The case for Blacks cheering for Blacks

Cheering for Blacks while Black isn’t new. My father’s generation did it when Joe Louis fought. My uncle did it when Blacks finally broke baseball’s color line. An entire country of Black folk did when this country elected for the first time a Black president.

I unapologetically do it for Black coaches in any sport.

Kevin Stanfield, a Washington, D.C. sports talk host and producer, recently asked on Twitter if it’s all right to cheer for Blacks, especially if you’re Black: “It’s not that I am rooting against the other guy. I am rooting for the guy I am interested in,” Stanfield told me in a phone interview.

He remembers rooting for Doug Williams as the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl as a starter (Washington, 1988). “You can’t go wrong when you have a whole race of people praying for you,” Stanfield said.

Just like when all the Blacks in the boxing arena scene stood and cheered the Black boxer in the classic movie Harlem Nights, then dutifully sat down when the White fans stood and cheered for their White boxer in the ring.
P.K. Subban in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals was the only Black player on the ice for either team.

“After [his hometown Washington] Capitals got eliminated,” continued Stanfield, he then began rooting for the Nashville defenseman. According to Capitals, “The Capitals have actually been among the most diverse in the league, with nine Black players playing a game for the team since 1974.”

Stanfield remembers the days when Washington featured one of these players. “The Capitals didn’t do a lot of advertising, but they had this poster right in the middle of the ‘hood, in the subway,” featuring Joel Ward.

“They didn’t have his name, but he was in uniform…in the heart of the ’hood.” The host, in looking back, said that was great ad placement since “95 percent” of the city’s subway riders tend to be Black.

Ward (2011-2015) actually wasn’t the first; eight Black Capitals came before him, starting with Mike Marson (1974-1978). Ward also made his NHL debut not in the Nation’s capital but in 2007 with the Minnesota Wild.

When Georgetown in the early 1980s made three Final Fours, the Hoyas became “Black America’s team” mainly because its coach (John Thompson) was Black as well as most of its players. Michigan’s all-Black “Fab Five” won Black America’s sporting heart in the ’90s. Before he got into legal hot water, Michael Wick was tops among Black NFL fans in the 2000s.

“When I was younger there was a handful of Black quarterbacks, and one or two starting,” said Stanfield, remembering when two of them, Doug Williams and Vince Evans, led teams and played each other, which most likely created a split-cheering conundrum for him.

“That was amazing to me,” he pointed out. This reporter also cheers for Black QBs, pro and college, then and now.
Cheering for Blacks while Black: It’s as Black American as soul food. “I think we should do it,” Stanfield concluded.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to