The jury on whether life imitates art or vice versa will forever be hung. Celebrities and their respective works definitely have an impact on how individuals perceive the world. We wow at the exploits of the athlete, croon along to the angelic voices of singers, marvel at the on screen persona of our favorite thespians, and nod our heads to the beat of hip-hop’s top lyricists and producers. However, once their stardom reaches a certain point, do we continue admiring the works they produce outside of the respective lines of their fields and professions?
The recent revelation that Miami Heat Dwyane Wade has fathered a so-called “secret” child outside of his relationship with actress Gabrielle Union is only the latest of a long line of instances where athletes who were married or in a relationship found themselves having to explain a bundle of joy to their significant other and their fan base as well.
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In a nation filled with those whose morality is spawned more from self-righteousness and convenience than true moral superiority, many in the media will use these circumstances as reason to skewer and humiliate. Yes, people do build you up to bring you down. Nothing highlights that more than the modern media machine. In addition, those in the black media specifically are certain to use said circumstances as a soap box upon which to preach about the failing black family and the morally bankruptcy of the hip-hop generation, as if all the ills of the black community fell out of the sky in 1999.
But this type of horny behavior is certainly nothing new. Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, retired NBA basketball player Shawn Kemp and NFL Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk are often talked about like unfixed dogs whenever athletes and baby-mamas hit the news. They have been the media standard bearers for lack of self-control for years. All of them were once young, gifted, black, and seemed to be indiscriminately "getting busy." However, retired NFL quarterback Brett Farve has children out of wedlock. Former Boston Celtic great Larry Bird had baby-mama drama while attending Indiana State. Brian Urlacher, formerly of the Chicago Bears, has a baby mama along with former NFL quarterback Matt Leinart and retired NBA single-game assist record holder Scott Skiles. But when's the last time you heard about a white dude with baby mama drama?
And why are African American males the only demographic taken to task whenever these issues come to light in the media? Likely because whenever black men are involved in such unsavory circumstances it feeds into the old idea of colored men being hypersexual beasts lacking even a shred of self-control or self-respect. While images of black men being depicted in a bad light does make me cringe, I am not of the belief that every black person is representative of his or her entire race. It’s simply not a realistic way to look at the world, and hasn’t been since the end of the old Jim Crow days of the 1960s.
There are more black people now living in diverse environments and adhering to varied philosophies than in any other era in the history of this country. Athletes dealing with baby-mama drama are not indicative of out of control black and brown men, but of a culture that believes special people deserve special privileges.
In America, athletes are considered among those “special” people. The message is often sublime and it begins when said individuals are children. By the time they are adults many professional athletes have been inundated with messages from a sports culture that has taught them that the world is theirs to conquer; the best houses, the fastest cars, and any woman they see fit to have is theirs for the taking. In many instances, celebrity athletes don’t have to ask for anything, they are bombarded by opportunities - many sexual.
Upon looking at photos of some pro athlete’s “side pieces,” I cannot in good faith sit here and tell the noble readers of TSL that I wouldn’t have bowed to the angelic face, mesmerizing voice, and hour glass figures. But I can say, with all certainty, that I would have used birth control. Latex is your friend. Use it. Unless you are absolutely trying to have a child, or contract an STD, condoms have the potential to make life so much easier. Comparatively speaking, the reasons why people refuse to use condoms are dwarfed by the consequences. I’ve heard some men say it just doesn’t feel “right," while I have heard a legion of women who swear on their ovaries that they are either barren or allergic to latex. People will bullshit one another into an early grave.
But with the steady stream of celebrity athletes having children born without a committed relationship, wedlock, or however one chooses to frame it, is due to a nationwide refusal to use condoms. It makes me wonder about where all the celebrity athletes who are living with HIV, AIDS or Herpes hide. Just going off the law of averages, I am almost certain Ervin “Magic” Johnson is not the only professional athlete to continue playing pro sports following a diagnosis. That goes double considering the prevalence of anti-retroviral cocktail drugs.
In light of the growing YOLO affirmations of the general public below the age of 30, and with some over 30 being guilty of the same risky business, it would obviously be in everyone’s best interest to use caution. Yes, baby mama drama is prevalent these days, and actually always has been. And why anyone of any age would risk the opening of a likely family court case eludes me. However, a far worse fate awaits those who continue such practices as indiscriminate sex with relative strangers.
According to the CDC, the number of new HIV infections among African American has stabilized while the new infection rates of African American females have decreased between 2008 and 2010. However, the age with the highest number of new infection is among individuals between the ages of 25-34 followed by those ages 13-24 − the years where players are in their athletic and sexual primes. Though anti-retroviral cocktails have greatly improved the quality of life for those infected, AIDS is still a deadly disease and represents a lifetime diagnosis as well.
Dwyane Wade would say that the baby boy he has fathered is a welcome addition to his bloodline. Word is he'd been acquainted with his newest baby mama for years. And I for one am very proud of the manner in which he has accepted responsibility for the baby. However, I cannot help but wonder what the nationwide reaction would have been had he announced the acquisition of the AIDS virus. Would there be sympathy, admonishment or an outpouring of vitriol? One thing is for certain, the callous and careless way that some in the YOLO generation (and even those in Generation X's 30+ demo) approach sexuality − black, white, whatever − should be tossed into the arena of national discussion. It is a conversation that is long overdue.