Inside Conditions…Trailblazers

Chuck Cooper (Courtesy Photo Duquesne University)
Chuck Cooper (Courtesy Photo Duquesne University)

When will America stop celebrating African American “firsts” in regards to allowing Blacks to just be part of a normal and functioning society?  There is a very distinct reason that I choose to pose this age old question to all who may read this communique. The 5th Annual Chuck Cooper Foundation Awards Luncheon is being held today at the Lexus Club at the CONSOL Energy Center.
For those of you who might not recall or even realize it Mr. Cooper, (who died in 1984) along with Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Earl Lloyd, were the first African American players that were permitted to play in the NBA in 1950.  That is a great accomplishment but when will the American spirit and psyche evolve past the point of any race possessing the power to allow different races or genders to participate in the worlds of commerce, entertainment, sports or any other viable profession that is a part of our entire “body of evolution?”
Aubrey Bruce

When we discuss the Wright Brothers inventing the airplane, we don’t say they were the “first White” inventors to manufacture a machine to defy gravity, we just point out that they were two brilliant scientists’ that unlocked the secret of flight. When we gush about legendary inventors Alexander Graham Bell and Albert Einstein we don’t say that they were the first “Scottish” American and “German” American inventors, they were just American inventors. However Dr. Charles Drew pioneered modern blood classification as well as blood plasma transfusions. His knowledge and innovative spirit helped to develop large-scale blood banks early in World War II that saved hundreds of lives but a lonely date during Black History Month will forever be his curtain call.
Chuck Cooper was born in Pittsburgh, and graduated from Westinghouse. He  attended and played basketball for West Virginia State College (now University) and then Duquesne University. Cooper was signed by legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach. Cooper was a great athlete and with his skill set probably could have competed with and exceeded any group of players Black or White on any level in any era, but he should not have had to be the first Black player in the NBA or any other professional basketball league. However, the NBA which was founded in 1946 did not wait for decades to allow Black talent to contend, they “got it” almost immediately and early on sorta kinda had a bigger picture as far as competition and inclusion in regards to their product were concerned.
Chuck Cooper should be celebrated annually on June 6, the anniversary of the NBA because although Mr. Cooper was one of the first “admitted” into the league, I am certain that there were excellent Black athletes that were willing, able and talented enough to participate on a high level from the very beginning, they were just denied the opportunity to do so.
Whenever and wherever that we celebrate any “firsts” we must always remember that liberation will always be attached because the two issues are Siamese twins; there can never be one without the other. There continues to be an ongoing “liberation” process for Black Americans in the world of professional sports and society as a whole.  We all have to thank Chuck Cooper for getting the ball rolling.
Notes:  According to GOOSSEN PROMOTIONS; “Former world champion PAUL SPADAFORA has been added to “The Pride of Pittsburgh III” on Feb. 20th at CONSOL Energy Center.
Sporting a record of 49-1-1 (19KO’s), Spadafora will battle JAKE GIURICEO, 17-2-1 of Youngstown, Ohio (4KO’s) in a scheduled eight round junior welterweight off-TV bout. “The Pride of Pittsburgh III” is headlined by a ten round welterweight clash between local fan favorite SAMMY VASQUEZ JR., 17-0-0 (13KO’s) and Brooklyn, New York native via Accra Ghana, EMMANUEL LARTEY, 17-2-0 (9KO’s) and will be telecast on ShoBox: The New Generation live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).  The IBF Lightweight Champion of the World from 1999 to 2003, Spadafora was undefeated for eighteen years before coming up on the short end of a 12-round majority decision to Johan Perez on November 30, 2013.”
Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: or 412.583.6741
He is also a contributing columnist on
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