As Deion Sanders continues to hold the fascination of college football, even when his team loses, something else is happening wrote USA TODAY’s Mike Freeman:
“It may not make headlines, but it’s happening all across the country. In Black homes. In Black businesses. Black fathers and sons, Black moms and daughters, Black friends and workmates – so many in the Black community are talking about Sanders. They are saying that Colorado is Black America’s team.”
With that jaw-dropper segue from Part One, “The Deion Effect,” we turn to views from several sports enthusiasts who I asked to weigh in on this issue. And weigh in they did.
“Look, Deion is not perfect by any stretch but there’s no denying the fact that he brought very talented players and assistant coaches to his team, many who may not otherwise have gotten an opportunity,” said John from Tennessee. “Like every other coach in the country he masterfully utilized the transfer portal to reshape his team and started off with an undefeated record.”
Wrote Jackie from North Carolina, “From a person who participated in amateur sports, I recognized that when Dieon Sanders hit the public arena, he had the unique ability to promote his “Primetime” brand. In addition to being a superb athlete who competed professionally in two major league sports he has a phenomenal marketing ability that’s on par with his athletic talents.”
“What Deion Sanders did was upend the psyche of expectations of norms in sports,” said Bernard from Georgia. “As quiet as it may be kept, he’s upset the boat and got folks grappling with “oh my, what do we do about Deion?”
Said Andrew from Connecticut, “The reactions of his many detractors in sports reporting speak volumes about this nation’s racism. I’m proud of his accomplishments at Colorado, regardless of his team’s eventual record at season’s end. His unequivocal love for his sons, his moving comments about Coach Saban and his condemning the death threats against the Colorado State player whose hit sidelined one of Colorado’s star players shows he is at heart humble and caring.”
“Let’s be real,” said Tom from California. “We’re naïve if we don’t believe that Deion’s ability to attract talented players who otherwise would have gone to elite programs in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas is threatening. C’mon, can you imagine the panic attacks he caused when Travis Hunter, the then number one recruit in the nation, switched from Florida State to join him at Jackson State?”
The respondents all agreed that Sanders’ confidence is at the core of criticism about him by those who demand subservience and humility from players and coaches. But the fact is that for many Black folks, Deion’s Blackness is exhilarating. “I love that he refuses to play the game of false humility,” Greg Moore wrote in an Arizona Republic column.
“Look, if our confidence bothers your insecurities that’s your problem not ours,” Sanders said in a recent post-game interview.
Added Connecticut’s Andrew, “USA’s history reminds us of this animus as we remember Jack Johnson, Muhammed Ali, Reggie Jackson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and a host of other self-assured, confident Black men.”
Said Washington DC’s Preston, “What was most disappointing were the criticisms from Black coaches about Prime’s success. I was especially disappointed with the Black Colorado State coach who criticized Deion for wearing a hat and sunglasses during interviews. That was a swipe at Deion implying that he lacked home training.”
“What bothered me was how the coaches at Colorado State and Oregon coach took shots at Sanders supposedly to motivate their teams,” said Tom from California. “After getting blowback about their comments both coaches raved about what a great job Sanders is doing as a coach. Yeah, right!
“Noone thought Colorado was going undefeated or that there wouldn’t be brutal patches,” wrote USA Today’s Freeman. “Sanders is rebuilding a broken program and it was always going to take time. Not since the Los Angeles Raiders of the 1980s or Michigan’s men’s basketball team the Fab Five of the 1990s has a team captivated Black America and hip-hop culture like the Buffs have so far. That’s because I think Black fans are going to stick with this program through all of its ups and downs as long as Sanders is the coach.”
“The idea of Colorado as Black America’s team may seem absurd and a topic that is certain to infuriate some,” wrote Freeman. “The idea that a historically white football program like Colorado’s is suddenly a Black team on the surface seems goofy. Yet Georgetown was a white program until John Thompson turned them into a Black team and the Fab Five team transformed the image of the University of Michigan. Thompson transformed that program into an unapologetically Black one and, like the Buffaloes now, the Hoyas became a team that Black America felt invested in.”
To Freeman’s point, many will remember when Texas Western University’s all Black starting five defeated an all-white Kentucky team for the national championship, a seminal moment in time that breathed enormous ethnic pride throughout the Black community.
Wrote CNN’s John Blake about Sanders, “His success cannot be separated from the political and cultural climate in Black America. He may be an athlete but he’s taking on some of the same foes many Black Americans face today.”
Now what should be clear is the drooling delight by universities and local businesses about how the Deion effect has resulted in huge revenue increases in their communities.
Oh, lest I forget, because of his incredible performance in a win against Colorado, Oregon quarterback Bo Nix has now been thrust into consideration for the prestigious Heisman Trophy Award.
Need I say more?
Terry Howard is an award-winning trainer, writer, and storyteller. He is a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel, Blackmarket.com, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers guild, recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, and third place winner of the 2022 Georgia Press Award.