OPINION: Do you mind Tommy Tuberville being in charge of your youth athlete?

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Senator Tommy Tuberville

Last week, Senator Tommy Tuberville, in something of a slip of the tongue, admitted that many of the followers of Donald Trump are what is described as “white nationalists.” This was not really news, it’s just that it made the headlines because it came out of his mouth. 

Tuberville is the same guy that Trump tried desperately to reach by phone during the January 6th insurrection to try and ensure that what appeared to have been a planned coup was succeeding. 

As a matter of fact, every time that Tuberville has made the news in Washington, it has reflected views of white supremacy. Consequently, not just political opponents in Alabama, but people around the country consider him one of the most doctrinaire racists.

Yet, one should not forget that this is the same Tuberville who coached football at the University of Mississippi from 1995 – 1998 and Auburn University football from 1999 – 2008. In both of those head coaching jobs, he was directing the lives and careers of scores of Black youth football players. 

Does that mean that he was not racist when he was at Ole Miss and Auburn? As an observer of racist individuals, you perhaps know the answer. Growing up in Camden Arkansas in the 1950s and 60s, Tuberville would have stood out like a sore thumb, had he been other that a white racist. 

It is also worth noting that the great success that he had coaching Black-led football teams would perhaps have made him less rather than more racist. That success could have helped shield any racist tendencies, helping him to appear as a moderate or a good ole white boy. 

Of course, it is not just Tuberville. Studying the history of these kinds of relationships, especially in the American south, one can come to understand that, like many slave-owners, Tuberville had no problem in leading Black players who were bringing wealth and fame to him as a coach. He did not have to become a liberal or progressive to retain his position; just keep winning. This is not hard to understand. 

Some will remember that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had his 1957 real life racist feelings about the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School revealed. This revelation occurred while he was making millions from the abilities and skills of Black football players. 

Tuberville, then, is not an anomaly. The writer’s good friend, Roger, use to get upset when he would talk about white owners and coaches buying and using Black athletes as they do race horses, or as their ancestors bought and exploited prime Black field hands. Nevertheless, such are frequent occurrences. 

If no other words were written here, the point would have been made. On the other hand, the initial question would not have been answered.

Once the federal courts desegregated the public schools and colleges in the south, the white institutions have raided the Black ones, often “buying off” the more talented athletes. Everybody can see the difference between Jackson State, Alcorn, FAMU, Tennessee State, Grambling, Southern, and other Black college powerhouses of the 1950s and 60s and those same institutions in the 2000s. The same state and state leaders who would stand in the doors to block Blacks trying to enter the white colleges are now leading the raids on Black athletes, turning them over to the likes of Tommy Tuberville.

Is this who current Black parents want in charge of their offspring? Does it matter to them at all, so long as the Black athlete is rewarded for producing for that master, I mean coach and university? It is one thing to not realize that many of the white coaches and institutions are racist and quite another, though just as bad, to decide to sell, I mean register, the Black player in the institution, despite that racism.

It is difficult for the writer to believe that any thinking Black person today can believe that there are no more Tommy Tubervilles in the college ranks; that it is impossible for the coach at the institution to which his/her child wants to go is not a part of the racist system that is designed to exploit or use his/her child just as the slaves masters did the slaves or as owners use the race horses.

Even these analogies breakdown, however, because today, there are scores of Black colleges seeking good athletes. Black youths do not have to assign or “sell” themselves to the likes of Tommy Tuberville, to LSU, Ole Miss, and the like in order to develop, get discovered, and eventually get paid.

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OPINION: Do you mind Tommy Tuberville being in charge of your youth athlete?

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
May 22, 2023