Tackling illegitimacy on ‘Connected’

A stunning and depressing 72 percent of African-American children are born to unwed mothers.

What’s worse, a large percentage of African-Americans act like the solution to this crisis is to ignore it.

I don’t.

A little more than a week ago, I invited renowned sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards and Hall of Fame Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin to Los Angeles to discuss the impact of illegitimacy on African-American athletes.

On Tuesday, FOXSports.com aired our 45-minute roundtable discussion online. Beginning tonight, across the FSN television network, you can watch “Connected” in an hour-long TV format.

It is not our intent to be inflammatory or insensitive. We don’t yell or scream at each other. We don’t play the blame game.

With sports as our platform, we try to illustrate and analyze how the breakdown of the black family has transformed African-American athletes.

Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Bill Russell and even Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were products of a far different African-American family culture.

In the 1960s, roughly 21 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. The number was lower in the 1950s.

Today baby-mama culture is the norm for African-Americans. There are communities where hardly anyone blinks when a black child gets pregnant, an epidemic highlighted earlier this year when Memphis, Tenn., TV stations reported that an area high school with 978 students (508 of them girls) was home to 90 girls who were either pregnant or already had a baby.

Baby-mama and baby-daddy culture is ingrained in the fabric of African-American culture.

The consequences are dire. You can see them in the sports world.

If there is no family, there is no community. African-American athletes played enormous roles in the social progress we experienced in the 1960s. They tied their plight to that facing the greater African-American community. They took courageous stands for the benefit of the community at large.

The ramifications are not just social or political. You can see illegitimacy’s impact on the playing field.

No father in the home means there’s no man to teach a son an appreciation for baseball and the intricacies of the game. We don’t play baseball anymore. We have little interest in the game. The reasons for this are complex and multifaceted, but fatherlessness is a factor.

Baby-mama culture turns teenage sons into de facto husbands and financial providers, creating a stressful and perverted evolution process that can emotionally cripple a young man or boy. A 12-year-old isn’t supposed to be the “man of the house.” A 21-year-old athlete shouldn’t be responsible for the financial well-being of his parents or siblings.

You think it’s easier to focus strictly on football when you come from Peyton Manning’s family structure as opposed to Michael Vick’s? You think Donovan McNabb’s traditional family structure didn’t play a role in his sustained success in Philadelphia?

Baby-mama culture is under attack in the NFL. Executives are showing an increasing reluctance to invest in athletes from unstable backgrounds. Jeff Fisher and the Tennessee Titans abandoned Vince Young because Fisher decided he didn’t want to pay Young millions of dollars and be responsible for teaching Young basic leadership/manhood qualities. Dolphins executive Jeff Ireland inappropriately queried Dez Bryant about the receiver’s mother because the Dolphins wanted to know how Bryant’s upbringing impacted his personality.

Illegitimacy is an issue in professional and college athletics.

I chose to discuss this issue with Dr. Edwards because he’s one of the smartest people I know. I chose Michael Irvin because his charisma and flamboyance are matched by his intellect, life experience and desire to help.

I think you’re going to enjoy and appreciate the conversation. Please tune in.