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NAACP asks athletes to avoid playing in Texas

Bill Dickinson

The Texas delegation to Congress, the second-largest in the nation, is about to get larger. In January of 2023, the Lone Star State will get two more representatives to Washington, with that club growing from 36 to 38.

The reason is that millions of people, mostly people of color, have flocked to Texas. 2020 Census figures show that for every one new White resident in Texas, 11 new Hispanics joined the state’s population ranks. As a result, the state’s Hispanic population overall is now nearly as large as its White population.

Yet, when the Texas House and Senate wrapped up the process of drawing the lines for the districts for the new seats recently, the legislative bodies largely ignored the trend. Of the new 38 Congressional districts, 23 will be largely White districts. Only seven will have Hispanic-majorities, while eight will have no majority.

In addition, the legislature has passed and Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law legislation that severely restricts the right of a woman to have an abortion as well as making it more difficult for some to vote.

Last week, the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization asked athletes to essentially mess with Texas by staying away.

In a letter to the players unions of Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, the WNBA and the NHL, Derrick Johnson, the NAACP’s president and CEO, asked free agents to avoid signing with the nine professional teams that operate in Texas.

Johnson wrote that Texas’ laws are quote a blueprint by legislators to violate constitutional rights for all unquote.

Johnson added quote "When all else fails, we must look within and answer the call to protect the basic human rights and democratic values which are fundamental to this country. Professional athletes serve as some of our country's greatest role models and we need them to join us to fight for democracy unquote.

The NAACP’s gambit runs up immediately against history and practicality. First, Texas’ most popular professional franchise, the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL, just happen to be among the most popular among Black fans nationally.

Go practically any place where Black fans congregate in this country and you’re likely to see or hear support for the Cowboys.

That likely stems from the fact that in the 1960s, the team signed Bob Hayes, an electrifying Olympic sprinter who became a brilliant wide receiver. Hayes, who earned the nickname Bullet and fought battles with alcohol and drugs before his death in 2002, was a hero to many Black fans. That support carried over to the team and lasts to this day. That fandom continues even though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was one of the most vociferous against Colin Kaepernick and his protests against police brutality.

The NAACP’s move also runs against this reality: There is no individual income tax in the state. A multi-million dollar free agent offer frankly goes further there than, say high-tax states like California, New York or Maryland.

Still, there’s no price tag on doing what’s right. The NAACP is only asking athletes of goodwill of all colors to stand up against injustice. We’ll see who heeds the call.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

Get in touch:

Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Email: [email protected]

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.