Jay Harris: Education, Record Deals, NFL Contracts and Making a Living

By Nick Westbrooks

Jay Harris aka Jay DatBull

Jay Harris aka Jay DatBull

I first read on the Root.com that Jay Harris, a standout Philadelphia high school wide receiver, turned down a football scholarship to Michigan State University to pursue a rap career. That led me to an article and video on deadspin.com that went into further detail about Harris’ decision and provided a glimpse of the aspiring rapper’s talent or lack thereof depending on your taste and preference.

According to the article, Harris, whose stage name is Jay DatBull was considering dropping football and pursuing music for a few years now, but he was afraid to tell his parents. At first, I was led to believe that Harris’ decision was strictly his own, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the football star’s explicit music and videos impelled the school to revoke his scholarship. A Michigan State spokesman says the decision was mutual.

In fact, in Jay’s first single DatBull 4 Life,” he raps about smoking weed, and in the video, he can be seen enjoying the herbal therapy with his crew. The writer of the DeadSpin article then comments that it’s more difficult to make a living rapping than it is playing in the NFL: “At the start of next year’s season, there will be some 1,700 on NFL rosters. There aren’t 1,700 men and women combined who are making NFL money by rapping.”

But with more than 140,000 views on YouTube within the first couple of weeks and the toxic recipe to create mainstream rap poison that would attract any major label, Jay DatBull has a chance at getting signed and making a living off of rapping. This brings me to my point of critical analysis.

The discussion—and there should be a discussion about this—concerning Jay Harris’ decision to drop college football to pursue rapping should go beyond his likelihood of making a living in either career. It should even go beyond the claim that he can get an education while playing football. And, it’s not about what his parents will think or whether it’s more important for him to chase his dreams or be realistic.

A rap career making music about smoking weed and having sex will bring him big checks to make a living and even enjoy some luxuries for himself, his friends and his family. But what’s missing is his consciousness. Being able to support yourself is necessary, and there’s nothing wrong with owning a few nice things, but in the words of the author and cultural historian Tony Browder, “money without consciousness will usually lead to self-destruction of some form or another.” Being a slave to a corporate record label that’s out to control the artist and his listeners will ultimately contribute to the continual destruction of Black people.

Many people mistakenly believe that money will bring them happiness, but money without consciousness will usually lead to self-destruction of some form or another. -Tony Browder

The sad reality with college athletes is that although they have the opportunity to get an education through an athletic scholarship, many of them either don’t receive an adequate education while they’re in school or they don’t finish and receive a degree. While living in the moment of playing football at a major Division 1 school, student-athletes can lose sight of life beyond collegiate athletics and don’t think of back-up plans just in case professional sports don’t work out. While in school at Howard University, I had a football player as a roommate one year. After telling him about my major and career plans, he told me that he never really thought of life after college football, and I encouraged him to seriously consider it.

Harris’ decision exceeds getting an education on a football scholarship, because earning a college degree doesn’t necessarily ensure that he will experience a change in consciousness when his foresight is already limited to becoming a professional athlete while attending an institution that considers him to be a mere commodity in a billion dollar industry who won’t even receive compensation for putting his body on the line. In addition, he’ll most likely be in a space where he won’t be exposed to his true history and learn that he is much more than a weed-smoker, athlete or entertainer.

Lastly, there’s the small chance that Harris could have made it to the NFL if he decided to stick with football. Playing professional football seems less harmful than rapping about weed and sex, but here again he would be making big money without having any consciousness, which will lead to his self-destruction. You can see it with the many multimillion-dollar earning Black athletes that have gone broke and the scores of others who have gotten in trouble and ruined their reputations for engaging in damaging behavior.

When we’re helping our Black youth plan their futures, we can’t strictly think in dollars and cents. While it’s important to argue which career Harris has a better chance in succeeding at, it’s also imperative to ask how he can use his potential career to improve the condition of his people by first liberating himself from the chains of psychological slavery. Harris can rap; he doesn’t have to play football if he doesn’t want to, but he needs a proper education to shift his paradigm, reach his highest level of excellence as Black man and to advance his people. We must begin to understand that the destructive path of the individual contributes to the destruction of the collective.

 

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Nick Westbrooks: Why Black Athletes Should be Educated

By Nick Westbrooks

Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant

In the midst of the controversy over Chick-Fil-A’s opposition to gay marriage, Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant decided to chime in on the debate. On Twitter he first talked about the company’s position on gay marriage and asked how “people not gon get the best chicken sammich and lemonade on the planet because of a personal belief…” Durant was then asked if he would continue to buy Chick-Fil-A if the company supported slavery. He said he would because the “chicken too tasty.”

Whether Durant was joking or not, it’s needless to say that his comment was ignorant and only reinforces the stereotype that Black athletes and entertainers are unenlightened. There is truth to the claim that historically slaves were trained to be physically strong and mentally weak. I won’t debate on whether the Willie Lynch letter is real or fake, but it’s undeniable that Blacks were bred and trained to be strong workers in the field, and the present-day manifestation is the superb athletic ability of slave descendants as Michael Johnson said.

We inherited the physical strength gene, but unfortunately, many of us inherited the mental weakness gene as well. Slaves were bred to be mentally weak as a method to dissuade them from resisting the oppressive force of the slaveholders. In 2012, White supremacists want Black athletes as well as the entire Black race to remain in a state of psychological slavery, and this is a reminder that our athletes should be educated even if they earn millions of dollars yearly to play sports.

We often make the mistake of stressing the importance of education to our elementary, middle and high school student-athletes merely for the purposes of meeting the minimal GPA and standardized test score requirements for the NCAA Clearinghouse, and we stress education as a “back-up plan” just in case they don’t make it to the NFL or NBA. Sadly, too many parents and coaches don’t even consider these reasons.

It’s true that student-athletes have to perform academically to play sports in college, and it’s true that the odds of going pro after college are slim. According to Beyond Sports U, 1.7% of college players go to the NFL and 1.2% of college players get drafted to the NBA.

But for those aspiring professional athletes and those who’ve already made it and are multi-millionaires now, they should realize that being educated is much more than earning a living. Education is a key that opens doors of opportunities and options, but it’s much deeper than employment and dollars and cents. It’s important that our Black athletes, both aspiring and professional, be educated in order to change their consciousness and not to make themselves and the rest of the race look like buffoons.

Furthermore, Black athletes should be financially literate. They hire agents and lawyers to ensure they receive the correct amount of millions, but with so many sports stars going broke, one has to wonder who’s managing the Black athletes’ finances and if they’re operating in the best interests of their clients. I also wonder about the conspicuous consumption and materialism that’s all too common with our Black professional competitors.

If Black athletes aren’t educated for themselves, they should at least be educated for the young Black boys that look up to them and aspire to the dream of becoming professional sports stars.

I’m not suggesting that every athlete needs to enroll in a university and get a degree. There are many professional athletes, who finished college or spent some time in college (Durant attended Hampton University), but a degree doesn’t make one educated, and a person can become educated without attending college. Additionally, we all know people — either personally or in the public scene — that graduated from Ivy League schools but make some mainstream rap artists look like scholars.

Black athletes should be able to read and think at a college level and most importantly, have adequate knowledge of themselves and their history, so they won’t make comments similar to Durant’s. With this, we can take steps to combat racism and stereotypes by proving to the world that we can be both athletic on the field and court and mentally competent as well.