May 28, 2024

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Blackballing in Sports refers to a practice where an individual or athlete is deliberately excluded or denied opportunities within their sport due to various reasons, often unrelated to their skill or performance.

This can involve preventing a player from joining a team, being selected for a national squad, or being considered for certain accolades or awards.

For this article, we would be using basketball as a case study.

This article delves into the unsettling practice of blackballing in basketball, exploring its causes, its detrimental effects on athletes and the integrity of sporting events, and the need for change within the basketball community and sports at large.

INTRODUCTION

In the realm of basketball(sports in general), where talent, skill, and determination are typically the driving factors behind success, a distressing phenomenon called “blackballing” has cast a shadow over the industry.

Blackballing in basketball refers to the deliberate exclusion or denial of opportunities to basketball players who are simply deserving in almost every ramification.

Blackballing in basketball is a serious problem, especially within the “Nigerian basketball” ecosystem and it can have a devastating impact on the careers of athletes.

blackballing in Sports

It is important to remember that blackballing is not always overt or intentional, however as we proceed in this discussion some of the examples given can be seen as overtly intentional. Read on…

UNDERSTANDING BLACKBALLING IN BASKETBALL

Blackballing in basketball occurs when individuals are purposefully marginalized or ostracized from the game, often due to factors unrelated to their athletic abilities.

This exclusion can manifest in various ways, including denying/limiting playing time(which is more popular this side of West Africa) or even tarnishing an athlete’s reputation through false accusations or negative portrayals in the media. The latter is usually not the case here in Nigeria but it is not entirely ruled out.

While blackballing can be driven by various factors, such as personal biases (common in Nigeria), political or social beliefs, or even financial interests, it undermines the principles of fair play, equal opportunities, and meritocracy that should define the hoops game and sports generally.

Below are some rash examples of blackballing in sports.

  • The case of Colin Kaepernick, former NFL quarterback(US), serves as a stark example of blackballing driven by political and social activism.
  • In 1980, Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. Ali’s decision was based on his religious beliefs, and he was eventually reinstated by the boxing commission, but he lost several years of his prime.
  • Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf faced repercussions for expressing his personal beliefs during the national anthem.

In 1996, while playing for the Denver Nuggets, Abdul-Rauf decided to remain seated during the anthem, citing his opposition to the United States policies.

The NBA swiftly responded by suspending him and later negotiating a compromise that required him to stand but allowed him to close his eyes and recite a prayer during the anthem.

Honorable Mentions J.R Smith, Joe Johnson, Nick Young, Isaiah Thomas, and Carmelo Anthony while these players might not necessarily be termed to have been blackballed, they were given the silent treatment, and somehow found themselves out of the league.

THE NIGERIAN SCENARIO

Our fatherland has its share of this nasty scenario and yes it has eaten deep into the annals of our sports ecosystem.

It also poses a conundrum of some sort as to why absolutely nothing can be done to stop this annoying trend.

Coaches and players have been on the receiving end of this anomaly here in Nigeria and sadly, the effect of these actions forms part of the cancerous cells slowly destroying the beautiful game we all love.

blackballing in sports

A lot of very good players over the years have been forced to sit out and have never worn the national team colors as a result of this act. From coaches having personal issues with them or probably a highly placed stakeholders doing the unthinkable from behind.

The most popular and memorable ones are coaches being biased with selection especially when the player is not currently playing for an indigenous team of their choice.

Without fear but on conditions of anonymity, it was said by a well-meaning basketball enthusiast that a particular coach XXX in this case vehemently refused to feature some crop of players who were not on his  league team.

It was so bad that these players where forced to watch as their names where repeatedly omitted from the provincial list.

The likes of Anyebe Ujoh– a defensive juggernaut, Stanley GumutNda Abu, Djemba Djemba and a whole lot of others had to suffer this fate.

In many instances, when a player raises concerns that impact the team, they are often labeled as troublemakers and subsequently subjected to blacklisting.

Unfortunately, such players often find it nearly impossible to overcome these obstacles, particularly if the coach possesses influential connections within the upper echelons of the sport.

We cannot authoritatively say its a cabal, but it has the underworking’s of such since it has once again raised up its fangs.

PS: While it is true that some players can be stubborn, it is essential to find more constructive ways to handle such situations, especially when the player possesses significant skills and abilities that can greatly contribute to the team’s success.

Read Also: Ivy League player of the year who went undrafted in the 2023 draft.

Lately, there has been scrutiny on the composition of team rosters, with several individuals being identified and speculated upon as victims of silent blackballing.

Austine Akpejiori, Chris Obekpa, Emilagba Bolaji, Umar Garba and many others have been conspicuously left out of the squad overtime.

One begins to wonder what the criteria are supposed to be met to make the team roster?

Jeopardizing team success for personal vendetta should be given zero tolerance, not only in basketball but in all levels of sports.

It is disheartening that our current situation is a result of the actions and negligence of unethical individuals who have corrupted administrative roles, using basketball as a means for their personal gratification.

THE CALL FOR CHANGE

The prevalence of blackballing in sports highlights the urgent need for change within the Nigerian basketball ecosystem. It is crucial for sports organizations, leagues, and governing bodies to prioritize fairness, equality, and transparency.

Steps can be taken to implement stronger policies against blackballing, create avenues for addressing grievances and unfair treatment, and promote diversity and inclusion at all levels.

By confronting and addressing blackballing head-on, the sporting community can strive for a future where athletes are valued and recognized based solely on their talent, dedication, and achievements, ensuring that sports remain a beacon of inspiration, unity, and integrity for all.

We sincerely hope that this falls on the right ears and even if it they fail to listen, we would keep putting the word out. Selah…

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