Former Mr. Universe and Mr. World bodybuilding champion John Brown, who raised and trained three sons to become outstanding football players, all of whom received full college scholarships, successfully took their SATs in three languages and held a GPA of 4.1 or higher, didn’t shy away from comparisons to another famous father, LaVar Ball.
“I like LaVar. I like what he’s doing. I don’t agree with everything, but I don’t agree with everything I do,” Brown said Thursday at UT Austin’s Black Student-Athlete Summit about Ball, who raised his three sons to be basketball players, including the oldest, Lonzo, now in his second year with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Brown’s oldest son, Equanimeous St. Brown, recently completed his rookie season with the Green Bay Packers. Brown’s middle son, Osiris St. Brown, recently completed his sophomore season at Stanford. Youngest son Amon-Ra St. Brown recently completed his freshman season at USC. All three of Brown’s sons play wide receiver.
Speaking about his sons’ athletic prowess, Brown said, “Everyone has kids who go to school and we don’t give our kids choices to go to school or not. Everyone says you must go to school. We’re manufacturing students. Why not athletes?”
“I had two hats when I was raising them,” Brown continued. “One hat was coach and one hat was father. You have to know what hat to put on and when to put it on. I gave my kids a lot of love. I explained things. I sat them down and talked to them about why I’m doing it. Not just doing this because I said. No, let me explain to you why. We have a great relationship.”
Growing up in inner-city Compton, Calif., helped Brown toughen up his sons for football.
“Where I come from, we took money from light-skinned kids,” Brown said. “I’ve got some light-skinned kids, but they ain’t [entertainer] El DeBarge. They’ll whip your [butt].”
Other speakers throughout the day discussed a variety of topics, including Dr. Peniel Joseph, who is the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values at UT Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. Joseph told student-athletes attending Thursday’s luncheon that they need to learn their history to understand they are living in dangerous times in America.
“They’re missing the history of why things are the way they are,” said Joseph, who believes America is entering its third Reconstruction period since 1861.
“Black Americans are in a struggle for racial citizenship and facing terror,” Joseph said. “We are in a crisis of citizenship. We are not free citizens in the U.S. right here and right now.”
Other highlights from the day include the following:
- There is an unfair disparity in the Academic Progress Rate between HBCU schools and predominately white institutions, according to research presented by Monique Oluyemisi Ositelu of Florida State and Ryan Westman of New York University. Ositelu said HBCU male athletic programs in 2005-2006 received three times as many severe penalties for performing below the standard as non-HBCUs with the same score. “The NCAA is disproportionally penalizing HBCU teams,” Ositelu said. Westman added that HBCU schools are 5.8 times more likely to be penalized compared to predominately white institutions. “Yes, it is a racial issue,” said Westman, who suggested that more funding is needed in the NCAA’s Accelerating Academic Success Program.
- The first session of the day, focusing on how much college athletes should be involved in social activism, led to an emotional response from Arkansas State assistant athletics director for athletics performance Pat Ivey. Ivey, the former strength and conditioning coach at Missouri, worked closely with the team’s football players and was there when the team announced a boycott in 2015 supporting the hunger-strike of a graduate student who demanded the dismissal of the former University of Missouri System president. Ivey wasn’t retained when new head coach Barry Odom replaced Gary Pinkel. “I was at the University of Missouri,” Ivey said. “There is sacrifice for student-athletes, and it’s real. You say [coaches and administrators] have to give our athletes support. As coaches and administrators, [there are] real constraints.”
- Akayleb Evans, a Tulsa football player who led a session about Black student-athletes and community activism with his mother, said the degree of involvement often depends on how much support players receive from their coaches and administrators. “I honestly feel like it all depends on who your coach is,” said Evans, who plays defensive back. “I feel like with my position coach, I have a voice. Even with my administrators and advisors, some of them I feel like I have a voice with and others I don’t. I [know] other people with different position coaches and different advisors struggle with it.”
- Guarantee games are necessary to fund cash-strapped HBCU athletic programs heavily dependent on federal funding. Based on the Resource Dependence Theory presented at a Thursday session by University of Louisville Ph.D. student Brigitte Burpo, HBCU schools rely on larger Division I programs to schedule them for games so they can create much-needed revenue. HBCU schools always play these games on the road and HBCU schools usually lose these money-games by a wide margin. However, in 2017, Howard upset UNLV 43-40 despite being a 45-point road underdog, receiving $600,000 for its troubles. In other games involving HBCU teams presented by Burpo, UNLV defeated visiting Jackson State 63-13 in 2016, with Jackson State receiving $600,000. In 2015, Georgia defeated visiting Southern 48-16 with the Jaguars receiving $650,000. How important are these money games for HBCU schools? According to Burpo, Prairie View A&M had the highest athletic budget in 2017 at $17.8 million. Nearly 74 percent of that total was subsidized, emphasizing the need for HBCUs to seek out other revenue streams such as playing money games that almost always result in a loss but generate much-needed revenue.