Racial mistreatment still in play for off-field Black NFL players.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) The first example of not being able to “transcend” race in terms of fame and fortune that many Black people think of is the Oprah Winfrey handbag incident back in 2013. During an 2013 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Winfrey told a story of being in Switzerland and at a high-end shop when the shop assistant refused to show her a handbag because it was “too expensive.” The shop’s owner denied any “racism” but it was a major news story given Oprah Winfrey’s significant wealth, fame, and influence. If she was subject of a racist action, it is certainly possible for professional athletes of color to receive the same. The chances of being recognized as a professional athlete in standard society might lessen the chances of receiving the discrimination that the “average” Black man does but that did not keep current NFL player Darius Leonard and former NFL player Jimmy Kennedy from anti-Black treatment.

In December 2019, it was reported by The New York Times that former NFL player Jimmy Kennedy, who is black, was denied private client status by JPMorgan Chase Bank despite depositing $800,000 at the bank. “Private client” status, is reserved for accounts with more than $250,000 and earns clients travel discounts, exclusive event invitations and better deals on loans. It is also notable that Jimmy Kennedy earned earned $13 million during his nine year NFL career. He also had strong evidence that his denial of the status was due to his race because he had audio recordings of conversations between himself and Charles Belton, an black employee at that JPMorgan branch in Arizona. During the conversation, Belton said to Kennedy, “We’re in Arizona. I don’t have to tell you about what the demographics are in Arizona. They don’t see people like you a lot.” Due to this revelation and his overall treatment with the bank, Kennedy pulled most of his money out of JPMorgan and filed a grievance with an industry watchdog.

There is a long history of racism against Black people when banking. Current Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, who is Black, was the target of racial profiling during a meal with family and friends. Leonard and his group, all of whom were non-white, were kicked out of a Chipotle restaurant after having a private conversation about Black Lives Matter with his family after a white customer complained to the restaurant’s manager, who then kicked Leonard and his group out based strictly on the white man’s accusation. The white customer accused Leonard and his group of verbally abusing him, which Leonard called a lie. It is also notable that this incident took place in Florence, South Carolina, in the same state where Darius Leonard was born and raised and where he starred as a HBCU college football player at South Carolina State. Leonard said the manager had a “terrible attitude” and made his party leave after threatening to call the police, which is especially anxiety-inducing considering the time that we are in.

It has been proven over time that even professional athletes can be subjected to racist behavior, actions, and discrimination regardless of their fame and fortune. When they are not on the playing field or court, Black athletes are still people in society. It is also important that the stories of Jimmy Kennedy and Darius Leonard are shared to show that oppression goes beyond class. There is a myth that if a Black person gains enough money and status that they can completely avoid the same racism and discrimination as other Black people but that has been proven false time and time again.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines