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What exactly is more like them? Is it the way he talks, walks, or wears his clothes? Is it because he’s a Super Bowl winning quarterback, the first African-American since Doug Williams won with the Washington Football Team in 1988? Or is it just plain old jealously? There are some that would even say he’s not what you would call Black identified because he doesn’t seem interested in being part of the greater African-American culture the way, say, a Colin Kaepernick, the 49’ers quarterback, is. Despite being biracial and raised by a white family, he’s a member of Kappa Alpha Psi.

“About me not being black enough, I don’t even know what that means,” Russell Wilson said to Sunday night.  “I believe I’m an educated young male that’s not perfect, but tries to do things right. I try to lead by example and help others. That’s all I focus on and that’s all I know.”

I say, Wilson’s Black-identified the minute he shows up at high-end department store wearing jeans, a tee shirt, a pair of sneakers and a baseball hat. No matter what your celebrity or accomplishments may be, you never stop being identified as Black. I would argue that for every professional athlete who is fortunate enough to make it, whether he be a brother from the ghetto or the suburbs – somewhere along the way, he had to conform to play professional athletics for a long period of time.

If you don’t conform, you won’t be there for very long. The NBA, NFL and MLB are no different than any other corporation – you have to play the game of saying the right things, being on time and giving your best, day-in and day-out.

At the end of the day, professional athletes stand for all men of color who have had to conform in a white man’s world. As someone once told me, thugs don’t go to college. Wilson’s choir boy image could make him a target and – as the franchise quarterback of a perennial Super Bowl contender – is undoubtedly close to Seattle’s front office. But his behavior is probably no different from other valued Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks around the league – Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning – all of whom are white.

“Andrew Luck does the exact same thing Russell Wilson does,” said Freeman. “But Russell Wilson’s held to a different standard.” Freeman made it clear that this sentiment isn’t share by the entire locker room, but as for the handful of players who share a disgust for Wilson’s image, jealousy seems to be the common thread. “I think that’s a lot of it,” said Freeman. “It’s jealousy. I don’t think there’s any question about that. The thing about Russell Wilson is he’s doing all this stuff. He’s winning Super Bowls. He’s doing great things, and he’s being underpaid and you don’t hear him complain about it. He doesn’t say a word about it. All he does is present a very professional air.”

At least one of Wilson’s teammates has his back – cornerback Richard Sherman, who’s dealt with his own share of race-related controversy.

“Until someone in this locker actually says something negative [about Wilson], we just take that with a grain of salt,” Sherman said. “Anyone can make up anything and say a source said it. I don’t think anybody on this team feels that way. We support our quarterback. He fights for us every game.”

At one time, I too thought that Blacks who worked together should get along and be friends, just because we were Black. What I learned over time is that we are not monolithic. We come from different households, different environments and different walks of life. And just like any other line of work, professional football is just that – a profession. So the mere idea that Wilson or any other brother for that matter who works at IBM, Microsoft, Pfizer, the police department, or in the factory, has to get along is more fallacy than reality.

Zack Burgess is an award winning journalist, who is the Director/Owner of OFF WOODWARD MEDIA, LLC, where he works as a Writer, Editor and Communications Specialist. His work can be seen at Twitter: @zackburgess1

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How Black Do You Have To Be To Be Black Enough?  was originally published on

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