As proud products of the HBCU education system and sports lovers, JuGatti and I decided on William C. Rhoden’s Forty Million Dollar Slaves for our December book. Rhoden, a Morgan State grad and former sports columnist, gave us a well-executed exposition of the excellence and exploitation of black athletes past, present, and future. With this book, we were given a history lesson on the emergence of African-American sports figures as well as a precautionary tale for prospective athletes. Forty Million Dollar Slaves was the full experience of black culture and legendary moments in the wonderful world of sports that also tackled issues on and off the field when it came to race and politics. We give it 2 foam fingers WAY up as a must read for sports enthusiasts like us or those who are curious to learn more about sports, from the darker perspective of course.
Get a courtside view with JuGatti and I sharing our thoughts on this read and more as we put you on game below.
1. After reading this book, do you believe becoming an athlete is more of an opportunity or an exploitation for the kids?
Manito: After reading this book I still see athletics as an opportunity and when it comes to kids I strongly believe serious parenting and values come with making for a better one. But there’s still a price to pay. To some extent athletes are still exploited in terms of their self-worth and talent. Master P said it best, “If this white man offer me a million dollars I gotta be worth forty, or fifty… Or ten or something.”
JuGatti: I mean regardless how you spin it, they are indeed being exploited. From the college to the pros. In college of course they aren’t getting paid, and in the pros they are getting paid a fraction of what they’re truly worth. These players bring BILLIONS of dollars to schools, cities, states. Business booms everywhere because of them, yet when they mull about contracts and holdout they get labeled as ungrateful. It’s a true double edged sword and I can only imagine the pressure that comes with those lofty expectations. Of course, they are well compensated but their true worth is severely undermined by these greedy owners and schools.
2. This has been an extremely rough year for football with injuries, do you think these can be avoidable or are they inevitable in the game?
Manito: I’m a New York Giants fan, I know ALL about injuries being rough in football, OKAY?! Plus I want to cry every time I think of Deshaun Watson, I love seeing black quarterbacks flourish. To me, it seems as if they’re unavoidable. The best thing is to eat your Wheaties, train accordingly, and have a plan B if shit goes south.
JuGatti: This might be one of the worst years as far as injuries in sports ever. From Gordon Hayward, to Zach Miller, and even more recent Ryan Shazier. For the most part I believe injuries are inevitable but a lot has to do with the change in the sports landscape. The game is played way faster, the athletes are way bigger (pause). I feel the more they try to keep these sports safe, the worse it gets. From the national crisis of concussions, to Achilles snapping like twigs (trust me I would know). So as long as sports keep churning in this direction, there will sadly be more injuries in the upcoming years.
3. Ultimately, would you let your child play football?
Manito: I would if they had genuine interest in it. But as a parent, I would let them know as much as I can that sports can be great as an extracurricular activity, a workout, a way to express yourself, etc. but it’s not a guaranteed meal ticket. I want them to understand it can provide opportunities for you if you use it accordingly, or it can just be a way to simply have fun. Naturally, I’d be nervous about them getting hurt too. I’m already clumsy af without a ball in my hand, so I pray my kids won’t be as accident prone as me.
JuGatti: Man this is a tough one, on one side I’m like nah my kid won’t play football but I’m not a parent so I wouldn’t even know how to go about it. I would probably introduce him or her to other sports beforehand that aren’t as intense. Even though of course you can get hurt in any sport regardless. But you grow up and your thinking changes. I remember when I was younger I would live to see a big hit. Take a nigga’s fucking head off and stand over his lifeless body while beating on your chest like King Kong if you want. Now I cringe if I see a nigga get pushed out of bounds. Maybe I’m soft, more than likely I’m soft but still.
4. Name a record (in any sport) that you think will never be broken and why?
Manito: I can’t see anyone passing Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 100 points in one game in today’s basketball, or his so-called “20,000 romantic sexcapades” record either. EW. Kobe’s ballhog ass barely passed in his basketball career and scored 81 points on Jalen Rose in one game. I can’t picture anything exceeding that.
JuGatti: The Wilt 100 point game would be too easy to say. Besides, that nigga dropped 100 points on guys that were my height so it’s always an asterisk next to it in my book. I don’t think anyone will top the Warriors 73-9 record even though it doesn’t count since they lost. Hmm Jerry Rice’s receiving yards record won’t be touched ever. Also I know for a fact that a kicker will never win NFL MVP ever again. I don’t even know how it happened in the first place.
5. What will it take for HBCUs to rise to prominence again in the athletic field?
Manito: HBCU’s are EXTREMELY underfunded, especially in Maryland. My HBCU lost their football program because of lack of preparation with funding and at one point, so many promising NFL athletes came from UMES, Emerson Boozer and Johnny Staple were a few named in this book. We need serious state support and money going into a sports program would help, especially when it comes to recruitment. Star players are being wooed by big name schools instead of an illustrious HBCU. Even the Fab 5 said they wanted to prove that bringing talent to an NCAA school is what would make a championship team and not a coach. Instead of bringing that to a black college, they chose Michigan. I love my Big 10 schools but I’m all about my HBCU FIRST!
JuGatti: It will take 5 star recruits to go to an HBCU to bring them back. Honestly, a whole Fab 5 of niggas commit to an HBCU and shit would get real. It sucks that it won’t happen but just imagine that. It’s hard to sell an 18 year old on the thoughts of playing for a school in the middle of nowhere when they are getting offers from schools like Kentucky, Duke, etc. But if that was to happen, the tides would shift almost instantaneously.
6. Do HBCUs still matter? Why or why not.
Manito: Of course they still matter, this dynamic duo, JuGatti and myself, are HBCU made, HELLO!
JuGatti: HBCUs will always matter. No matter what. The fact that so many are still standing show the resilience of black people. Niggas can keep fronting but HBCUs been putting out the same talent as PWI’s with ¼ of the resources they have. We make it happen, and we always will. I just wish HBCUs mattered to the rest of the world as much as it did to us.
7. Recently Lavar Ball has stated he wants to start his own junior pro league to circumvent the NCAA. How do you feel about this?
Manito: I absolutely support this mainly because I don’t think college athletes are adequately compensated. Plus I think it generates a specific development league for those who are solely focused on going pro. AND this WONDERFUL BLACK MAN, is MAKING HIS OWN LANE and creating ownership in an institution that doesn’t have many black owners as it is. I’m a personal stan of Big Baller Brand, even though I can’t afford it, but yeah, black excellence.
JuGatti: I LOVE IT! I will admit I was confused on Lavar’s approach when I first heard about him, but that man is a living legend. I still don’t agree with that flugazi price for them sneakers (maybe because I can’t afford it) but other than that I love everything he is doing. This book further amplified my support for him after seeing what these colleges have been doing to kids for centuries. Recently his two youngest songs played their first international game, and the damn half court logo was BBB! That’s FIRE! Even the refs had on BBB shirts. Like come on man, who out here is doing that. I pray it all works out for him because this can be big. Medium sized baller out.
8. What will it take for baseball to be a popular sport amongst the (African American) youth again?
Manito: I think it would take serious black talent in baseball to make this a popular sports for black youth. In the book, I read how Willie Mays brought a certain style to baseball and made it look cool, and effortless. The author was particularly moved by it too as a kid. While many people look at Jackie Robinson for breaking the color barrier, it’s amazing to me how little I was taught on Willie Mays, who introduced the idea of bringing MORE black athletes in who brought in style and finesse like Mays did. It was his ability to make baseball exciting that drew in millions of dollars, more fans, and also more black sports figures in baseball and even other sports too. And not for nothing, as a kid in New York, I’ve seen way more basketball courts than baseball fields, just saying.
JuGatti: For starters, they can cut the damn games AND the season in half. 4 hour games and 162 games a year? Nah doggy that ain’t it. Baseball is just a boring sport to watch, even to play. If there were like time limits on games or so it’ll help tremendously. Also, it’s hard to get a pickup game of baseball going. And unless you have a batting cage it is damn near impossible to play by yourself. But it’ll be dope to get more baseball fields and such in inner cities. Of course more opportunities will make it admirable.
9. Did integration help or hurt African-Americans more?
Manito: According to the book, integration hurt the African-American community more than it helped. Integration is the reason why the Negro League fell apart in baseball, hurt HBCU athletics and attendance, and also disconnected black athletes from their culture and the communities they came from. It was seen back with sports figures in the 1800s and has even been prevalent in today’s sports, O.J. Simpson is a perfect example. “‘I’m not black, I’m OJ’…. Okay.”
JuGatti: So much for integrationnnnn, don’t know what I was thinkingggggg. Nah integration really hurt the cause more than it helped. When we were doing our thing by ourselves we were flourishing. HBCUs were ranked in the top 25 college basketball and football polls. They were sending endless players to the NFL. Fun fact: Maryland State College (UMES) was the first HBCU invited to play into the NIT tournament. Maryland State also held the record for most players to play in the Super Bowl at one point. Super Bowl 3 I believe. But I say all that to say this: HBCUs had the talent, HBCUs were the shit, and will always be. It was when integration happened and the grass looked greener on the other side that they started to deteriorate. Something that they haven’t recovered from since. Smh.
10. Do you think we’ve came a long way in the sports world? Or do you believe we’ve virtually gone nowhere?
Manito: I think we’ve come a long way in 50 years since sports fully integrated but we still have a LOT to go, especially in terms of ownership and proper fiance management.
JuGatti: Without a doubt we’ve came a long way. The shoe deals, these max contracts, all of this is a step towards the right direction. It’s dope to see how these athletes are literally transcending the world from their play. I also love the social media aspect in which they use their platforms for the betterment of the culture. But like every other thing in the world, we have a longggg way to go. That’s why I hope Lavar Ball can get this pro league popping, and Diddy can own a team. Not sure how it’ll play out but if both of those things were to go through we would shake up the world.
*BONUS* What’s your super bowl prediction this year?
Manito: I’m hoping to see the Steelers vs. ANYBODY BUT THE EAGLES in the Super Bowl this year. On the NFC side I don’t have a preference honestly, but after seeing the Falcons face the Rams last Saturday, they had a strong game BOTH offensively AND defensively. They’re usually mainly strong on offense, I was shocked. I want to see that and hope they redeem themselves if they make another Super Bowl appearance.
JuGatti: I’ve finally mustered up the strength to talk about football since my damn team self destructed in the last game of the season. It doesn’t make it any better that I’m going to pick our rivals to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Damn you Ravens. But my SB pick will be the Steelers vs Saints. The Saints will win a shoot out. 38-34. That’ll be one black ass super bowl. Sho nuff.
This book has made it to my personal favorite FAB 5 books of 2017. Don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list and see our 2018 reads.
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