Tuesday, June 10, 2008


There was a moment last week that older generations never thought they would witness, that younger generations had a hopeful cynicism and that future generations just might take for granted one day. Some of us may recall bussing, hoses on full blast and civil protests turning violent. Some of us recall riots across the country, the tense initial days of affirmative action and Fortune 500 executives having foot-in-mouth disease. Nearly all of us can recall one of the most damning statements ever made against a sitting President by an entertainer not known for tact.

Yet, June 3 will forever be remembered as the day a minority candidate – an African American by the name of Barack Obama – became the presumptive Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States.

The day has a tremendous historical and emotional context within nearly every person that has a connection with those very memories mentioned. Folks will remember where they where and what they were doing when Obama secured all of the necessary ‘superdelegates’ over Hillary Clinton, who tried desperately to become the first female candidate. In years to come, they’ll give you the first image or thought or word that came to mind when the news was made.

Yet, at top of mind, this poster came up.

It’s a poster that had been plaster throughout the New York City subways stations and along the sides of buses, promoting the grand opening of the Sports Museum of America (credit to the Gate Worldwide, the Museum’s agency of record). It takes a moment that no one in 1947 ever envisioned seeing in their lives – Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play Major League Baseball, shaking the hand of one of his white teammates, Duke Snider – and reminds a sports-hungry public how painstakingly slow social progress was.

Obama’s nomination reminds us of slow it still has been.

The words of this poster frame more than its left side, but it frames a reality that was also hard to fathom. The idea that a professional athlete – one who made a living playing a game – could make country think more about its fundamental flaws than the leaders they elect was unheard of. Sports for public pleasure are littered throughout recorded history, but in the United States, organized professional sports are just over a century old. The specialized media coupled with the finances they garner gives professional athletes an instant platform for anything – good, bad or in between – they say and do. It’s why despite the unwanted attention that some athletes are currently getting (say, Cedric Benson), you will always remember the names of Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Jack Johnson and countless others. You may remember another athlete, such as the one below.

When was the last time you stood up and took notice of a local, state of federal politician while in office?

Regardless of political leanings or ambivalence, we should recognize Obama’s achievement as a long overdue, but significant moment in our nation’s history. However, we should also keep in mind that he nor John McCain, the Republican nominee, have yet to give us that defining moment in action that will reshape our lifestyles. Not to say that it won’t happen, but to watch an ideal come to life is going to take more than nominations and campaigns.

A lot more.

Say What?!?!: Respect due.

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