Friday, September 2, 2016

Wrestling with the best of them

By Jon Dunnemann




Have you ever directly experienced or witnessed racism in America? One Saturday afternoon back in 1968 while playing basketball at the local junior high school in town, I decided to cover the best older white player in the gym. This fella could dribble, shoot, and he was quicker than any of the other men his age.

For the most part he did whatever he wanted regardless of who was playing him and he always scored the majority of the points for the team that he was playing on.

That day though my teammates and I decided that the only way for us to have any chance of winning was to totally prevent this key player from ever getting the ball. So I stuck to him like tar on a stick. He could not get the ball or make a move no matter what he did to me which as you might imagine included knocking me down a few times.

In those days, I was the only black kid in the gym every Saturday morning and well into the afternoon. I had been studying this gentleman for weeks. Well he ended up getting so frustrated that day that he wrestled me down on to the gym floor, put his hands around my neck as if to choke me, and said nigger who the hell do you think you are. My reply was simple, "I'm a basketball player." After that day, that same man wanted me on his team whenever we were in the gym together.

No one ever said that you won't have to wrestle against your opposition to gain some respect and along with it your equal rights both on and off the court.