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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby to be on-field together for the Gillette Civil Rights Game

The Hammer, The Greatest…and Mushmouth?

As the three MLB Beacon Award winners, Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby will be on-field together for pre-game ceremonies at Great American Ball Park as Major League Baseball (MLB) celebrates the 2009 Gillette Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati on June 20. The game between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox is the first regular season Civil Rights Game after two pre-season exhibitions.

“The 2009 Gillette Civil Rights Game, as one of the premier events on the Major League Baseball calendar, honors both the civil rights movement and also the legacy of three great Americans who exemplify the spirit of this era in their deeds, actions and words,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig.

In addition to the pre-game ceremony featuring Aaron, Ali and Cosby, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson will throw out the first pitch and Grammy Award-winning gospel artist BeBe Winans will be performing the National Anthem and a special rendition of his original composition “America, America.” Country music star Rissi Palmer will perform “America The Beautiful” and 17-year-old sensation Bernard “BK” Jackson will play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his saxophone, during the 7th inning stretch.

Repoz Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:00 PM | 258 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, special topics

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   1. Gamingboy Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:17 PM (#3222728)
Two of the greatest athletes of all time and.... the guy who got beaten by a Girls' Team.
   2. BringBackTimTeufel Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:21 PM (#3222735)
Is BeBe Winans related to CeCe Winans?
   3. Van Lingle Mungo Jerry Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:21 PM (#3222736)
I love the juxtapositioning of:

The game between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox is the first regular season Civil Rights Game after two pre-season exhibitions.


and

“The 2009 Gillette Civil Rights Game, as one of the premier events on the Major League Baseball calendar,....”


I also love the word "juxtapositioning". And "sesquipedalian". And "omphaloskepsis".
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:35 PM (#3222756)
Was I the only one really thrown off by Muhammed Ali appearing at the Stanley Cup Finals in a Red Wings jersey? Is he really a hockey fan? A Red Wings fan? How did he get into that?
   5.  Hey Gurl Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:37 PM (#3222760)
Is Muhammed Ali even capable of knowing where he is at this point?
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:40 PM (#3222762)
A propos of little or nothing, one of my right wing friends just sent me this purported Bill Cosby 2008 presidential "platform" made up of a bunch of right wing rants about everything under the Sun---taxes, immigrants, etc. He denounced it as a hoax nearly a year ago but it's still circulating the usual rounds. Of course when I told my friend that it was a hoax, he (naturally) said "it doesn't matter."
   7. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:46 PM (#3222766)
Muhammad Ali, the biggest racist in boxing since the heyday of Tex Rickard? For shame.
   8. Famous Original Joe C Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:58 PM (#3222776)
Muhammad Ali, the biggest racist in boxing since the heyday of Tex Rickard? For shame.

Yankee Redneck indeed.
   9. Dr Love Posted: June 17, 2009 at 10:02 PM (#3222778)
Was I the only one really thrown off by Muhammed Ali appearing at the Stanley Cup Finals in a Red Wings jersey? Is he really a hockey fan? A Red Wings fan? How did he get into that?


Maybe it was a homage to Joe Lewis?
   10. Flynn Posted: June 17, 2009 at 10:46 PM (#3222806)
Is Muhammed Ali even capable of knowing where he is at this point?

Parkinson's doesn't wipe your mind does it? He's perfectly with it, he's just got really bad tremors.
   11. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: June 17, 2009 at 10:50 PM (#3222812)
Yankee Redneck indeed.

Ali's a racist because he didn't want to kill gooks like true Americans did.
   12. AndrewJ Posted: June 17, 2009 at 11:00 PM (#3222819)
Ali did KO this crafty opponent before yelling into the ringside mike, "I want gingivitis. I WANT GINGIVITIS!"
   13. Harry Balsagne, anti-Centaur hate crime division Posted: June 17, 2009 at 11:06 PM (#3222826)
The pederasty thread's dyin' out--let's get a good ol' fashioned racism thread goin'!
   14. nick swisher hygiene Posted: June 17, 2009 at 11:28 PM (#3222847)
pederasty or racism--which is worse????
   15. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 17, 2009 at 11:58 PM (#3222871)
Ali's a racist because he didn't want to kill gooks like true Americans did.

I think it's more due to his affiliation with a radical racist organization like the Nation of Islam. Go grab a copy of "Message For the Black Man", a book that Ali used to personally distribute, and give it a read. I'm unaware of any proponent of radical white supremacist literature whose similar background has been so excused by our culture.

Ali was, in many respects, an awful person possessed of many terrible characteristics, and it isn't the least bit unfair to say that his persona was unfairly burnished by the sporting press and culture of his era. Subsequent generations of historians will no doubt get his true record sorted out once the glow of his presence has faded from immediate memory.

For the record, I do believe that Ali was unfairly targeted by the draft board, which resulted in his being unfairly stripped of his heavyweight title. In fact, it really isn't a matter of opinion so much as a matter of established record.
   16. Randy Jones Posted: June 18, 2009 at 12:05 AM (#3222879)
Ali's a racist because he didn't want to kill gooks like true Americans did.


Then how about getting with the program? Why don't you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?

Son, all I've ever asked of my marines is that they obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out. It's a hardball world, son. We've gotta keep our heads until this peace craze blows over.
   17. winnipegwhip Posted: June 18, 2009 at 03:55 AM (#3223128)
Maybe they can get Smokin Joe Frazier to sing the National Anthem?

Yankee Redneck, you are spot on about your comments in #15. If anyone doubts what you have to say, I would suggest the HBO documentary on the Thrilla in Manilla. Ali was a selfish individual and in my viewpoint, forgetting the politics and the Nation of Islam crap, the treatment of Joe Frazier was despicable. Expecially after what Frazier did for Clay.
   18. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: June 18, 2009 at 04:52 AM (#3223143)
I am a huge Muhammad Ali fan. That said, he is man who has made mistakes in his life just like anyone else. He has apologized repeatedly to Joe Frazier for calling him names. Frazier has accepted that apology before but he can't get over what Ali said (not that I can blame him). I truly believe that Ali is sincerely sorry for what he said to Frazier.

I can understand why people are appalled by his decision to join the NOI when he did but I think it's really difficult for anyone to understand why that movement is/was so popular. For most of his life up to that point, America was telling him that blacks were inferior to whites. The NOI's message (blacks are better than whites) had to be appealing for a lot of reasons that we can't really understand in this day and age. I can't blame anyone who joined that movement during that time.

Ali is no longer part of that movement and embraces a more traditional form of Islam (the Nation of Islam can't really be considered Islam in any shape or form).

Edit: I forgot to mention that Ali is extremely active in charitable causes despite his physical difficulties. Ali has helped serve over 200 million meals worldwide. He has helped deliver food and medical supplies to children in Asia, Africa and through North, South and Central America.

That and his stance on Vietnam is why he is my hero.
   19. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:14 AM (#3223147)
I can understand why people are appalled by his decision to join the NOI when he did but I think it's really difficult for anyone to understand why that movement is/was so popular.
Popular? What makes you think the NoI was ever popular? It was the most radical movement during a radical time, yet as far as I know, it never attracted a wide following among black Americans in the 1930s, the 1960s or at any time since. Its hatred of and rejection of America and American values was always in stark contrast to the Civil Rights movement of the SLC. Men like King, Abernathy and Lewis (and their millions of supporters) faced every bit as much racial antagonism, racism, discrimination, humiliation and degradation as the very small numbers who turned to that evil cult of Elijah Muhammed. The overwhelming majority of African-Americans shared King's dream; and in so doing, rejected the rantings of the lunatic who Ali professed as his champion.
The NOI's message (blacks are better than whites) had to be appealing for a lot of reasons that we can't really understand in this day and age.
Actually, the NoI does not just say blacks are better than whites. The NoI preaches that blacks are fully evolved human beings while whites are subhuman. (Farakhan called whites "potential humans.")
I can't blame anyone who joined that movement during that time.
Maybe you should hold people to a higher standard than you do? Maybe it really is indefensible to join a group which has taught that Jews are systematically poisoning the black race?
Ali is no longer part of that movement and embraces a more traditional form of Islam (the Nation of Islam can't really be considered Islam in any shape or form).
If Ali apologized* for his membership in and support of the NoI, then he deserves praise for his reformation. I don't think it is fair to hold an old man accountable for eternity for mistakes of personal judgment he made in his youth, as long as he acknowledges those mistakes. None of us is perfect. Ali has done many good things and like anyone deserves to be judged in full.

*I don't know that Ali ever apologized for being a member of the NoI, or explicitly said he rejects the teachings of that evil cult.
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 18, 2009 at 02:12 PM (#3223330)
Go grab a copy of "Message For the Black Man", a book that Ali used to personally distribute, and give it a read. I'm unaware of any proponent of radical white supremacist literature whose similar background has been so excused by our culture.

I have that book, and while of course you could describe it as racist, since it doesn't have too many good things to say about white folks (smile), it's much more of a collection of self-help preachings combined with the sort of nutball beliefs that are variants of the sort of nutball ideas that you can read in any Bible. It was written by a con man / hustler / preacher who was about as common an American archtype as there is.

Cassius Clay, who truth be told isn't exactly the brightest penny in the roll (his IQ was tested at 78 in his pre-draft Army physical), joined this group at a young and impressionable age, much in the same way that millions of people his age have joined groups with dumbasssed reductionist belief systems, and for largely the same reason: He was looking for something and someone to believe in, and the "Mooslims" got there first. To judge him for that, or to dismiss him as a "racist," is to reduce an extremely complex man into a caricature. Ali's formative years were in an era when he could win a gold medal for his country in the Olympics, and then come home and not be able to buy a hamburger in most neighborhoods in his own home city. Walk a mile in his shoes under those circumstances before waxing about racism.

And yes, the Nation of Islam was a minority sect, and yes, it was riddled with fraud, corruption and gangsterism. Everyone knows that, or should. And yes, Martin Luther King and John Lewis had the courage and sense to address racism in a far more positive way. But just as there were tens of millions of ordinary white Americans who in 1960 held racist beliefs every bit as extreme as those of the NOI, and yet were also nothing particularly out of the ordinary in many other ways, there were millions of everyday African Americans who were their counterparts, overgeneralizing about "crackers" in ways that weren't nice to hear in mixed company. Relatively few human beings have the capacity to rise above the lowest common denominator beliefs of their immediate peers, and Clay/Ali was no exception.

What's far less defensible about Ali was his treatment of Joe Frazier, for which the only "excuse"---that it was part of the typical carny bluster that fighters engage in to hype the gate---is no excuse at all. I've never been a fan of Ali, and my lack of fandom was almost exclusively based on this part of his life, which I'm glad that he (very) belatedly apologized for.

As for Ali's late life recognition and honors, IMO they're a combination of residual guilt about his draft woes and the stripping of his title, selective amnesia about Frazier and the NOI, a certain pity for his current condition, a fondness for what seems to be a sweet character underneath the surface, and nostalgia for a time when heavyweight boxing was actually a major sport, at least on the championship level. I can only hope that he's able to enjoy some of this, and at this point it seems smallminded to the extreme to harp on his human frailties.
   21. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 18, 2009 at 02:25 PM (#3223348)
Ali is flawed, but awesome. That is all. At the heart of it, Ruth and Ali will be the American sportsmen the world may remember in 400 years.

edit: I really recommend Remnick's book about Ali. the Ali stuff is good--and he doesn't sugarcoat Ali's treatment of Frazier--but, for me, the sections on Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson make the book. Those two break your heart for completely different reasons.
   22. The District Attorney Posted: June 18, 2009 at 02:30 PM (#3223358)
Y'see, the kids, they do the boxing, which gives them the brain damage. With their floatin' and their stingin', and their ropin' and their dopin'... so they don't know what the jazz is all about! You see, jazz is like a Jello Pudding pop... no, actually, it's more like Kodak film... no, actually, jazz is like the new Coke; it'll be around forever! Heh heh heh.

I don't see any mention of Jackie Robinson in this article! Baseball should really think about doing something to honor him.
   23. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 18, 2009 at 04:16 PM (#3223491)
But just as there were tens of millions of ordinary white Americans who in 1960 held racist beliefs every bit as extreme as those of the NOI, and yet were also nothing particularly out of the ordinary in many other ways, there were millions of everyday African Americans who were their counterparts, overgeneralizing about "crackers" in ways that weren't nice to hear in mixed company.
Andy, I could be wrong about this (I don't know if polling data proves it one way or the other), but my sense is that, historically, while white American racism (directed against blacks and at various times other non-whites) was widespread and was based on some kind of pseudo-scientific belief in "racial superiority," there never was an equivalent black racism which ever had any widespread hold. It is true that the rantings of the NoI (and some offshoot groups) were a reaction or even a mirror to the worst attitudes among whites toward blacks, though not a mirror of the worst behaviors* of white racists. But, despite all they faced, black Americans were overwhelmingly not racists** and not interested in an alternative pseudo-scientific racial theory. I don't know the percentages -- let me pull 85% out of thin air -- 85% believed in the "All Men are Created Equal" creed of our founding, and thus wanted the majority of Americans (whites) to live up to that creed and nothing more.

*Generally speaking, any form of black violence toward whites was (and has been) random or criminal in nature, just as black violence toward blacks was/is. As such, as nutty as the NoI may be, there was no black equivalent to the Klan or other violent white mobs. That may be just because blacks who might have wanted to behave that way, unlike the Klan, did not secretly have law enforcement on their side. However, my perception is that minorities (in most countries) who face discrimination and violence of the type black Americans historically did tend to not react to it by imitating it.

**There is some polling data -- I'm not going to Google it now, but I've seen it -- which suggests blacks are more likely than non-black Americans to be anti-Semites***. But even that is a minority view in the African-American world. And I would suspect, in communities where there is tension with other minority groups (such as Latinos and Koreans), there is a localized group prejudice bordering on racism. But my sense is that those localized tensions are two-way streets in a manner that is very different from historical American prejudice directed against blacks.

***Living as a white Jew in an almost all-black neighborhood for a number of years in California, I never experienced anti-Jewish prejudice of any kind. I did get some ridiculous shunning from the NoI, though that had nothing to do with my religious heritage and everything to do with my appalling lack of melanin.
   24. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 18, 2009 at 04:20 PM (#3223501)
However, my perception is that minorities (in most countries) who face discrimination and violence of the type black Americans historically did tend to not react to it by imitating it.

Really? You don't want to maybe do some quick google searches of ethnic minority unrest around the world before you throw this out on the internets?
   25. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 18, 2009 at 04:33 PM (#3223522)
Shooty, seeing your post, I should make a distinction: With ethnic minorities who believe they have a right to their own national homeland or state, they will form a nationalist movement for independence. That would apply to people like the Tamils of Sri Lanka or the Kurds of Turkey (and other countries) or the Chechens of Russia. What distinguishes them from the minority groups I was thinking of (say various Gypsy populations, Indians throughout East Africa, Lebanese in West Africa, Chinese in various Southeast Asian countries, etc.) is that the nationalists tend to be a majority in the geographical parts of the countries most of them reside. Where a minority is spread all over a country and is either integrated or never a large majority in a broader geographical setting, you don't see nationalist movements and thus the "ethnic unrest" of the type you are describing. .... Now feel free to point out a handful of cases around the globe which prove me wrong.
   26. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 18, 2009 at 04:45 PM (#3223536)
Now feel free to point out a handful of cases around the globe which prove me wrong.

Honestly, I'm not even sure what you're trying to get at anymore. the NOI is obviously goofy, especially now, but I'm not going to dismiss the greatness of Ali because of his association with them. His flaws and mistakes are part of what make him great.
   27. GregD Posted: June 18, 2009 at 04:49 PM (#3223541)
Making distinctions between cause and effect is important for deciding how harshly to judge these kinds of organizations. Comparing the Nation of Islam to the Klan makes sense on a superficial way--they both say abhorrent things based on racist premises--but it doesn't actually give you much room for judgment. The Nation of Islam was created after the first Klan launched a massive terrorist campaign to murder black politicians in the Reconstruction South and helped back a violent takeover of state governments by a regime that systematically disfranchised and segregated black Americans. (In some states this happened after the Klan itself was extinguished but through similar methods.) Then, you get a non-Klan but Klanlike wave of perhaps 3,500 lynchings of African-Americans in the South. Then in the 1910s a revived Klan is much less violent but becomes one of the largest organizations in American history, electing a majority of the Indiana legislature and many other leading officers, including by rumor a President of the United States.

In that context, listening to the Nation of Islam in the 1930s or 1950s looks different. Not smart, not wise, maybe not even defensible, but understandable as a response to a world one didn't create.

In judging Ali, you have to make close calls on what you think about his timing--was it different to join in the 1960s than in the 1940s--his capacity to understand the issues involved, his timing in leaving, and his later statements about the group. Reasonable people can disagree on each of those points. But none of them make him Bull Conner or Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The fallacies that come from judging causes and effects by the same standard were articulated pretty clearly in the Letter from the Birmingham Jail: "You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative."
   28. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:17 PM (#3223584)
In judging Ali, you have to make close calls on what you think about his timing--was it different to join in the 1960s than in the 1940s--his capacity to understand the issues involved, his timing in leaving, and his later statements about the group. Reasonable people can disagree on each of those points. But none of them make him Bull Conner or Nathan Bedford Forrest.


It certainly doesn't make him Jackie Robinson either. We, as baseball fans, are quite fortunate to have been blessed with Mr. Robinson rather than the bigot Cassius Clay or his spiritual progenitor, heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson. I hope the first openly homosexual active ballplayer will similarly avoid reinforcing the hurtful stereotypes associated with his minority group and not emulate the destructive actions of Johnson and Clay by openly pursuing little boys or making passes at all of his teammates.
   29. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:23 PM (#3223597)
We, as baseball fans, are quite fortunate to have been blessed with Mr. Robinson rather than the bigot Cassius Clay or his spiritual progenitor, heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson.

I'm an American, and I feel fortunate to have been blessed by all 3.
   30. GregD Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:44 PM (#3223620)
Judging them by their commitment to reversing the incorrect, hateful stereotypes put out there by other people is a perfect example of what King called superficial social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. Clearly the responsibility for reversing hateful stereotypes lies first and foremost with the people who created and fomented them. Black people or gay people are allowed to make their own choices about their lives, rather than being defined by their willingness to work within constraints set by the least-sympathetic members of the majority.

There's no evidence that I'm aware of that Ali over the last, say, 40 years has demonstrated a great deal of bigotry. Without endorsing the pamphlets he passed out in his early 20s, one can make a distinction between the totality of his life and Theodore Bilbo's. Aside from failing to take into account Ali's complete experience, there's a risk in comparing words to actions. Woodrow Wilson didn't just say awful things about black people, he also systematically excluded them from federal jobs they had been able to hold under previous administrations and worked to segregate Washington D.C. And died secure in his beliefs and actions. And was celebrated for it. The contrasts to someone like Ali are not hard to draw.

It's also peculiar to compare pedophilia to making a pass at an adult.
   31. Steve Treder Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:48 PM (#3223627)
Clearly the responsibility for reversing hateful stereotypes lies first and foremost with the people who created and fomented them. Black people or gay people are allowed to make their own choices about their lives, rather than being defined by their willingness to work within constraints set by the least-sympathetic members of the majority.

Spot on.
   32. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:48 PM (#3223632)
I'm an American, and I feel fortunate to have been blessed by all 3.


You might feel differently if you were a boxing fan. Jack Johnson's selfish antics merely confirmed every negative stereotype a bigot could hope for an kept black challengers frozen out of the heavyweight division for 25 years. The top contender during Jack Dempsey's reign, Harry Wills, simply couldn't get a title shot because Dempsey's promoter, Tex Rickard, would always point to Jack Johnson's debased behavior as the cautionary tale, even stating that well-connected politicians had openly told him not to make the bout. Wills was in no way a "Jack Johnson" stereotype either, but a quiet, soft-spoken fellow whom Dempsey actually liked personally. "It wasn't Jack's fault," Wills often repeated when asked about his failure to garner a title shot, and he was right.

Of course, some boxing historians would note that Jack Johnson refused to defend his title against black fighters himself, so why should anyone else be expected to do any better in that regard, but that's another topic for another forum.
   33. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:50 PM (#3223635)
Jack Johnson's selfish antics merely confirmed every negative stereotype a bigot could hope for an kept black challengers frozen out of the heavyweight division for 25 years.

Yeah, it was JACK JOHNSON that kept black heavyweights from getting shots.
   34. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:51 PM (#3223638)
Very good posts, Greg.

-------------------------------

But just as there were tens of millions of ordinary white Americans who in 1960 held racist beliefs every bit as extreme as those of the NOI, and yet were also nothing particularly out of the ordinary in many other ways, there were millions of everyday African Americans who were their counterparts, overgeneralizing about "crackers" in ways that weren't nice to hear in mixed company.

Andy, I could be wrong about this (I don't know if polling data proves it one way or the other), but my sense is that, historically, while white American racism (directed against blacks and at various times other non-whites) was widespread and was based on some kind of pseudo-scientific belief in "racial superiority," there never was an equivalent black racism which ever had any widespread hold. It is true that the rantings of the NoI (and some offshoot groups) were a reaction or even a mirror to the worst attitudes among whites toward blacks, though not a mirror of the worst behaviors* of white racists. But, despite all they faced, black Americans were overwhelmingly not racists** and not interested in an alternative pseudo-scientific racial theory. I don't know the percentages -- let me pull 85% out of thin air -- 85% believed in the "All Men are Created Equal" creed of our founding, and thus wanted the majority of Americans (whites) to live up to that creed and nothing more.


Rich, that's a tricky question, since there are plenty of nuances to the whole idea of what it means to be "anti-white," and since public opinion within the black community has never really been subject to the sort of study that it has among whites.** For example, when I lived in Cambridge (MD) during my SNCC days, I ran across a fair number of what were then simply know as "Black Muslims," and in most cases it was almost impossible to draw a bead on exactly where they stood. Some of them were so open and friendly that if I hadn't know their affiliation, I couldn't have guessed it in a million years, while others were merely polite and standoffish. (You have to remember that in 1963-64 it wasn't considered good form for blacks ever to express open hostility to white civil rights organzers. That sort of thing didn't come along until a bit later. And in my entire life I never felt safer walking around town at all hours of day or night than I did in Cambridge.)

Yet these same friendly Black Muslims went to their meetings, read their Muhammad Speaks newspaper, and presumably nodded in agreement when the local minister went off into his tirades against the Blue Eyed Devils. And the reason they nodded in agreement was because so much of what he said resonated with their everyday experiences in a town that in many ways was not that far removed from the Black Belt region of the Deep South. To put it plainly, when people have no safe outlet to express their emotions directly against their oppressor, they often find refuge in institutions like the Black Muslims, which provide a cathartic relief. I don't think that this should be particularly hard to understand or even sympathize with. Not every person is going to gravitate towards a belief system that's predicated on forever turning the other cheek towards not just overt racial violence, but the commonplace racism that greeted them each day with the morning Sun.

And none of this is incompatible with your 85% figure, which is as good as any. Black people have always had to combine hope and idealism with a healthy dose of realism in order to function, just like the rest of us. One of the lines of James Weldon Johnson's "Negro National Anthem" (Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing) is

Filled with the hope that the present has brought us


which was written in 1902, in the heart of what the historian Rayford Logan called "the nadir" of black American experience. No purely "rational" black person in that year could possibly have expressed such a collective sentiment about his people.

**In part because of the racial identity of many of the pollsters. It wasn't always a universal practice to hire blacks to survey blacks.
   35. GregD Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:53 PM (#3223641)
You might feel differently if you were a boxing fan. Jack Johnson's selfish antics merely confirmed every negative stereotype a bigot could hope for an kept black challengers frozen out of the heavyweight division for 25 years.


You presume the very fact that would need to be proven: that there needed to be a reason to exclude black challengers. I'm sure some 1880s black ballplayer behaved like an ass, but that wasn't the cause of the exclusion of blacks from major league baseball. No doubt there were rude people on the streets of Wilmington in 1898; that isn't why white Democrats walked down the street with shotguns, shooting indiscriminately, and then staged a coup on the mayor's office. I have no doubt that someone among the federal workers in the 1910s slept on the job; that isn't why Wilson worked to exclude blacks from good jobs.

Jack Johnson may or may not have been a praiseworthy man, but blaming him for the exclusion of blacks from boxing is again a classic case of superficial analysis.
   36. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:53 PM (#3223642)
Clearly the responsibility for reversing hateful stereotypes lies first and foremost with the people who created and fomented them.


And in many instances, those "people" are the ones victimized by the proliferation of the stereotypes. If Jackie Robinson behaved as Jack Johnson did the cause of black players in the major leagues would have suffered a significant blow, regardless of whether or not some academicians 50 years hence were offering exculpatory rationales from their cushy perches.
   37. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:54 PM (#3223645)
You're really bothered by Jack Johnson's declining to know his place, aren't you?
   38. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:55 PM (#3223647)
Yeah, it was JACK JOHNSON that kept black heavyweights from getting shots.


Who else? Did Johnson himself not completely refuse to defend his title against Sam Langford, Sam McVey, Denver Ed Martin, et al? Indeed, the only time during Johnson's reign where he lowered himself to appear in the ring with another negro fighter was in an exhibition against Battling Jim Johnson all the way in France (note this was an *exhibition*, not a title fight, despite some claims to the contrary).
   39. Steve Treder Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:56 PM (#3223650)
Clearly the responsibility for reversing hateful stereotypes lies first and foremost with the people who created and fomented them.


And in many instances, those "people" are the ones victimized by the proliferation of the stereotypes.

Which "people" are these again?
   40. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 18, 2009 at 05:59 PM (#3223655)
Who else? Did Johnson himself not completely refuse to defend his title against Sam Langford, Sam McVey, Denver Ed Martin, et al?

This isn't the point you're making, though. Jack didn't play nice so he "ruined" it for the black boxers that came after is what you're arguing. My argument is that has nothing to do with Jack Johnson.
   41. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 18, 2009 at 06:01 PM (#3223657)
Jack Johnson may or may not have been a praiseworthy man

Strip away the racial aspects of his behavior (and the cause of it), and how was Jack Johnson all that different from a sizable percentage of professional athletes, both black and white? Babe Ruth, to take one obvious example.
   42. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 06:02 PM (#3223659)
Well, Jack Johnson married a white woman, didn't he?

I guess Babe Ruth did, too.
   43. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 06:11 PM (#3223668)
Jack Johnson may or may not have been a praiseworthy man, but blaming him for the exclusion of blacks from boxing is again a classic case of superficial analysis.


Jack Johnson became the first black man to receive a title shot at the formalized heavyweight boxing championship in 1908 (the title really only existing since RING magazine declared John L Sullivan champion in 1889). It was Sullivan who is credited with "drawing the color line" as champion, although he had fought black fighters earlier in his career.

Prior to Johnson's title shot against placeholder champion Tommy Burns, black fighters had indeed received numerous title shots in other weight classes. Joe Gans remains regarded to this very day regarded as an all-time great lightweight champion. Barbados Joe Walcott held the welterweight championship beginning in 1901. So Johnson's title shot wasn't nearly as historic as some might think in a boxing context.

But Johnson was granted a shot at the biggest prize, and in doing so was the subject of the most scrutiny and publicity. And it was here that he so selfishly undermined the cause of black fighters for an entire generation, not only spurning black challengers openly but freely admitting his lust for white women exclusively, openly mocking white fighters in the ring, and generally affirming every negative stereotype associated with the negro. To act as if Johnson's selfish behavior had to long-lasting negative consequences amongst black fighters is simply incorrect, if not desperately revisionist. Prior to Johnson, the boxing ring was one of society's only venues where peoples of all races would compete on an even footing - Joe Gans' lightweight fight against top contender Battling Nelson actually drew more money than Jim Jeffries' heavyweight title defenses - but Johnson didn't have an interest in anybody beyond Johnson, and that's to his eternal discredit.
   44. a bebop a rebop Posted: June 18, 2009 at 06:19 PM (#3223682)
And in many instances, those "people" are the ones victimized by the proliferation of the stereotypes.

Swing and a miss. The "people" referred to previously are not the victims of the stereotypes, but the creators of the stereotypes.
   45. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 18, 2009 at 06:20 PM (#3223684)
Prior to Johnson, the boxing ring was one of society's only venues where peoples of all races would compete on an even footing - Joe Gans' lightweight fight against top contender Battling Nelson actually drew more money than Jim Jeffries' heavyweight title defenses - but Johnson didn't have an interest in anybody beyond Johnson, and that's to his eternal discredit.

Except that they weren't. It took Johnson years to get his shot at the "big prize" for no other reason than he was black. And that Johnson proved to be the "wrong" kind of negro is no discredit to him but to the institutions that decided to define what the right or wrong kind of negro was. I mean, jesus, we're talking about prizefighting. These were not saintly people, black or white, involved in this. Johnson's fault is that he thought the SAME rules applied to him as a heavyweight champion. Yeah, he sure deserves that eternal discredit. Who did he think he was, Jim Corbett?
   46. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 18, 2009 at 06:20 PM (#3223685)
YR, if all you're saying is that Jack Johnson was no Jackie Robinson, and that he didn't help matters in many ways with his lifestyle, it's hard to argue with that. And certainly Joe Louis took the hint when he got his own chance two decades later.

But just as with the case of Ali, in the 21st century I would hope that in order to honor great African American athletes of the past, we can drop the double standard of behavior, and judge their personal lives with the same degree of scrutiny that we would---Babe Ruth. And at the same time recognize that some of their behavior was in great part a reaction to the racial circumstances of the times that they lived in.
   47. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 18, 2009 at 06:58 PM (#3223726)
I shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of Jack Johnson.
New gold watch and derby hat
New silk suit and bloody hands
People stare when he walks by
No one looks him in the eye

But all the kids flocked to shake
The right hand that made him great
And that is why to this day
People always say

Did he meet the man
Did he shake his hand
Then let me shake the hand that shook the hand that shook the hand
Of John L. Sullivan

He went down to Baltimore
He went down to settle a score
People cheered when he took the mat
Knocked him out in twenty seconds flat

And children came from far and near
And talked about it for years
And that is why to this day
People always say

Did he meet the man
Did he shake his hand
Then let me shake the hand that shook the hand that shook the hand
Of John L. Sullivan
   48. Rants Mulliniks Posted: June 18, 2009 at 07:35 PM (#3223787)
I was just going to say that its sort of ironic that a company that stick RFID chips on its products is the major sponsor of a civil rights event.....
   49. GregD Posted: June 18, 2009 at 07:36 PM (#3223789)
If Jackie Robinson behaved as Jack Johnson did the cause of black players in the major leagues would have suffered a significant blow, regardless of whether or not some academicians 50 years hence were offering exculpatory rationales from their cushy perches.
One part of this is true but banal--people should behave well; Jackie Robinson is one of the most-admirable people around (though not without his human failings) and most of us don't measure up. Fine. Jack Johnson didn't measure up, neither did Ty Cobb.

But the other part of this statement is a supposition that the key factor in racial change was the proper behavior of the oppressed minority. There's just no evidence for this as a general proposition or in the cases you are talking about. Blacks were excluded from many, many areas between 1880-1920 not because of their bad behavior but because of forces way beyond their control. Black inclusion in the 1940s and 1950s was not the result of a newly virtuous black population but of changes in the world around them.

In other words, if Jackie Robinson in 1947 behaved like Jack Johnson, baseball still would have been integrated. It might have moved more slowly; there might have been fewer players. But by the late 1950s, segregation in MLB would have been untenable. Similarly, if Jack Johnson had behaved better, there's every likelihood that boxing would have gone segregated anyway. You could not sell integrated boxing in large parts of the country, especially but not exclusively in the South. Blacks were being excluded from everything else. There is no mystery in why they were excluded from the heavyweight championship fights. It's of a piece with every other aspect of US history of the era.

So of course you can make judgments about individuals involved, but that's a side issue. Jack Johnson didn't create the impulse to exclude black men, nor did he create the stereotypes. His behavior was useful for those promoting the stereotypes, but to pin the blame on him is, again, exactly to misunderstand causes and effects. If Jackie Robinson were the heavyweight champ in 1903, boxing likely still would have segregated. Fleetwood Walker was a pretty impressive person, an Oberlin grad, and bright, respected guy. That didn't help him or other black players any in the 1880s. If he had been a buffoon, that would have been used against him, but when he turned out to be an intelligent, hardworking guy, it didn't change the arc of history at all.
   50. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: June 18, 2009 at 07:53 PM (#3223824)
I was just going to say that its sort of ironic that a company that stick RFID chips on its products is the major sponsor of a civil rights event.....


Isn't that bunk?
   51. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 08:53 PM (#3223961)
Except that they weren't. It took Johnson years to get his shot at the "big prize" for no other reason than he was black.


Examine Jack Johnson's professional boxing record and tell me when, exactly, he deserved a world title shot in your estimation. Pay special notice to Johnson's performances against black contender Hank Griffin, and compare those to Griffin's record against heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries during the same approximate time.

Jack Johnson career record

To retrospectively cry over Johnson's purported snub is laughable given that Johnson himself was far more active in freezing out black challengers during his title reign than any other prior champion. You could, perhaps, argue that Peter Jackson deserved a shot at John L. Sullivan. Neither Corbett nor Fitzsimmons had any outstanding black contenders during their reigns. You might be able to credibly argue that Jim Jeffries should have fought Denver Ed Martin, but should also be aware that Martin was KO'd by Jeffries' longtime sparring partner, Bob Armstrong, and that Jeffries himself was so dominant a champion that interest in the heavyweight division in general plummeted during his reign.

And Johnson? During his reign he actively refused to face Sam Langford, Joe Jeanette and Sam McVea, arguably the top 3 heavyweights in the world at the time. No other heavyweight champion in history boasts such a shameful legacy of ducking and hiding, and certainly not for avoiding fighters based on their skin color.
   52. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:15 PM (#3223995)
In other words, if Jackie Robinson in 1947 behaved like Jack Johnson, baseball still would have been integrated. It might have moved more slowly; there might have been fewer players. But by the late 1950s, segregation in MLB would have been untenable. Similarly, if Jack Johnson had behaved better, there's every likelihood that boxing would have gone segregated anyway.


1) The point that bad behavior by Robinson would have retarded integration in baseball is absolutely essential to my argument. And that is, in fact, exactly what happened in boxing - Jack Johnson's behavior, and his alone, scuttled an entire generation of black fighters.

2) Boxing was *already* integrated prior to Johnson to a far greater extent than any other professional sport and most of society. The great Jim Jeffries, tarred by modern revisionists as racist for not defending his title against Johnson (who wasn't particularly deserving of a title shot, but that's another tale) fought the very best black fighters of his day - the brilliant Aussie Peter Jackson, who went 61 rounds against Jim Corbett (Jeffries KO'd him in 1), Hank Griffin who went 55 rounds with Jack Johnson in three fights and never lost (Jeffries' KO'd him in 17, then thrashed him so soundly in a public exhibition that Griffin started falling to the canvas intentionally to stall for a 10 count), and Bob Armstrong, who later KO'd "Colored Heavyweight Champion" Ed Martin twice.

And that's just one fighter - as I mentioned before, Joe Gans was enormously popular as a lightweight, one of the best-paid boxers in the world from perhaps 1900 to 1908. Barbados Joe Walcott received his first world title shot in 1897. And George Dixon became the first black man to win a world championship in boxing way back in 1890 - 18 years before Jack Johnson received his title shot against Tommy Burns.

Boxing was, in fact, well on its way to being entirely desegregated before Jack Johnson brought his cartoonish routine into the spotlight. No other weight division under heavyweight even entertained the idea of a "color line" by that point, and even Jim Jeffries, considered absolutely unbeatable (even the great black heavyweight Sam Langford had an open challenge to fight any man "except James Jeffries"), was criticized by RING Magazine and most of the boxing public for not even being open to the idea of fighting Ed Martin.

But then Jack Johnson showed up with his Don Magic Juan routine and an entire generation of black fighters paid the price. We never got to see Harry Wills vs Jack Dempsey, or Gene Tunney vs George Godfrey, or even Sam Langford vs Jess Willard. It took a man of Joe Louis's ability and demeanor to finally demolish the last vestiges of segregation in boxing; Jack Johnson could have done so himself, but chose not to.
   53. Steve Treder Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:21 PM (#3224003)
1) The point that bad behavior by Robinson would have retarded integration in baseball is absolutely essential to my argument. And that is, in fact, exactly what happened in boxing - Jack Johnson's behavior, and his alone, scuttled an entire generation of black fighters.

"Retarded" is not the same as "scuttled." And the notion that the behavior of any one person, Jack Johnson or anyone else, "alone" dictated the dynamic of racial integration in a sport for a generation to follow is -- well -- ridiculous.
   54. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:30 PM (#3224014)

"Retarded" is not the same as "scuttled." And the notion that the behavior of any one person, Jack Johnson or anyone else, "alone" dictated the dynamic of racial integration in a sport for a generation to follow is -- well -- ridiculous.


I'd say "retarded" and "scuttled" in this regard is a distinction without a difference. An entire generation of black fighters was, indeed, lost due to Johnson's selfish egoism. A subsequent generation, spearheaded by Joe Louis, was able to recapture credibility for black heavyweights in the eye of the public and the boxing powerbrokers.

As to the extent to which Johnson, and Johnson alone bears responsibility for the sudden and dramatic roadblocks appearing in front of black fighters which hadn't been seen in decades, I suggest you consult the recordbooks yourself. Better yet, consult Joe Louis's manager, Jackie Blackburn, a highly-ranked black lightweight contemporary of Johnson's who witness the havoc wrought by Johnson firsthand.
   55. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:31 PM (#3224016)
Swing and a miss. The "people" referred to previously are not the victims of the stereotypes, but the creators of the stereotypes.


Or they could be one in the same.
   56. Steve Treder Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:37 PM (#3224020)
I'd say "retarded" and "scuttled" in this regard is a distinction without a difference.

No, "slowed" vs. "stopped" is a big difference.

An entire generation of black fighters was, indeed, lost due to Johnson's selfish egoism.

So you've repeatedly stated. It isn't a persuasive statement.

A subsequent generation, spearheaded by Joe Louis, was able to recapture credibility for black heavyweights in the eye of the public and the boxing powerbrokers.

And the differences between the 1900s/1910s and 1930s/1940s is something you fail to acknowledge.
   57. rr Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:41 PM (#3224025)
YR obviously has a knowledge base here, which I don't, but there is an issue I see with logic. If the guys running boxing were open to desegregating and were willing to do so based on how black fighters conducted themselves, why would the behavior of one guy, Johnson, have stopped them? If Johnson was an uppity type who liked screwing white women, why not just exclude him but give other guys a shot? If other guys were excluded based on Johnson's behavior, that is a form of racism. IOW, ISTM they could have ignored Johnson and given other black fighters a chance, but chose not to.

But, I don't have a knowledge base here, so maybe I am wrong. The problem is that YR's argument grants Johnson a huge amount of agency over decisions he wasn't making--unless he ran the business end of boxing. "Boxing's powerbrokers" as YR calls them, could presumably do what they wanted. If Johnson's behavior hurt OTHER black fighters, that is just another example of the entrenched racism of the era.
   58. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:43 PM (#3224028)
Yankee Redneck, you obviously know your boxing history, and I like the way you're responding with specifics and not generalizations. It's hard not to respect that, even when I don't agree with all of your conclusions.

I'd have only one question and make one general comment.

Question: You raise the point about Johnson's refusal to give other black heavyweight contenders a shot. But wouldn't this have been at least partly attributable to marketing considerations? All of his matches against white contenders were guaranteed draws (meaning moolah), but would the same have been the case for a match between two black contenders? It's hard to believe that such a match would have found the sort of financial backing that an interracial showdown would have.

Comment: While boxing was indeed integrated prior to Johnson, the heavyweight championship always seemed to be in a class by itself in terms of the passions it brought out in the public, racial and otherwise. And there were so many contemporary comments by whites about "restoring" the heavyweight crown to its "rightful" owners that I'm not so sure that Johnson's behavior is a full explanation for the long stretch of freezeouts between Johnson and Louis.

This doesn't negate your point that as a practical matter, Johnson's lifestyle didn't help other black fighters, even though it's equally true that lifestyles like this weren't exactly uncommon among white athletes of the early 20th century and didn't bring about similar reprisals. (We can all list many, many examples of this.) But it does suggest that the blackballing of black heavyweight contenders can't all be laid at Jack Johnson's feet.
   59. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:46 PM (#3224032)
I find the notion that "if only folks of color would know how to act and not be selfish, all the problems with race would have been alleviated" absolutely deplorable.

Part of equality is equal opportunity to be judged AS AN INDIVIDUAL for being an #######. Lord knows, if it was fair justification to deny opportunities to whole races of people because of personality issues with a few choice figureheads of that race, then white people would be afforded any opportunities of any sort. Whether or not better behavior on Johnson or Allen or Joey and Albert Belle's part would have made things better, that does not dismiss the societal problem.

We just had one of the worst presidents in the history of the union. Is anyone really concerned that no white guy will have a shot for a long ass time? What if Obama failed similarly, would the situation be the same?

That's racial inequality right there.
   60. phredbird Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:47 PM (#3224033)
And certainly Joe Louis took the hint when he got his own chance two decades later.


louis went into shuck and jive mode to satisfy the veiled threats of the boxing establishment and what did he get for it? he got screwed over by his own manager, in one instance forfeiting 10% of his purses in perpetuity to james braddock. but he was a credit to his race!
its kind of skewed logic to suggest that louis was forced to conform to certain standards of behavior because of johnson. if johnson had been a monk in his private life there still would have been a double standard for louis. he would still have been frowned on for any 'uppity' acts.
he had to agree to a real jim crow set of personal behavior standards just to be allowed to contend. and this is because of johnson? sure. johnson was a convenient excuse among his handlers to make sure they got their pound of flesh.
and its even more galling to hear this kind of bushwa when one considers the private life of babe ruth. the guy was a complete glutton and hedonist all his adult life, and it was shrugged off as the unfortunate byproduct of his harsh upbringing ...
'he almost ruined it for everyone else.' ... feh.
   61. a bebop a rebop Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:47 PM (#3224035)
(who wasn't particularly deserving of a title shot, but that's another tale)

I don't really follow boxing, but how is it possible that a man who wasn't deserving of a title shot managed to hang on to the title for seven years after he won it?

Or they could be one in the same.

In other words, black people really are lazy miscegenists.
   62. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 18, 2009 at 09:49 PM (#3224036)
An entire generation of black fighters was, indeed, lost due to Johnson's selfish egoism.
An entire generation of black fighters was, indeed, lost due to .... the unfortunately widespread white racism prevalent in America during Johnson's time which caused white America to shut out even non-controversial black fighters in the wake of what you call "Johnson's selfish egoism."

Others have correctly pointed out that the 1930s and 1940s America (wrt race) was not the same as it was in Johnson's time. It's also worth noting that America wasn't the same in the late 19th C. as it was in the early 20th C. The era Johnson came to prominence coincided with a massive migration of non-English-speaking Eastern and Southern Europeans to the U.S., concentrated in heaping masses in most major American cities. There was then a great anti-foreigner backlash going on at that time in response. While of course Jack Johnson and other African-Americans were not "foreigners," the wave of resentment against the outsider hit them, too. And a part of fitting in for the new Americans was to adopt the common anti-black prejudice of the day.

So perhaps Johnson's act was gauche. But the response it generated had only a wee bit to due with one man and a whole lot to do with a greater historical context.
   63. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 10:44 PM (#3224084)
No, "slowed" vs. "stopped" is a big difference.

I think you're conflating two very different things. I stated, "Jack Johnson's behavior, and his alone, scuttled an entire generation of black fighters." That seems inarguable - Sam Langford and Harry Wills would almost certainly have received title shots were the spectre of Jack Johnson not casting a pall over their entire profession. Jack Dempsey, in particular, very much wanted to fight Harry Wills but promoter Tex Rickard openly stated, "Johnson proved that if a negro gets the heavyweight title it won't be worth a nickel."

If Jackie Robinson flamed out in a similar manner to Johnson upon entering the majors (say, by becoming a heroin addict - we know how "those people" are), then let us assume that GregD's scenario above comes to pass - "In other words, if Jackie Robinson in 1947 behaved like Jack Johnson, baseball still would have been integrated. It might have moved more slowly; there might have been fewer players. But by the late 1950s, segregation in MLB would have been untenable."

By the late-50s, Monte Irvin was 40. Larry Doby and Don Newcombe were in their early-30s but in serious decline. Roy Campanella is clearly a shadow of his former self.

Under GregD's scenario, major league baseball could very well have lost an entire generation of excellent players who would have continued to toil in the Negro Leagues until they were supplanted by a new crop of young players who would be the beneficiaries of desegregation.

Which, of course, is exactly what happened in boxing. Those unfortunate quality heavyweights between Johnson and Louis - Langford, Harry Wills, perhaps George Godfrey - did indeed have their careers "scuttled" as they spent their best years fighting away from the title. The progress of negro heavyweights as a whole was in fact "retarded". The dream deferred indeed becomes the dream denied.
   64. Steve Treder Posted: June 18, 2009 at 10:59 PM (#3224089)
That seems inarguable

No, it's arguable. I and others are arguing against it.

Jack Dempsey, in particular, very much wanted to fight Harry Wills but promoter Tex Rickard openly stated, "Johnson proved that if a negro gets the heavyweight title it won't be worth a nickel."

And this by itself means that it wasn't the behavior of Jack Johnson, and his alone, that scuttled an entire generation of black fighters. At the very least it was the behavior of Jack Johnson and Tex Rickard. Let alone that of every other boxing promoter.

By the late-50s, Monte Irvin was 40. Larry Doby and Don Newcombe were in their early-30s but in serious decline. Roy Campanella is clearly a shadow of his former self.

Under GregD's scenario, major league baseball could very well have lost an entire generation of excellent players who would have continued to toil in the Negro Leagues until they were supplanted by a new crop of young players who would be the beneficiaries of desegregation.


But Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, and Hank Aaron were all still in their 20s. I don't find the argument plausible in the least that if Jackie Robinson had been a jerk, then zero other black players would have made an appearance in MLB for more than a decade. As has been pointed out again and again, your assumption is clearly that the US in Johnson's time was no different from the US many decades later, and that assumption is utterly unfounded.

Those unfortunate quality heavyweights between Johnson and Louis - Langford, Harry Wills, perhaps George Godfrey - did indeed have their careers "scuttled" as they spent their best years fighting away from the title.

That their careers were scuttled isn't in dispute. Whose behavior was the cause of the scuttling is, and to pin the overtly racist behavior of the white power structure that controlled boxing as a reasonable, and indeed supposedly inexorable, result of the refusal of Jack Johnson to behave in a manner preferred by racist whites, and thus to say that the lone culprit here was Johnson and not the power structure, is wholly unpersuasive.
   65. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:14 PM (#3224096)
Besides the points already made by Treder and others, who is to say that Johnson did not feel that his behavior at the time was possibly the best way to combat prejudice in the long term? It might very well be that Johnson felt by flaunting his excesses, he would force white America to accept him on his own terms as opposed to their own racially skewed terms, or not at all. Which doesn't even take into account that it was not at all Johnson's responsibility to be a spokesman for his race, and the theory that Johnson's behavior resulted in harsher prejudices on other black boxers of his era only demonstrates to me the flawed, bigoted thinking of whites in power and their inability to separate Johnson from his race is the culprit, not Johnson himself. Johnson's place in society was an incredibly complex and difficult place to be, and it is hardly fair to pin consequences of the societal prejudices of an entire era on his shoulders.
   66. phredbird Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:27 PM (#3224114)
the refusal of Jack Johnson to behave in a manner preferred by racist whites, and thus to say that the lone culprit here was Johnson and not the power structure, is wholly unpersuasive.


save it, steve. don't you see? if johnson had only tied his laces in a granny knot instead of square knot on the night of June 13, 1908 a whole generation of black fighters would have had their day. but johnson was a fraud who pooped his trunks.
yankee, are you familiar with the expression 'can't see the forest for the trees?' your encyclopedic knowledge of boxers of the early 20th century is admirable but not relevant.
johnson could have been an even bigger jerk or the dalai lama and it still wouldn't have altered the tenor of the times. clucking over the fact that he wasn't a nice guy is not ammunition in an argument about the pervasive racism of his day. others have pointed out that it would have been possible for promoters to dismiss johnson and move over to other fighters but for a small problem. they didn't distinguish between black men. to them they were all the same, a bunch of children who couldn't be trusted.
contrast this to something like major league baseball, where a borderline sociopath like ty cobb and a juvenile delinquent like babe ruth were still freely given their shot at playing with their less unruly peers. that should be the telling detail in this discussion. did the fact that ty cobb would pistol whip you if you looked at him wrong cost any other cracker from georgia a fair shot at the big leagues?
   67. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:30 PM (#3224121)
Yankee Redneck, you obviously know your boxing history, and I like the way you're responding with specifics and not generalizations. It's hard not to respect that, even when I don't agree with all of your conclusions.


Thanks. Boxing is like baseball in many ways, not the least of which is that in boxing, moreso than any other sport *except* baseball, history is venerated. Both sports also bloomed during the same period in 20th century America, and thus there's significant cultural overlap as well. Babe Ruth truly was Jack Dempsey.

Question: You raise the point about Johnson's refusal to give other black heavyweight contenders a shot. But wouldn't this have been at least partly attributable to marketing considerations? All of his matches against white contenders were guaranteed draws (meaning moolah), but would the same have been the case for a match between two black contenders?


I think that's a very common-sensical interpretation of the events, but the evidence available states otherwise. Johnson's fights against white journeyman fighters like Fireman Flynn and Frank Moran were box office flops - Flynn drew approximately 4000 for a title fight with Johnson, while former champ Jim Jeffries drew 5000 to see a 4-round exhibition with negro heavyweight Hank Griffin in 1902 and almost 20,000 for his fight against #1 contender Tom Sharkey in 1899.

White audiences had no interest in seeing Johnson beat up on what they knew were overmatched also-ran white fighters and they voted with their wallets.

It's worth noting that the one time Johnson did agree to step into the ring with a black fighter, it was overseas in Paris, against a second-rate fighter named Battling Jim Johnson. Jack Johnson suffered an arm injury and quit on his stool, but claimed he hadn't put the title on the line and left with the championship:

NY Times 1913

Johnson would have made at least as much money fighting the top black contenders (black boxing fans were commonplace throughout the northeast) as he did fighting journeyman white heavyweights and undersized white middleweights and most likely made more, but he saw it convenient to draw the "color line" and pull up the ladder once he'd reached the top.

Comment: While boxing was indeed integrated prior to Johnson, the heavyweight championship always seemed to be in a class by itself in terms of the passions it brought out in the public, racial and otherwise.


Oh I wouldn't argue otherwise - the heavyweight crown has always been the biggest beacon for boxing, even during eras of excellent depth in lower divisions. The whole idea of the heavyweight title maintaining a "color line" originated with John L Sullivan, the Cap Anson of pugilism, who famously said he had never fought a negro and never would (interesting to note that every subsequent heavyweight champion fought black fighters at some point in his career except ONE. Can you name him?)

But the trend in boxing was obvious and unmistakable. Not only were black featherweights, lightweights, and welterweights well-established by 1905, they were in many cases extremely popular. Joe Gans, to name one, was enormously respected by boxing fans of all colors as one of the most skillful technical fighters in the history of the sport, as well as a likable gentleman outside the ring. When Gans fought "The Durable Dane" Battling Nelson in 1906, it shattered all the previous gate receipt records, including those of the heavyweights.

Further, I can't help but think that some folks are completely overlooking the black elephant in the room - Jack Johnson DID get a title shot in 1908!

This doesn't negate your point that as a practical matter, Johnson's lifestyle didn't help other black fighters, even though it's equally true that lifestyles like this weren't exactly uncommon among white athletes of the early 20th century and didn't bring about similar reprisals. (We can all list many, many examples of this.) But it does suggest that the blackballing of black heavyweight contenders can't all be laid at Jack Johnson's feet.


I think the actual history of record and the statements of boxing's most influential figures of the time tell a fairly straightforward tale. Indeed, Tex Rickard, the most powerful figure in boxing from the early 1900s through the late 1920s (he actually promoter the record-breaking Gans vs Nelson fight in 1906) and the author of Jack Dempsey's "Million Dollar Gates", openly stated that public reception of Jack Johnson had taught him to keep black fighters away from the heavyweight championship. You'll notice that the return of black fighters to the top of the heavyweight scene coincides nicely with Rickard's death in 1929.
   68. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:40 PM (#3224144)
interesting to note that every subsequent heavyweight champion fought black fighters at some point in his career except ONE. Can you name him?
Ivan Drago?

FWIW, there is an interesting bit of hockey trivia with regard to Tex Rickard, who, of course, was from Texas. Rickard was the original owner of the New York Rangers hockey team. (I think even before the NHL formed, but I'd have to look that up.) Anyhow, it was only because a Texan, who needed something to fill up the arena he owned (Madison Square Garden) in New York, started the team that the New York hockey club was named after the famous lawmen, the Texas Rangers. Maybe if he had been instead Arkansas Rickard, the NY hockey team today would be the New York Razorbacks.
   69. Steve Treder Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:41 PM (#3224145)
Tex Rickard, the most powerful figure in boxing from the early 1900s through the late 1920s (he actually promoter the record-breaking Gans vs Nelson fight in 1906) and the author of Jack Dempsey's "Million Dollar Gates", openly stated that public reception of Jack Johnson had taught him to keep black fighters away from the heavyweight championship.

This speaks volumes about the power and the racism of Tex Rickard. It implicates Jack Johnson in no way other than as Rickard's rationalization.
   70. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:42 PM (#3224147)
Or they could be one in the same.


Jesus, I hate it when people parade their tone-deafness to the English language. The expression is one and the same.
   71. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:44 PM (#3224156)
(interesting to note that every subsequent heavyweight champion fought black fighters at some point in his career except ONE. Can you name him?)

As a wild guess, I'd say Tunney.

I think the actual history of record and the statements of boxing's most influential figures of the time tell a fairly straightforward tale. Indeed, Tex Rickard, the most powerful figure in boxing from the early 1900s through the late 1920s (he actually promoter the record-breaking Gans vs Nelson fight in 1906) and the author of Jack Dempsey's "Million Dollar Gates", openly stated that public reception of Jack Johnson had taught him to keep black fighters away from the heavyweight championship. You'll notice that the return of black fighters to the top of the heavyweight scene coincides nicely with Rickard's death in 1929.

But that statement can lead to two equally true interpretations, and one doesn't exclude the other: That Johnson's behavior caused Rickard to be gunshy; and that Rickard's collective punishment of all black heavyweight contenders was still shamefully racist.
   72. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:44 PM (#3224158)
Others have correctly pointed out that the 1930s and 1940s America (wrt race) was not the same as it was in Johnson's time. It's also worth noting that America wasn't the same in the late 19th C. as it was in the early 20th C. The era Johnson came to prominence coincided with a massive migration of non-English-speaking Eastern and Southern Europeans to the U.S., concentrated in heaping masses in most major American cities. There was then a great anti-foreigner backlash going on at that time in response. While of course Jack Johnson and other African-Americans were not "foreigners," the wave of resentment against the outsider hit them, too.


But again, we're talking about *boxing*, the most egalitarian sport in America. John L Sullivan couldn't go two pints without bellowing of his Irish heritage, and he could barely go two hours between two pints. Bob Fitzsimmons, who was the first man to hold the middleweight, light-heavyweight, and heavyweight titles (a feat that wouldn't be repeated until Roy Jones Jr did so 100 years later) arrived in California an unknown New Zealand blacksmith. The man Fitzsimmons beat for the light-heavyweight strap, George Gardner, was born in County Clare! Battling Nelson, the popular brawler and foil to Joe Gans, was "The Durable Dane", born in Copenhagen. And there was never a shortage of tough Jews in boxing during that era - Joe Choynski went 20 rounds with Jim Jeffries and KO'd Jack Johnson in 3.

I could name plenty more, but I hope I make my point - all those "outsiders" who occupied the lower rungs of society were boxing fans and happily paid good money to see their heroes in action. It's almost as if you're making the claim that promoters of that era would happily leave money on the table out of a misguided sense of racial or national purity, which never seemed to be the case.

So perhaps Johnson's act was gauche. But the response it generated had only a wee bit to due with one man and a whole lot to do with a greater historical context.


I think the response it generated at the time was well-understood at the time. Recent revisionist attempts to recast Johnson as some sort of early civil rights icon have obscured the actual historical record and impact of his reign.
   73. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:46 PM (#3224165)
Jesus, I hate it when people parade their tone-deafness to the English language. The expression is one and the same.


I ruefully hold out my tender knuckles for the inevitable rap with your internet yardstick.
   74. Steve Treder Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:48 PM (#3224168)
Recent revisionist attempts to recast Johnson as some sort of early civil rights icon have obscured the actual historical record and impact of his reign.

That may well be. But you may take notice that not one poster in this thread has cast Johnson as some sort of early civil rights icon; indeed nearly everyone has asserted that he held no responsibility to anyone other than himself. Your argument will have more power if you direct it toward the points made by the posters here.
   75. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:53 PM (#3224180)
It's almost as if you're making the claim that promoters of that era would happily leave money on the table out of a misguided sense of racial or national purity, which never seemed to be the case.
No, my claim is rather that there was a rising tide of racism by "regular Americans" in the United States directed against blacks (and others) at that time, coming in the wake of a changing country, and that one of the results of that rising tide was the exclusion of blacks from certain fields of endeavor which had earlier been open to them or at least less closed. The timing is a bit different, and thus might not support my argument too well, but pro football itself had originally been open to blacks. But then an increase in racial animus, unrelated to anything any blakc ballplayers did, resulted in their being excluded for more than a generation.
   76. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 18, 2009 at 11:54 PM (#3224186)
I ruefully hold out my tender knuckles for the inevitable rap with your internet yardstick.


I apologize for being so irritable, but that one happens to be one of my pet peeves. Add that to a full day of laboring to translate wannabe soldiers' near-gibberish into publishable prose, & my limited capacity for civility seems to be done for.
   77. phredbird Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:03 AM (#3224206)
I could name plenty more, but I hope I make my point -


no. you aren't making a valid point at all wrt the jack johnson argument. you paraded a list of white fighters. the intramural rivalries of european ethnic groups have little or nothing to do with the true outsider status of johnson and other black fighters. and you're still avoiding the point others are making, that the institutional racism of the day had much more to do with the plight of black fighters than anything johnson did.
as for 'revisionist attempts to recast johnson as some sort of early civil rights icon', i'm unaware of any concerted movement like that. have you ever seen 'the great white hope'? the dramatic tension in the play and movie are about what you've pointed out. the dude would not bow down to anyone, and would have his way, and was disdainful of everything and it destroyed his life and damaged others. the moral we'd derive from that if johnson was white would be along the lines of 'oh, he was a flawed individual'. the moral you're trying to derive from his life is that he let down his race. johnson wasn't concerned with carrying the water for the black man to satisfy the white man; he wanted options just like white people get everyday. his response to white people suggesting he be a good black man was a poke in the eye, and when tex rickard went righteous on him, it proved a point that escapes people even today.
   78. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:04 AM (#3224207)
I find the notion that "if only folks of color would know how to act and not be selfish, all the problems with race would have been alleviated" absolutely deplorable.


I find your 21st century interpretation of how late-19th century America should have accepted the open transgression of its social mores absolutely hilarious. 50 years before baseball stooped to allow a hand-picked and meticulously-groomed negro on to its pristine diamonds negro fighters were standing astride the boxing world with title belts held aloft to the cheers of thousands. They followed society's rules, reaped the rewards, and acclimated an increasingly tolerant sporting public to the sight, once considered unimaginable, of a black man beating a white man unconscious with his fists.

Jack Johnson wanted to make his own rules and in doing so tarred an entire generation of fighters with his brush. To claim he never knew any such backlash would happen as a result of his actions is quite simply preposterous. Of course he knew. He paraded through life singing "I Just Gotta Be Me" and left his contemporaries to clean up the confetti and elephant droppings. Once Johnson climbed to the top of the ladder, owing in no small part to the public records of Gans, Walcott, Jackson, et al., he couldn't wait to pull up the ladder and tell everyone in eyesight, black fighters intentionally included, to kiss his ass.
   79. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:09 AM (#3224215)
(interesting to note that every subsequent heavyweight champion fought black fighters at some point in his career except ONE. Can you name him?)

As a wild guess, I'd say Tunney.


You are correct sir.

An interesting aside - Jack Sharkey is considered to be a mediocre heavyweight champion in a historic sense, but in the late-20s he was the white fighter who essentially dispelled the claims of top black fighters Harry Wills and George Godfrey to heavyweight title shots when he beat them both in consecutive bouts in 1926.

Why was Sharkey fighting the top two black fighters? Sharkey beat Godfrey to vault in the standings, and then beat Wills as part of an elimination to see who would face Jack Dempsey for the right to a title shot with Gene Tunney. Dempsey KO'd Sharkey in 7 in 1927, and the path to the "Long Count" was laid.
   80. Srul Itza Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:09 AM (#3224216)
Indeed, Tex Rickard, the most powerful figure in boxing from the early 1900s through the late 1920s (he actually promoter the record-breaking Gans vs Nelson fight in 1906) and the author of Jack Dempsey's "Million Dollar Gates", openly stated that public reception of Jack Johnson had taught him to keep black fighters away from the heavyweight championship.

So basically, you quote a racist to justify racism. Nice.
   81. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:10 AM (#3224217)
They followed society's rules

"Society's rules" were that it wasn't permissible for a black man to act as he pleased regarding what he said and who he slept with, but it was for a white man. And you're saying that if only Jack Johnson had shown the decency to follow these rules, the world would have been better off.

This is just a disgusting line of argument.
   82. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:22 AM (#3224231)
I don't really follow boxing, but how is it possible that a man who wasn't deserving of a title shot managed to hang on to the title for seven years after he won it?


As I mentioned earlier, the top contenders during that era were black - Sam Langford, Joe Jeanette, and Sam McVea - and Johnson refused to fight them all.

Just to recap, since I don't think anyone can be expected to remember Johnson's title reign in any detail 100 years later, these were Johnson's title defenses:

- Jack O'Brien, 165lb middleweight
- Tony Ross, non-prospect whose loss to Johnson was his third in a row
- Al Kaufman, one of the early "white hopes" whose biggest career win was over...
- Fireman Jim Flynn, a prototypical rugged journeyman already KO'd by previous champion Tommy Burns
- Stanley Ketchel, 170lb middleweight champion
- Jim Jeffries, retired former champion who weighed almost 300lb when the contract was signed
- Frank Moran, another journeyman with a 23-10-7 record.

Langford, McVea, and Jeanette all had superior records, and during this period the top white contender, Gunboat Smith, was ducked as well (Smith even owned a win over Sam Langford, as well as wins over Moran, Flynn, Ross, and Johnson's eventual conqueror Jess Willard)
   83. phredbird Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:27 AM (#3224236)
50 years before baseball stooped to allow a hand-picked and meticulously-groomed negro on to its pristine diamonds negro fighters were standing astride the boxing world with title belts held aloft to the cheers of thousands. They followed society's rules, reaped the rewards, and acclimated an increasingly tolerant sporting public to the sight, once considered unimaginable, of a black man beating a white man unconscious with his fists.


and then the first one who came along who turned out to be a little too complicated as a person and unpalatable to the white power structure of the day causes them to revert to shutting out any black fighter, regardless of merit. that simply does not reflect as poorly on johnson as it does on the boxing establishment of the day.
   84. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:30 AM (#3224242)
So basically, you quote a racist to justify racism. Nice.


Poor Tex Rickard, to be tarred as "racist" some 100 years after he promoted the most significant desegregated boxing bouts the sport had ever seen. If Tex Rickard was such a racist he wouldn't have promoted the 1906 Joe Gans vs Battling Nelson fight, the biggest prizefight to date, and then promoted the rematch. He certainly wouldn't have put up $100,000 of his own money to get a 300lb Jim Jeffries out of his farming retirement to fight Jack Johnson.

To the extent that Rickard should be tarred as "racist" by 21st century baseball fans with limited interest in boxing, it would be a good deal more accurate to say "realist". Rickard saw with his own wallet the effect Johnson's behavior had on boxing's popularity, as I noted previously in discussing the dwindling attendance figures of Johnson's later defenses.
   85. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:39 AM (#3224257)
and then the first one who came along who turned out to be a little too complicated as a person


We could dispense with the niceties and just call him an self-absorbed jerk who drew the "color line" much more thickly and shamelessly than any white bigot in boxing history. The best thing Johnson could have done for black prizefighters would have been to face them for the title and let their adult behavior counteract his petulant egoism, but of course he knew this too. Johnson was openly antagonistic to the idea of any other black heavyweights fighting for the title, so much so that he volunteered to train Max Schmeling to fight Joe Louis.

Complicated? Not at all. Sadly stereotypical.
   86. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:50 AM (#3224282)
"Society's rules" were that it wasn't permissible for a black man to act as he pleased regarding what he said and who he slept with, but it was for a white man.


What white prizefighter of that era only consorted with black prostitutes? What white fighter of that era openly mocked his opponents in the ring and stated he prolonged fighter to make his opponent suffer?

Not Stanley Ketchel, or Kid McCoy, or Tom Sharkey, or any other of the "bad actors" in boxing, whose transgressions were typically of the "get drunk and start fights" variety. Well, maybe not Kid McCoy, but his tale of horror was after retirement.

This is just a disgusting line of argument.


It's an obvious statement of fact, as offensive as it might be to your 21st century nostrils. The first openly homosexual ballplayer will undoubtedly find that "society's rules" will not treat them kindly if they openly leer in the lockerroom or frequent the upper-deck concourse bathrooms for anonymous sex during the 7th Inning Schtup. Subsequent generations of gay athletes would endure unfair additional scrutiny were this the case, and to think otherwise is quite naive.
   87. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:52 AM (#3224283)
Sadly stereotypical.

I have to say it: the only one being sadly stereotypical here is the poster using the handle that includes the term "Redneck," tying himself into a logical pretzel rationalizing old-timey racism by a white power structure while demonizing the lifestyle of an individual black under the control of that power structure, and then insisting that it was the actions of the latter that dictated those of the former.

Yuck.
   88. phredbird Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:53 AM (#3224285)
call him momma, i don't care. once again, you're misdirecting the argument. nobody's defending johnson as a person or even as a civil rights icon, a subject you brought up out of thin air.
and again, let me point out the fact that while johnson supposedly messed up boxing for a bunch of black fighters cuz he was such a bad man, white athletes not much different than johnson, crummy guys with not much to recommend them other than their athleticism, were given every benefit of the doubt in pursuit of their careers, every transgression overlooked or shrugged off or merely tsked over.
   89. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:54 AM (#3224288)
What white prizefighter of that era only consorted with black prostitutes? What white fighter of that era openly mocked his opponents in the ring and stated he prolonged fighter to make his opponent suffer?

If one had, would it have resulted in Tex Rickard refusing to book white fighters for the next 20 years?
   90. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:55 AM (#3224291)
I still fail to see why Jack Johnson had any greater duty to eradicate racism than anyone else. To say, "It would have turned out better if he did this..." is perfectly logical.

To blame him while dismissing ethnic majority bigots and their personal responsibility as artifacts of their time seems quite stereotypical in its own way.

There was no magical air circulating in the era you describe that biologically impaired people to subjugate others. There were merely social dynamics that human beings tried their best to live and interact with. Jack Johnson did and everyone else as well.

The idea that black ######## deserve more blame than white ######## for racism is ludicrous.
   91. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:00 AM (#3224308)
The idea that black ######## deserve more blame than white ######## for racism is ludicrous.

And the idea that a single individual black ######## deserves sole, entire, exclusive blame for the racist actions of an entire professional sport for a generation following his day is spectacularly ludicrous.
   92. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:07 AM (#3224315)
We just had one of the worst presidents in the history of the union. Is anyone really concerned that no white guy will have a shot for a long ass time? What if Obama failed similarly, would the situation be the same?
"If"????
   93. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:36 AM (#3224344)
I have to say it: the only one being sadly stereotypical here is the poster using the handle that includes the term "Redneck," tying himself into a logical pretzel rationalizing old-timey racism by a white power structure while demonizing the lifestyle of an individual black under the control of that power structure, and then insisting that it was the actions of the latter that dictated those of the former.


I'm sorry if the facts regarding Jack Johnson's embarrassing tenure as heavyweight champion, and its long-lived effect on the sport as a whole, run afoul of your airy idealism. I don't think I've offered anything but a factual account of boxing politics and personalities of that early era, which you're free to ignore in favor of your philosophical generalities and fainting couch.

What has happened is now a matter of historical record and we've heard from most of the relevant figures of that era, both black and white. For all the hysterics of my "rationalizing old-timey racism by a white power structure while demonizing the lifestyle of an individual black" I don't see anyone questioning the assumption that baseball, which integrated some 50 years after boxing, did a great service to all Negro Leaguers by selecting as their first representative a man who knew how to comport himself with a measure of dignity, rather than a drug addict or sexual predator. Because of Jackie Robinson, we were blessed with Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, and Larry Doby. Because of Jack Johnson, we were denied Sam Langford, Harry Wills, and Joe Jeanette. The honest reality easily trumps the comfortable ideal, viewed from a century away by those with naught but a passing interest in the situation.
   94. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 02:08 AM (#3224390)
call him momma, i don't care. once again, you're misdirecting the argument. nobody's defending johnson as a person or even as a civil rights icon, a subject you brought up out of thin air.


I think it's relevant given that this isn't a boxing discussion forum and that it is fair for me to assume that much of what the average participant in this thread knows about Jack Johnson has been shaped NOT by his contemporary accounts but by Ken Burns' documentary and the late-20th century effort to recast Johnson as a benighted and unfairly maligned individual. Some people do seem to be "defending Johnson as a person", but I think part of that is because they know so little about him as a person.

and again, let me point out the fact that while johnson supposedly messed up boxing for a bunch of black fighters cuz he was such a bad man, white athletes not much different than johnson, crummy guys with not much to recommend them other than their athleticism, were given every benefit of the doubt in pursuit of their careers, every transgression overlooked or shrugged off or merely tsked over.


I'm not sure if that's true, but it does seem irrelevant. You really can't argue that Johnson's actions *didn't* adversely hinder an entire generation of boxers. Nor could you honestly claim that black prizefighters hadn't been making enormous strides towards equality in the mere decade before Johnson was awarded his title shot. Nor could your credibly argue that Johnson himself wasn't aware that there would be significant repercussions to his actions which might even extend beyond the length of his own nose.

In 1908 boxing was, by and large, ready for a black heavyweight champion. Previous champion Jim Jeffries had literally cleaned out the entire division, leaving little but worn-out warhorses and washed-out dregs like Jack Root and Marvin Hart (Hart's narrow victory over Johnson in 1905 probably prevented Jack from make any earlier claims to the title). Black fighters in other divisions had proven to be generally popular and accepted, and the most influential members of the boxing universe - Richard Fox, editor of the Police Gazette (the most important publication in the sport), popular fighters of the day including Battling Nelson, and even the leading promoter of the era, Tex Rickard, all endorsed desegregating the heavyweight division. In fact, there's very little I've found in the published literature from around 1905 *in favor* of a "color line".

Jack Johnson was the first black fighter to receive a heavyweight title shot and in retrospect he couldn't have done a worse job with his opportunity given the groundswell of history and boxing sentiment that boosted him into such a position so far in advance of the rest of society's integration. Champion Tommy Burns awarded Johnson his title shot for the simple reason that he felt Johnson was the best challenger available (and willing to fight cheap). In retrospect boxing would have been better served had Burns simply ducked Johnson, as Jack himself did with the top black challengers of his reign, and waited for another black challenger to earn this historic opportunity.

In fact, I think it easy to argue that were Sam Langford, arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in history and an otherwise genial man outside the ring, to become the first black heavyweight champion in boxing history, baseball becomes integrated by the 1930s. After all, it was the popular Joe Louis who cleared the way for public acceptance of black sporting heroes in the 1930s and 40s. In addition to Langford, Jeanette, and Wills, Jack Johnson's antics may also have cost us Paige, Gibson, and Charleston.
   95. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 19, 2009 at 02:23 AM (#3224406)
This thought is off thread, but I think it would be excellent if Sean Forman would do us all the great favor of establishing boxing-reference.com, which showed every single prize fighter's record, fights, dates, HOF monitor, and so on. If you would do this, Sean, I'd be willing to donate one of David Nieporent's next born children my kidneys to support the site.
   96. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 02:33 AM (#3224413)
Rich, try Boxrec.com, it's an outstanding resource.

BoxRec Fighter Search

Make good use of that extra kidney.
   97. Srul Itza Posted: June 19, 2009 at 02:33 AM (#3224414)
Blaming the victims of racism for the acts of racists is an old tactic. Woodrow Wilson did not promote segregation because of Jack Johnson. The KKK was not formed because of Jack Johnson. People were not lynched throughout the south because of Jack Johnson.

I have had more than enough of this apologist for the actions of racists. His other comments, like this one:

I hope the first openly homosexual active ballplayer will similarly avoid reinforcing the hurtful stereotypes associated with his minority group and not emulate the destructive actions of Johnson and Clay by openly pursuing little boys or making passes at all of his teammates.


sufficiently demonstrate his mind set.

Ignore.
   98. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2009 at 02:43 AM (#3224418)
I don't think he is blaming Johnson for racism, just saying if he would have handled himself differently it could have made a tremendous amount of difference.

I understand Johnsons point of view, that he shouldn't change who he is just because he is more in the spotlight, but I can definately see the argument that the way Johnson behaved slowed or even reversed integration for a while. He of course wasn't responsible for the lack of integration but he became ammo to keep others out. Of course the situation also happened at a time when reflexive racism was more or less on the rise and it may have made no difference in the end how Johnson carried himself.
   99. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 19, 2009 at 02:50 AM (#3224421)
I have had more than enough of this apologist for the actions of racists. His other comments, like this one:

I hope the first openly homosexual active ballplayer will similarly avoid reinforcing the hurtful stereotypes associated with his minority group and not emulate the destructive actions of Johnson and Clay by openly pursuing little boys or making passes at all of his teammates.


sufficiently demonstrate his mind set.

Srul, that's an unfair comment. Unlike lots of Primates who hold out against the crowd, YR has offered us plenty of substance to back up his opinions. I still see Johnson (and Ali) as being unfairly held to a higher standard of human behavior than the many generations of white athletes who boasted and whored their merry way without paying any penalties for it, but I've also heard plenty of older blacks who thought that Ali was little more than a clown prince. I thought that they were wrong, too, but they were speaking with every bit as much sincerity as Ali's fans, and it's a POV that shouldn't be dismissed offhandedly. I find Johnson to be a fascinating historical figure whose behavior underneath it all was no better and no worse than Babe Ruth's, but in terms of the actual effect of his behavior at the time, I think that YR raises legitimate points. And again, this is not to say that by far the greater blame for his ostracism (and the subsequent 20 year blackballing of black heavyweight contenders) shouldn't lay at the feet of the racist mores of white society. But perhaps I'm alone in thinking that this is a separate question.
   100. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 02:50 AM (#3224422)
Some people seem to get a charge out of calling other people racists, especially when they're obviously getting their as$es
kicked in an arguement.

YR may or may not like black people, but nothing he's stated here reveals anything either way in that regard.

"Fainting couches" indeed.
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