Last week Forbes released its annual “America’s Most Influential Athletes” list. Each year, Forbes picks 10 players across all sports that move the needle both on and off the field.
This year’s list included six NFL quarterbacks, two NASCAR drivers, a boxer and an NBA player. Upon examining the list, there’s a glaring admission that should immediately stand out.
There were no black athletes selected to the list.
That seems impossible. The most popular sport in America is the NFL. The NBA is, arguably, second, and both those leagues are made up of primarily black players.
Yet not one black athlete was deemed “influential” enough for this list.
Some of the athletes on the list make perfect sense and definitely belong. Tom Brady is still the posterboy for the NFL and a natural selection. Eli Manning just won his second Super Bowl and Aaron Rodgers is becoming a superstar.
But Peyton Manning made this year’s list, a year after not playing a snap. Sure, Peyton will go down as one of the best players ever, but I find it hard to believe that a player that didn’t even see the field can be one of the 10 most influential athletes in the country.
Tim Tebow managed to captivate the country for an eight-week stretch last year, but does that make him truly influential? He’s essentially a back-up quarterback now, with what most experts would classify as limited skills.
Forbes worked with Nielsen and E-Poll to survey over 1,100 adults to get these results. They did not go into detail about the demographics of the people they spoke to. Also, they didn’t give the respondents a clear definition of what they considered “influential,” leaving the respondent to come up with somewhat subjective opinions as to what makes an athlete influential compared to another.
Still, even with these vague parameters for selection, there are three seemingly obvious black athletes that probably should’ve made the list.
Even with the anti-Decision hate LeBron James still faces, he seems like a no-brainer for inclusion. Whether some fans like him or not, he’s still a marketing machine (Nike, McDonalds, State Farm and several others sponsor him). He may win his third MVP award this season. He plays in a major market, and even if you root against, him, you still watch every move he makes. Everything he says or does is covered and debated by the media. Off the court, he has ownership in Liverpool FC, one of the most popular and recognizable European soccer clubs in the world.
Sure, James still needs to win an NBA title, but his influence is still incredible, even without a championship ring.
Kobe Bryant was also a head-scratching omission. Bryant is working to become the best basketball player ever (and that includes Michael Jordan). He’s within range of finishing with the most points scored in NBA history. He’s won five NBA titles playing for one of the most popular sports brands (the Los Angeles Lakers) in the country.
And if you really want to define influence, global marketability should be one of the parameters. Kobe has incredible worldwide appeal in countries like China. And from a visibility standpoint, Kobe has been a superstar on the main stage since he was 18.
The third African-American player worthy of consideration is Tiger Woods. While I can understand Forbes’ omission this year, due to Tiger’s fall from grace, he is still one of the most recognizable players on the planet. When he contends on Sundays, the PGA still sees huge ratings.
Clearly, fans still want to see Tiger play great golf.
Tiger has also been able to control his message better than any other athlete. Just yesterday, he held a press conference by answering fan questions on Twitter and Facebook. Most fans wouldn’t care if an athlete was holding his own press conference, but Tiger’s press conference made national news.
Forbes’ list seems to be missing on some very influential black athletes. While this list certainly shouldn’t only include black athletes, it seems odd that no black athletes made it at all. Some of the athletes that were chosen also seemed peculiar (were two NASCAR athletes really necessary?).
For this list to truly be taken seriously, there should be more diversity with the athletes chosen.