Jackie Robinson Didn’t Shut Up and Play Ball, so Why Should Today’s Athletes?
In America, April 15 is known as Tax Day. In America’s national pastime, it’s Jackie Robinson Day.
In this current sports era—a historic moment filled with protests and calls for athletes to “shut up and dribble,” it is especially important to remember the Jackie Robinson who was determined to use his platform to fight for civil rights. And the Jackie Robinson who embodied the message: “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.”
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Some black-and-white photos and cinematic scenes from 42, starring Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa himself) as Robinson, would lead us to believe Jackie was a mild-mannered character who quietly tipped his hat to crowds yelling racial slurs at him—because for the early part of his career, he had to.
“They’re waiting for you in the jungles, black boy!” and “Hey snowflake, which one of those white boys’ wives are you dating tonight?” Phillies manager Ben Chapman jeered, per Robinson’s autobiography, I Never Had It Made. Confrontations like these caused Robinson to bury his hostility and go home to his wife, Rachel, “tense and irritable, keyed up because [he] hadn’t been able to speak out.”cheap nfl authentic jerseys
Robinson wrote in the book that he was always careful about being publicly critical, because he knew “the minute I began to answer, to argue, to protest—the minute I began to sound off—I became a swellhead, a wise guy, an ‘uppity’ n—-r. When a white player did it, he had spirit. When a black player did it, he was ‘ungrateful,’ an upstart, a sorehead.”cheap nfl jersey
This wasn’t easy for Robinson, “a black man who never tolerated affronts to his dignity” prior to the major leagues. Not because Robinson wanted to get revenge, but because, as he later admitted, “I wanted to be Jackie Robinson,” the more authentic Robinson who emerged in the 1949 season.
Rachel Robinson said his shift in attitude wasn’t tied to any pledge, but to Jackie’s confidence in his standing and in the integration of MLB.nfl jersey cheap
“He had purchased the right to speak his mind many times over,” President Barack Obama said in Ken Burns’ 2016 documentary Jackie Robinson.
Robinson became more vocal regarding off-field issues like juvenile justice, communism and police brutality in African American communities.
He used his platform to advocate for black youth on the issue of juvenile delinquency. He hosted numerous sports camps at the Harlem YMCA, wrote various New York Post and New York Amsterdam News columns on the problem of youth crime and regularly called on athletes and celebrities to be more involved with organizations seeking to steer kids down the right path.