Is it time for racial equality in pro sports?

The fat was in the fire last week, after Golden State Warriors basketball star Stephen Curry refused to visit the White House with his successful team, and President Donald Trump suggested that those professional athletes who refuse to stand during the National Anthem should be fired.

NFL owners and coaches rushed to affirm the rights of players to express their views during games.  The billionaire owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan – who contributed a million dollars to Trump's campaign – joined his players on the field to show support for their protests.  

The protesting NFL members certainly have a legitimate point.  Skin pigmentation does seem to color the life experiences and professions of people.  To change this, governments and universities and corporations have in many cases undertaken affirmative action that requires racial hiring and preferences, even if this undermines pure meritocracy.

Professional sports have been examples of excellence for ourselves and our children.  They have matched up the best players, regardless of skin color or ethnicity, and set the highest standard of human achievement that merits the respect of all Americans.  Its champions have inspired and become heroes to all of us.

But now, to advance equality and fairness, we must end this.  We must, as in many other professions, replace merit with a different standard that reflects the makeup of America as a whole.  

This must be done by what civil rights rulings have called "disparate impact."  If a community is 12 percent Eskimo, but a local company has less than this share of Eskimo employees, this is to be seen as clear evidence of racial discrimination.  It must be corrected by a preferential quota requiring hiring of Eskimos.

African-American males, for example, are only about six percent of America's population, yet they are so talented that they are approximately 70 percent of NFL and 74.4 percent of NBA players.

The NFL and NBA, to fix this racial equality, should be required to hire and fire players by race until by, say, 2020, each team fits the mix of America itself.  In the most recent Census, the USA was 12.6 percent African-American, 16.3 percent Hispanic or Latino, 4.8 percent Asian-American, and 72.4 percent white.  NFL and NBA players should reflect that same racial proportion.

If our sports are to be politicized, then it is time we make merit and talent secondary and impose racial quotas first and foremost.  Sports should reflect America's proportion of races.

Painful as it will be to lose the excellence of today's pro football and basketball, these teams should be brought into line with America's national racial profile.  To do less would be racist.  Our sports should be examples of racial equality not only in words and gestures, but also in fact.

Lowell Ponte is author or co-author of eight books, the latest being Money, Morality & The Machine.  He can be contacted at

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