I grew up a fan of both civil rights and sports. Jackie Robinson became a Brooklyn Dodger in 1947 and in 1949 won the league MVP award. The following year, Cooper, Clifton and Lloyd joined the ranks of the modern NBA. Now, football was ahead in a way as there had pretty steadily been a few black players (although none between 1933 and 1946). George Taliaferro was drafted by the Bears in 1950. The NBA saw its first black head coach in 1966 when Bill Russell took over at the helm of the Celtics (losing that year to the great 76ers team). Baseball was a bit slower, with Frank Robinson becoming the first major league manager (of the Cleveland Indians) in 1974 (while he was still playing). Football took until 1989, which the entire NFL should be deeply embarrassed by, to see Art Shell as the first head coach (of the Oakland Raiders, apparently Al Davis is capable of doing something right). The first NFL quarterback was Marlin Brisco, a 14th round pick for the Denver Broncos in 1968. I remember seeing him play. My favorite baseball player was always Willie Mays and I devoured books about his upbringing (in a time when there were not black players in the major leagues)and subsequent success.
I am surprised and appalled that now, all these years later, people can still consider race when they consider the success of Donovan McNabb as a quarterback or Herm Edwards as a coach. I don't get the same sense in baseball and basketball, although I know there is concern about how players born in the Dominican Republic are treated by major league baseball. Still, I would like to think that sports has played a role in showing us the way to equality and teamwork despite race. If you haven't, watch the movie, "Remember the Titans" Read the book, "Double Play" by Robert Parker and then cheer for your favorite team without any concern about the race of those you are cheering.