‘All American’ Sheds a Light on the Pressures Black Athletes Face

Anyone else just a little angry at the ending of that All American episode this week? First, Spencer James makes the most significant decision of his life, and then it’s thrown back in his face.

Grace James always has great advice on All American.
Once again, Mama James came through with good advice. Unfortunately, it was not applicable by the end of the episode. (The CW)

I’m not going to pretend to know how football offers work. Grace James (Karimah Westbrook) told Spence (Daniel Ezra) he wouldn’t be the first player to go back on an offer. That makes me think that it happens all the time. But this Toledo coach is taking it way too far. Though college sports are a business, I can see it from the perspective that he lost his golden ticket for next season. But since this is a show and we are on Spencer’s side, I’m going to be mad for a little.

Spence has two options. To keep his commitment to Toledo State or not be able to play his entire first year. How is that even a choice? The coach clearly knows that. So he’s basically blackmailing Spencer to play for him.

Would he be doing this if Spencer was a white player? Not to bring race into this, but Olivia Baker’s (Samantha Logan) storyline this week was about Black athletes facing excessive pressures. It doesn’t necessarily mean the two are related, but I don’t like this guy. I thought Spencer made the right call by the reaction of the coach. He doesn’t seem to be the type of man Spence should be working with. This coach praised Spence until he turned him down, so maybe it correlates to Olivia’s storyline.

Olivia Baker Shedding a light on Black Excellence and the Pressures Black athletes face.
Olivia Baker shedding a light on Black Excellence and the Pressures Black athletes face. (The CW)

I’m not going to pretend to know anything about the pressures Black athletes have. Other than what I’ve seen in front of my face. I’ve seen Serena Williams get treated differently on the court than her male counterparts. Whether you are a fan of hers or not, it’s not fair. The incredible thing is seeing her stick up for herself, despite any backlash.

Whether Spencer is facing those unreasonable pressures now, I don’t know. But it still seems unfair, but All American knows how to bring the drama.

It’s also great at Black culture. I knew nothing about Black joy before this show. I have heard of Black excellence, but hearing Olivia describe it opened up my eyes to it.

Simone Hicks (Geffri Maya) had such an inspiring interview. She spoke about not wanting people to see her mistakes because she was afraid they would think less of her. Simone has found a place where she could grow and learn and still be great. Not somewhere that will drop her the second she makes a mistake. Of course, that’s important for anyone, but for an African American woman, that’s priceless.

That’s what the LA Tribune saw in Liv’s piece. It wasn’t the fun and poppy story that they asked for, but it’s still inspiring to hear the stories of these black athletes navigating their careers. It’s also an important message to get out there.

Is Spencer facing the same pressures as other Black athletes?
Will Spencer play for Toledo State or choose to sit out his freshman year? (The CW)

Wherever season five goes, I want Olivia to be still writing or podcasting about this stuff. It’s crucial for the Black people who watch the show to be inspired. It’s also vital for people like me who tune in because I love the characters to learn something along the way.

And Olivia also inspired her brother, Jordan Baker (Michael Evans Behling), in this episode. He was tired of everyone seeing him as not good enough, and she told him he had to stop seeing himself like that. So Jordan did. He got to play in the All American game, and while it might not help him get into a D-1 school now, it’s turned around his outlook for junior college. Asher Adams (Cody Christian) also helped a little. By telling him that Aaron Rogers went to a junior college first before getting his pick of schools.

Side note. I’m sure the All American writers wish they picked another footballer that took that same path with all the controversy around Rogers at the moment. But that can’t be helped with how long the scripts are written in advance.

Anyways, that was a great moment of Ashe being there for his friend despite still hurting from losing the game. I want to see him find his next passion.

In the meantime, I love the Asher and Tamia ‘Coop’ Cooper (Bre-Z) scenes. We got another great one. Coop encouraged Ashe to go to the game and cheer on Spence and Jordan. Ashe helped Coop find a way to help Layla Keating (Greta Onieogou) make her songs great. And that led to Layla and Coop making up. I’m so glad this didn’t last long.

I can totally see Coop being a producer when she’s ready, of course. I still think Asher has a future as a football coach or choreographer. He’s got a natural talent for it. I hope he can see that soon. And, I hope that is where the writers will go with him.

How do you feel about the Toledo coach blackmailing Spencer to keep his commitment? Tweet me @PrimetimeDrama or @MandyTTCarr or comment below.

Mandy Carr

Editor and Founder, Primetime Addiction

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