is it the way he talks, walks, or wears his clothes? Is it because he’s a Super Bowl winning quarterback, the first African-American since Doug Williams won with the Washington Football Team in 1988? Or is it just plain old jealously? There are some that would even say he’s not what you would call Black identified because he doesn’t seem interested in being part of the greater African-American culture the way, say, a Colin Kaepernick, the 49’ers quarterback, is. Despite being biracial and raised by a white family, he’s a member of Kappa Alpha Psi.
“About me not being black enough, I don’t even know what that means,” Russell Wilson said to ESPN.com Sunday night. “I believe I’m an educated young male that’s not perfect, but tries to do things right. I try to lead by example and help others. That’s all I focus on and that’s all I know.”
I say, Wilson’s Black-identified the minute he shows up at high-end department store wearing jeans, a tee shirt, a pair of sneakers and a baseball hat. No matter what your celebrity or accomplishments may be, you never stop being identified as Black. I would argue that for every professional athlete who is fortunate enough to make it, whether he be a brother from the ghetto or the suburbs – somewhere along the way, he had to conform to play professional athletics for a long period of time.
If you don’t conform, you won’t be there for very long. The NBA, NFL and MLB are no different than any other corporation – you have to play the game of saying the right things, being on time and giving your best, day-in and day-out.