The Chicago Tribune has a list of all the people who have visited Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson during his 120 days in jail. Most of the names you recognize belong to Johnson's teammates- Rex Grossman, Brian Urlacher, Adewale Ogunleye - but coach Lovie Smith, general manager Jerry Angelo and owner Mike McCaskey all also visited their incarcerated charge. Strangely, according to the Trib, those who didn't visit Johnson include his fiancee and linebacker Lance Briggs, underscoring his desire to play for a team other than the Bears.
The Bears made a very public show of standing behind Johnson so regardless of the stupidity and criminal activity that led to his prison stint, it's good to see them backing up their actions. While on a run to a Super Bowl it would be easy to look the other way because your team benefitted from Johnson's play but it's heartening that there seems to be a concerted effort being made to help Johnson improve his life. But that doesn't explain why Jesse Jackson was also on the visitor list.
The pandering preacher is based in Chicago so perhaps he's just a starfucking Bears fan although I fear he was likely offering counsel to the Tank about ways to turn his justified conviction into a civil rights case. Much like he was trying to do to the Atlanta Braves earlier this week. His Rainbow/PUSH coalition met with Braves GM John Schuerholz about the lack of African-American players on the Braves Opening Day roster. The Opening Day roster part is significant because Willie Harris, an African-American utility man, has been on the team for a couple of weeks and his talents helped them beat the Padres just last night.
"The team slipped ... down to [no African-Americans]; it wasn?t something that just happened," Joe Beasley (Southern Regional Director for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition) said Monday afternoon. "I think it was a lack of diligence on the part of the Braves to recruit African-American players. There's not diminished enthusiasm for African-Americans playing baseball. It's simply the opportunity hasn't presented itself."
That's just not true if you believe anyone other than Beasley. The amount of baseball played on the youth level has dropped precipitously for years among all races but the sharpest drop has come among the urban African-American community. Don't take my word for it, ask C.C. Sabathia or Dr. Gerald L. Early of Washington University in St. Louis. The reasons run the gamut from lack of available playing fields in cities, no tradition of baseball in certain areas, the cost of playing high-level youth baseball and a general explosion in the amounts of sports being played. What's not true is that teams are selectively holding back black players. Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry didn't keep getting chances because someone was agitating to get black players on rosters, they got them because they were great baseball players who could help you win. In sports that's the only thing that matters.
I wonder why Jackson spends so much time working with athletes. I don't doubt that the problems of race can rear their ugly head in the sports arena, not for one second, but are these multimillionaires really the ones who need help? If you want to have more African-American kids playing baseball why don't you attack it by doing more to make youth baseball accessible to a wider variety of people. Or even better, why not agitate for increased opportunities of all kinds - from baseball to biology - instead of visiting thug football players in prison because it gets your name in the newspaper.