We are all acutely aware of the mainstream media's relentless effort to undermine the public perception of the young Negro athlete. The constant barrage of negative press used as an offensive measure to cement the image of the troubled, wild and uncontrollable young Negro who disobeys laws and acts in a purely selfish and self gratifying manner. We read the formulaic 'stories' of young Negro X breaking law Y and being suspended for Z.
It's predictable, obvious...and old.
What we don't read about are the myriad of efforts and initiatives undertaken by young Negro athletes to not only better the lives of those in the communities from which they came, but to better the lives of the disenfranchised, mistreated and forgotten in all communities.
And, unfortunately, the few times we do read about them, they are cast in a speculative light with a nod towards the notion that the young Negro athlete is only trying to benefit himself.
That is where we are in society. We have been molded to believe that young Negroes can engage in nothing if it is not directly related to their own self interest.
The power of the media. It is unparalleled.
Former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker, Odell Thurman is currently leading a charge to fight for the employment rights of the disabled. He is calling attention to the application and following of the Americans with Disabilities Act by the NFL.
Thurman has hired legal counsel to investigate whether the NFL has been negligent in its hiring practice regarding employees that have disabilities.
Thurman’s lawyer, John J. Michels said. “You can hammer people for conduct that breaches your standards. But this is the functional equivalent of telling somebody that you believe has cancer, we’re not going to employ you.”
The NFL was fairly progressive in its racial integration of the league. The notion that NFL is now telling folks that have documented and accepted disabilities that they can not take part is disturbing. And saddening.
As part of Thurman's crusade for the employment rights of the disabled, Thurman has authorized his legal team to use himself as the case study.
Thurman's courage in allowing his disability to become public knowledge and to open his disability to public debate in an effort to advance the employment rights of the disabled can not be commended in high enough terms here.
“The crux of the complaint is that they have a disability and they are not being reinstated because of that disability,” said Paul M. Secunda, a labor and employment law expert.
Certainly, when an uninvolved law expert capsulizes the situation in such concise terms, we can understand clearly the baseness of the NFL's actions.
The realities of the situation seem clear:
He has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, asserting that the N.F.L. declined to reinstate him because officials believe he is an alcoholic. That, his complaint says, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which categorizes people as disabled if they have a record of alcoholism and have received treatment.
Clearly, the NFL has some issues with its policies. And, a thorough legal review to ensure that they are not discriminatory or in violation of the individual rights granted by our government is necessary. This may be yet another case of the NFL deciding that their interests supersede the rights of their employees.
Those that would proffer the misguided and unfair supposition that Thurman's goal is simply to use the case and accusations of disability and employment violation to get back into the NFL certainly display no understanding of discrimination and clearly have allowed the media's unrelenting portrayal of young Negroes in a negative light to blind them to the humane and civically minded intentions of Thurman's campaign.
Secunda added: “Potentially, these situations are boundless as far as athletes getting in trouble with alcohol- and drug-related cases. It’s the larger debate in society. At what point do people have to take responsibility for their own actions?”
We couldn't agree more.
It's time the NFL is held responsible for their blatant discriminatory practices.