African Americans have not only played, but been an integral part of America’s sports history. With a focus on baseball, basketball, and football, Blacks in Sports: How Well Preserved is The History? features a moderated discussion with the league players associations’ executive directors. Northwestern University Director of Sports Journalism J.A. Adande, a regular guest on ESPN’s Around the Horn program is joined by the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Tony Clark; National Basketball Players Association Executive Director, Michele Roberts; and The National Football League Players Association Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith. Special guests include former NBA player Oscar “Big O” Robertson, whose lawsuit led to a change in the NBA’s free agency and draft rules and subsequently higher salaries for players, as well as former NFL player John B. Wooten whose work with the Fritz Pollard Alliance led to increased hiring of minorities in coaching, scouting and front office positons. This animated discussion ends with a Q&A session with questions from The HistoryMakers SportsMakers Advisory Committee. Join in to learn more about what is needed to prevent the loss of this important part of African American sports history.
This 90-minute program is scheduled to stream on YouTube and Facebook Live at 12:00 noon EST on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 as the eighth installment of The HistoryMakers 20@2020: 20 Days and 20 Nights Convening and Celebration.
J.A. Adande is Director of Sports Journalism and Associate Professor at Medill. Adande was a columnist for ESPN.com for nine years covering the NBA as well as a sideline reporter for NBA games. In addition, he was a panelist for ESPN’s “Around the Horn” for 13 years. He continues to contribute to various ESPN platforms on a contract basis while leading Medill’s sports program. Prior to ESPN.com, Adande spent 10 years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He was also previously a writer at The Washington Post and the Chicago Sun-Times. During his career, Adande has covered the Olympic Games, Wimbledon, the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four, the college football national championships, the NBA Finals, the Masters Golf Tournament and soccer World Cup. Adande’s work has appeared in the annual “Best American Sports Writing” series.
Notably, Michele Roberts is the first woman to head a major professional sports union in North America. In her role as Executive Director, Ms. Roberts serves as the primary advocate for all players, ensuring the protection of the organization and its membership, including serving as the lead negotiator in all collective bargaining activities. Prior to this selection, Ms. Roberts was a renowned trial lawyer and member of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s Litigation Group. Ms. Roberts is a frequent lecturer and presenter to both the bench and bar on a variety of topics related to litigation and trial practice.
Tony Clark is the first former player to serve as Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Clark retired from his playing career in 2009, after spending 15 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and San Diego Padres. The second overall draft pick in 1990, Clark made his Major League debut with the Tigers in September 1995 and finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting the following season. A first baseman, he played in 1,559 games, appeared in the 2001 AllStar Game and finished his career with 1,188 hits, 251 home runs and 824 RBIs. Clark joined the MLBPA as director of player relations in March 2010, leading the union’s efforts to expand and improve the areas of membership communications and education. He became executive director in December 2013.
DeMaurice Fitzgerald Smith is the Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the Labor Union for Players of the National Football League (NFL). He was reappointed to his fourth term as Executive Director by the NFLPA’s Executive Committee in spring 2018. Prior to his post at the NFLPA, Smith was an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia and was Counsel to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. Smith served as a Partner in the law firms of Latham & Watkins, LLP and Squire Patton Boggs, LLP, in Washington, D.C. Mr. Smith has helped raise several million dollars for cancer research as the Honorary Chairman of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center’s annual Gala, a position he has held since 2011.
Oscar “The Big O” Robertson was an unstoppable offensive player who could score from every spot on the court and in any manner he saw fit. Robertson’s offensive prowess changed the point guard stereotype from simply a passer and floor general to a scorer and offensive weapon. Robertson established 19 school and 14 NCAA records and led the Bearcats to a 79-9 record and two straight NCAA Final Fours. Enjoying a prolific 14-year NBA career with the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks, Robertson amassed 26,710 points and 9,887 assists. He entered the NBA in 1960 and immediately established himself averaging 30.5 points per game and captured Rookie of the Year honors. The Big O’s best statistical season came in 1961-62 when he averaged a triple-double for the entire season, averaging 30.8 ppg, 11.4 apg and 12.5 rpg, a feat that has never been duplicated.
Drafted in 1959 by the Cleveland Browns, John Wooten played for them from 1959 to 1967, then the Washington Redskins from 1967 to 1968. During the off seasons of 1960-1963 he was a junior high school teacher at Addison Junior High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Wooten’s NFL career did not stop on the field. He continued by becoming the Director of Pro Scouting with the Dallas Cowboys from 1975 to 1991. He created Player Programs/Player Development programs for the NFL in 1991. He served as Vice President/Player Personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1992 and also served as Assistant Director, Pro/College Scouting for the Baltimore Ravens until his retirement in 2002.John Wooten has been involved with the NFL for over forty years and currently serves as the Chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance.