DCP EP. 104 Making Bank on Black Bodies: Dr. Louis Moore

Transcribed by: Sydney Henriques-Payne

Completion date: Feb. 23, 2022

DCP EP 104: Making Bank off Black Bodies: Louis Moore

Gerren Keith Gaynor: [00:00:03] Welcome to our culture, the podcast that gives you news you can trust for the culture. I’m your co-host, Gerren Keith Gaynor, managing editor of Politics and Washington Correspondent at The Grio [00:00:12][9.2]

Shana Pinnock: [00:00:12] and I’m your co-host Shana Pinnock, social media director here at TheGrio. And this week we’re asking Dear Culture who’s making Bank of Black bodies? [00:00:20][7.5]

Gerren Keith Gaynor: [00:00:29] As we move past Super Bowl season and the All Star Game and finally break into filling out brackets to prepare for March Madness, sports is top of mind for many — at least for those who actually follow sports because it’s not quite my ministry. [00:00:42][12.5]

Shana Pinnock: [00:00:43] I know it’s not. But whether you’re an avid sports fan or you only watch to see who’s sitting courtside or to catch the Super Bowl commercials, or if you want to see if Beyonce is looking in Jay-Z’s phone, you may be more interested to know a bit more about the nuance behind the mascots, uniforms and long dances and team colors. On today’s show, we’ll dove into the sports industrial complex, specifically the wider cultural implications of sporting culture and ultimately understanding who is making greenbacks from the labor of Black bodies and what it means to be a Black spectator. Our guest today will help us unpack it all. [00:01:17][34.1]

Gerren Keith Gaynor: [00:01:17] That’s right. Dr. Louis Moore is a professor of history at Grand Valley State University. His research and writing examines the intersections between race and sports and has been included in online outlets, including the Global Sports Institute, Vox and the African-American Intellectual Historical Society. [00:01:35][17.5]

Shana Pinnock: [00:01:37] Professor Moore is the co-host of the Black Athlete podcast and the author of two books I Fight for a Living Boxing in the Battle for Black Manhood 1880 to 1915. And we will win the day the civil rights movement, the Black athlete and the quest for equality. He’s currently working on a book about the Black quarterback, and we’re excited to have him with us here today. Professor Moore, welcome to the show. [00:01:57][20.4]

Louis Moore: [00:01:58] Thank you for having me. [00:01:59][0.8]

Gerren Keith Gaynor: [00:02:00] So, Professor Moore, your work falls at the intersection of race, specifically Blackness and sports. What initially got you interested in this focus area as both a writer and researcher? [00:02:10][10.2]

Louis Moore: [00:02:11] Yes, a great question. To be brief, I would say it starts at childhood. That’s all I did was watch sports. And then when I got into college all my senior year at Cal State Sacramento, we had a project to do for a senior thesis on California history, and I chose a boxing match from Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries got a fight outside Reno, Nevada. But from that moment, I realized that this this is what I could do, right? I could write about Blackness, I could write about sports and then use it as a way to tell a story about America. [00:02:37][26.5]

Shana Pinnock: [00:02:39] So as we know, the title of today’s show is making bank on Black bodies, which is a that’s the whole thing in and of itself. But because we know that sports teams in the at the collegiate and professional level make tons of money running their programs. I mean, I’m a Michigan fan. I’m very aware, but I am interested professor Moore and thinking about, you know, professional sports as a system. Can you share with us and our listeners in layman’s terms, if you can, how professional and college sports teams make money like, I want to make sure that we’re really breaking down and showing where the revenue comes from and the discrepancy between revenue generated and how players are actually being compensated. [00:03:20][40.9]

Louis Moore: [00:03:22] Yeah. So so we’ll start with college, the supposed amateurs, right, that you’re wearing a Michigan shirt. There’s there’s various ways that these schools make money off these athletes. One is TV deals, so Michigan is part of the Big Ten. The Big Ten has its own TV deal. It’s called a bid to Big Big Ten network, and so they’re generating millions, if not billions from that. They’re also signed up with TV deals with ESPN and ABC, so they’re getting money off that. You know, the big house has one hundred and ten thousand people that they sit in. So they’re getting money on that. They have a Jordan brand contract, so they’re getting money from Jordan brand. And so all the it’s not just Michigan, right? It’s all these schools have these sneaker contracts, TV contracts, right? They fill these stadiums. They’re selling these kids apparel. Michigan is a great example. You know, the Fab Five, if we go back, you know, I’m dating myself here. But if we go back 30 years, you know, one of the things that they would say is like, “Look, you could buy Chris Webber jersey from the bookstore. But Chris Webber wasn’t getting any money off that right?” So they’re getting money from that. They’re getting money from making the NCAA March Madness tournament. They’re getting money from making the college playoff system, you know. Even if you’re making what in that final four US Michigan was for the football, they’re getting millions of those dollars. And in theory, the players aren’t going to get it right. They’re not employees, they’re not cutting the check. Today, they have an A+, right? You can go and get a sponsorship from Gatorade, or you can go get a sponsorship from, you know, the local, you know, Wingstop or whatever is out there in Ann Arbor. But that’s it, right? There’s they’re not sharing that huge piece of the pie, right? And and in in a institution that’s what, 70 percent Black when we see these players on there, that’s problematic at the pros. It’s a little bit different because they have contracts, right? It’s hard for us to see, you know, someone like a Trey Young signing, a 200 million hour contract or whatever he’s at and start to worry about, you know, revenue sharing. Right? But if we break it down, there’s there’s still billions of dollars out there and there’s always a fight between the owners and players. And maybe MLB is a great example of it. Even though it’s eight percent African-American right now, they’re still fighting over this revenue share. Right? Are we splitting 50-50 or are we split 50, 50 50, right? How are we splitting the TV money? How we split splitting jerseys? So money is at the center of whether we’re talking college or we’re talking pro. [00:05:45][142.8]

Gerren Keith Gaynor: [00:05:46] And Professor Moore, I want to take a step back and talk about combines because I am not a sports fan. So I didn’t hear about combines until I watch Colin Kaepernick’s Netflix series. And in that series, he talks about the combine, which is like this series of athletic events that test the athletic skills of these athletes. He compares it to to slavery auction block, and there are people who agree with that comparison. There are those who disagree with that comparison, like former NFL player and Utah governor. Oh, and Burgess who rejected that comparison as insulting because the difference is that these athletes have choice and that they’re are millionaires and they’re choosing to participate in these sports. And there’s also just a park that there’s this other part of when we talk about this predatory behavior as it relates to sports. Sports has always been kind of hailed as this avenue, a vehicle that promotes higher education. But there’s the example of former NFL player Dexter Manley, who was reading on the second grade reading level. And so we know that these schools often protect athletes for the purpose of bringing money and popularity to these institutions. So my question to you is, do you think this comparison to to a slave auction is a viable comparison? And I love to understand from you why or why not? [00:07:08][82.7]

Louis Moore: [00:07:09] Yeah. You know, whenever I tell my students this all the time, I don’t know if they’re listening or not. I do is whenever we say slavery in the US, we do it for a purpose, right? We do it to get a reaction because we know deep down inside whether we want to admit it or not. We know how awful slavery was. We know how exploitive it was. So, you know, if you even go back 150, 160 years when someone says slavery, they say white slavery, for example, that’s prostitution, right? And then we get a bill. Legislation is called the Mann Act. Is to stop prostitution, right? Baseball players back in the 1890s said they were slaves, these are white baseball players who are Jim Crow and Black players said there are slaves because of the reserve clause, right? But they did that because they knew Americans would listen. So when Kaepernick says, like the …or, anybody says that combines like the slave auction. He’s saying that in a way, so we pay attention to the exploitation that’s going on. That’s first. But then when we look at it right, and if we break down and we look at the slave auction and we’re talking about, you know, grown men, this idea that whether it’s seasoning and preparing them to be sold at auction or we’re talking about people checking them right, they’re checking, you know, slavery, they’re checking their gums to see how healthy are. They’re checking their muscles. They’re having them dance around to see if this is going to be a viable option for me to, you know, to buy this, this this human being right, who I’m supposed to keep for life. If we, you know, fast forward to football, it’s the same thing is this person’s strong. Let me check his knees. Let me check his arms, you know, strip down all the way to to to your drawers, right? Let me see how fast you run. Let me see how much you can produce for me, how much I’m going to invest in you, right? And so when you compare them side by side, it looks like now, correct? These guys have a choice, I guess, but there’s no other way, right? It’s if you from a younger age are told this is what you’re going to be and we put you in a pop Warner Football, we put you in high school, we put you in college and this is what you’re told you’re going to be. You have little choice when you’re twenty two. Right. And this gets to the second point and we haven’t educated you that much at these colleges because we’re using and abusing you. So someone like a Dexter Manley who said greed at a secondary level that happened all the time, right? Because what these colleges do, they see this kid, they get what they can out of him for four years and they don’t graduate. So part of we talk about the revolt of the Black athlete for the 1960s. A huge chunk of that is college athletes wanting better education, right? Realizing that they’re just bringing us in from, you know, from the hood, bringing us in the middle of Iowa only to play football, not to educate us. So if we look at a lot of the times these athletes are boycotting the 1960s, it’s a centerpiece of that. What they’re asking for to come back is a better education system. You’ll graduate me on time because if you don’t graduate me on time, you’re just going to leave me out there. And that happens a lot. Not just Dexter Manley, right? There’s other stores like Hot Rod. John Williams, who play for the Cleveland fans, went to Tulane, which is a great private school in New Orleans, couldn’t read and couldn’t write. But yet here, who was able to make it through Tulane, make it to the NBA? And so when we talk about exploitation, that’s what we’re talking about. [00:10:24][194.7]

Shana Pinnock: [00:10:24] That is the OK. So I want us to talk. You know, everyone always references OscarsSoWhite, but you know, we definitely have to acknowledge that there are other industries being majority owned or led by white folks, and it’s crazy. But when you look at the demographics of owners, for players, for sports teams, it it down. It’s also white. So let’s get into a few stats before I get into my question. Black owners of professional U.S. sports teams are few and far between. Of the three major sports leagues in the U.S. right now, which are what the NFL, the NBA, the MLB, only one principal owner is Black and that is Michael Jordan, the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets. And then it’s even worse when you look at the NFL. There are only two people of color who own NFL teams. And for our listeners, let’s make that distinction when we say people of color. We’re not talking about Black folks. There is a difference. You know, while literally every other owner is white and even from like a management in a coaching level fryer, the 32 NFL teams, there are just three. Just three Black head coaches and two general managers and who are Black. And it’s that’s astounding to me. So can you share with us, Professor Moore, a little bit more about why we continue to see this huge disparity? I mean, I know I have my theories, but like, why are there not more Black owners or at the very least, Black folks in key management roles, which we know, you know, are really the decision makers when it comes to things like compensation, for example? Like how how did this happen and how is it continuing? [00:12:11][106.7]

Louis Moore: [00:12:13] Yeah, you know, that’s a great question, and I think it’s important to go back in history and say that we had Black owners, right? We had them in Negro League Baseball. The majority of those teams outside the Kansas City Monarchs and a few other teams there are Black. Now they might have been owned by numbers runners, but there were still Black owned. And what’s happening with integration and what they warned us about someone like a family who owned the Newark Eagles? Her and her husband, but she’s the face of the franchise is that once integration comes, they’re only bringing the talent, they’re not bringing anybody else, right? They’re not bringing in the coaches, they’re not bringing in the umpires, and they’re certainly not bringing in the owners. So some of these owners, what they’re trying to do is like, Hey, bring our full team in so we can have a piece of this pot. But when integration happens, that doesn’t happen, right? And part of it is they don’t want you to be part of that club. Now Michael Jordan’s special and this is not me saying anything about, you know, I’m a Dominique Wilkins fan, by the way, the greatest basketball player ever won a slam dunk contest. But Michael Jordan is as special in the sense that if you read the literature about him from the 80s and 90s, you know, academic literature and even his agent, what people see is him as race-less. He’s Black when we see and we know that and this is not me putting him in a box, this is how people see — it’s I want to be like Mike, right? — And he’s able to rate rise above this idea of Blackness, that he’s Black. They understand that he’s a Black owner. But people are comfortable with Michael Jordan. You get the sense that these leagues aren’t going to be comfortable with other Black people being part of that league. Being part of that, you know that billionaires, boys, club and they’re kept out. Now there’s an opportunity NFL not necessarily Jay-Z to own a team, but Byron Allen, who I believe was was that was a past guest talking about buying the Denver Broncos, right? And that’s that’s real, right? That’s a real opportunity. So something to to look into to see if he gets a chance now on the question of management, it’s the same thing, right? Because when we’re talking to management is you’re right there next to the owner. Do I want to hang out with that person? Do I want that person right? I’m giving control of my my billion dollar team to this person. Do I have faith in him? And part of the problem is, you know, when it comes to the Black athlete is for the longest we’ve never seen him. When I say we like Americans and ownership have never really seen the Black athletes to be the thinkers, right? They’re out there, they’re the athletes, but they’re not the ones who are capable of Typekit. Despite the fact that we know, right, if we look at the NFL when the greatest games Evers, Ozzie Newsome, right, a Black man who who made the Baltimore Ravens into the greatest defense ever right, and sue Two-Time Super Bowl Championship. Right. So we know that they could could, you know, create these teams we know they hired. They could do this. It’s just that they’re not getting the opportunities because part of it is just these, these stereotypes that we have. And also part of it. Do I feel comfortable being next to this guy all the time? [00:15:14][180.8]

Gerren Keith Gaynor: [00:15:14] And you mentioned Byron Allen, so full disclosure. Byron Allen is the owner of The Grio and therefore owns Dear Culture. But we wish him all the best of luck on his on his quest to own the Broncos. But speaking of ownership, I know the end of the WNBA has been talking about expansions. The African-American Sports and Entertainment Group, which is an all Black ownership group based in Oakland, has already gotten unanimous approval in the fall of twenty twenty one to move forward with ownership of the WNBA to play out of the Oakland Arena. So we may see an amazing model coming out of that WNBA, so I just want to make sure we we shot at them out as well. [00:15:53][38.6]

Shana Pinnock: [00:15:53] Yes, we we love a good WNBA win, but I kind of wanted to follow up a little bit more on, you know, we mentioned the NCAA. Well, first, let’s kind of dig into some statistics. So I know that recently the inability for players to also earn revenue or otherwise benefit from their status as a college athlete in particular has been discussed quite heavily with the recent changes to NCAA rules. So for our listeners, if you don’t know the very few, not if you’re kind of like Gerren, not a sports fanatic specifically right now, the NCAA now allows for NCAA college athletes to have the opportunity to benefit from their name, image and likeness beginning, and I think that started the fall of last year, 2021. And I mean, previously, athletes, you you couldn’t do any of that. You were disallowed for engaging in several activities as it would be considering violating NCAA rules. So Professor Moore, can you talk to us a little bit more about that particular rule change? And what does that mean for athletes from an equity perspective? And what other kind of equity gaps are we seeing across the league like? Ultimately, I’m wondering, you know, is there a sports team or a league that’s being a good model in terms of equity for players? Or I mean, should we all be boycotting everything like what? What are we doing here? [00:17:19][85.3]

Louis Moore: [00:17:20] Right, right? So with the NILs, you know, it’s opened up an opportunity for a lot of people to get deals right, whether it’s the local pizza shop or the wine shop or some people we’ve seen get make major deals with Gatorade. We know as far as who plays for UConn, basketball has a deal with with Steph Curry and his. And so in the sense of those terms in equity, you know, empower and, you know, I can go out and make my own money, I don’t have to listen to you coach all the time. Right? That that’s important. But the idea is they’re still not sharing the ultimate piece of the pie, which is the billion dollars that these these institutions make. Now the other problem that we see and I wrote about this a few months ago is on the women’s side of sports, right? Right. When they signed the first. People who are getting these deals are white women. They’re blonde women, right? They’re the ones who these companies feel right, more comfortable with; the girl next door. Right? And this is no knock on them right there. You know, Paige Bukas is very talented, very great player Camern Brink for Stanford’s a great player. But, you know, Black women at that time, the college basketball weren’t getting these mega deals. Now you’re starting to see a few get deals [inaudible] Who’s got American Eagle deal? Also, I believe LeBron’s company signed a high school girl club, sports high school girl, a Black woman out in California. These deals, but is the the darker woman, right? Luckily, a Boston of South Carolina aren’t getting those deals. They’re not getting the mega deal. So that to me, that’s something to pay attention to in terms of professional leagues and equity. The models the NBA. And I say that because the NBA realized a long time ago that they’re a Black league, right? They that’s how they have to market themselves, right? I think the NFL, they don’t want to admit to themselves that they’re a Black league, right, because they still have white faces who are the franchise like a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers who may or may not be here next year? But the NBA can’t do that. And the NBA knew they couldn’t do that start in the late 1980s. So it’s very it’s very hip hop oriented now. They’ve had their problems, like the malice in the palace and stuff like that. And you know, you guys have to have a dress code. But, you know, they flipped it, right? These guys come suited and booted to the games, and they’re supposed to be dressed in business casual. And now they, you know, they’re wearing what they want to wear and they make it look nice. And you get the sense that the players have a seat at the table right to the former league the way they want to form the league, even though there’s only one Black owner. You get the sense that there’s more player empowerment there. [00:19:48][148.2]

Shana Pinnock: [00:19:49] And I’m so glad that you even mentioned women’s sports, you know, as we’re inching up to March, you know, which is Women’s History Month. And I mean, women’s athletes are out here killing it and not getting nearly enough credit. I mean, hell, even right now, I believe the U.S. women’s soccer team just won a million, a $24 million lawsuit for pay equity. So that in and of itself, like said at the ladies, My sisters, I love you. [00:20:15][26.0]

Gerren Keith Gaynor: [00:20:17] Yes. And this is our last question to you. Professor Moore is speaking of the women players of the sports world. We’ve seen some really amazing advocacy from Black players in the fight for Black Lives and political movements more broadly. And I think about the Atlanta Dream Team, the women of the WNBA when they protested playing games against their honor at the time, then Senator Kelly Loeffler, who had expressed Anti a Black Lives Matter opinions. I think of tennis great Naomi Osaka, who famously wore Masks of of Black people killed by police like Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. And we’ve, I mentioned earlier Colin Kaepernick and his activism, and I think that we said we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the sacrifice that Kaepernick made through his protest. And for those who might not know the full details of that, I really encourage them to watch his Netflix series Colin in Black and White. But Colin Kaepernick literally not only lost his job a loss, reportedly tens of millions of dollars for his protests, according to the Reno Gazette Journal, it was estimated around $30 million, which is like mind blowing. What role do you think Black athletes play or should play in the broader social justice movement? [00:21:40][83.3]

Louis Moore: [00:21:41] Yeah, that’s that’s a good question. I try to tackle it a little bit shameless plug in and we will win the day and I want to back up first to to Black women, right? And I think they’re overshadowed in this conversation. And so there’s you know, I try to talk about a little bit in the book, but there’s not a lot of Black women athletes, you know, between when I write in the book. But you know, a woman like Rose Robinson, who was a high jumper in the 1950s, refusing to to participate in the goodwill games against Russia because she didn’t want to be used as a political pawn. She also didn’t stand for the national anthem in the late 1950s. You have women like Maggie Hathaway, who was an amateur athlete but worked tirelessly to to integrate golf work to help integrate the NFL and Washington football team, work with Jim Brown and Black athletes. The Black Economic Union, right? So women are at the forefront. They’re not getting the same attention and to. As you mentioned, whether it’s the Atlanta dream, the Minnesota Lynx, right? 2016, before Cavanagh starts to kneel, the Minnesota leaks are wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, and they’re refusing to talk to the media. Lester asks, asking them questions about that, right? That’s powerful stuff. That’s leadership. And what we see from the athletes is that’s what we need from them, right? When it comes to the civil rights movement of the 1960s or today, if we want to call it the Black Lives Matter movement, I don’t know if historians have quite termed it yet. We’re still litigating on Black athletes aren’t necessarily, you know, the ones who are leading it, but they’re using their platform to raise awareness. And I think that’s where they need to be, right? So it takes some time. It takes. It’s not like, you know, if we can name a Black athlete, it’s not like, you know, Ali or Jim Brown. They’re not out there on the front lines before the sit in movement, before the Freedom Rides, right? They come afterwards because it’s the people on the street who allow them to do this right to make it more comfortable. They’ll come afterwards. And I think that’s where they need to be now, like, we’ll come afterwards, but we’ll use our platform and we see a ton of that in the summer 2020. Paul George Floyd. Athletes, whether it’s the Atlanta Dream or Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks coming after the movement, but using their platform to raise awareness, right? Understanding that they have a certain privilege as athletes, a certain privilege as athletes who get a paycheck, a really nice paycheck all the time that we also have this platform and we could use it to raise awareness. And I think that’s where they need to be. [00:24:08][146.5]

Gerren Keith Gaynor: [00:24:08] Well, Professor Moore, it’s been so wonderful having you on Dear Culture. Even though I’m not a fan. Sports is really an integral part of US culture and Black culture. And I think that your wisdom and this discussion really gave us an opportunity to really have a deeper dive conversation about the understanding of the historical foundations of Black people in sports, the sports, the sports industry at large. And we really appreciate you for more information about Professor Louis Moore. You can visit his website at Prof. Lou Moore. That’s p r o f l o u m o o r e is also where you can buy his amazing books. And as always, for more news and commentary on the culture, visit the Grio’s website at W W W Dot the Grio dot com and be sure to follow us on Instagram at Dear Culture Pod. [00:24:56][48.5]

Shana Pinnock: [00:25:06] We want to remind our listeners to support your local Black businesses and donate see a local organizations and religious institutions. The business that we will highlight this week is civil. Civil is a Black owned, values based technology company serving the public sector. Leveraging their software as a service platform, Civil manages compliments and complaints about law enforcement while allowing the public to have transparency into the status of their submission as well. Founded by civilian Tony Rice, the second civil mission is to create a safer world for all civilians. Their vision is to be the global leader in civilian focused solutions. To learn more about civil. Visit their website at Sivil CO dot com. That’s s i v i l c o. Dot com. [00:25:50][43.5]

Gerren Keith Gaynor: [00:25:51] Thank you for listening Dear Culture. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcast and share it with everyone [00:25:59][7.6]

Shana Pinnock: [00:25:59] you know, and please email all questions, suggestions and compliments. We love those two podcasts at the Grio dot com. The Dear Culture podcast is brought to you by theGrio and co-produced by Taji Senior, Sydney Henriques-Payne and Abdul-Quddus. [00:25:59][0.0]