Theotis Brown and Bud Wilkinson

Former St. Louis Cardinals standout running back Theotis Brown has been named director of player personnel for St. Louis’ XFL franchise, the league announced last week.

Brown’s addition in St. Louis is one of an impressive series of African-American coaching and front office hires by the XFL, which includes St. Louis head coach Jonathan Hayes.

A collegiate star at UCLA, Brown was drafted by the football Cardinals in 1979 and played here through the 1981 season. After a pair of respective seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs, Brown’s career was cut short after just six years after he suffered a heart attack.

He teamed with running back Otis Anderson while a Cardinal, and the pair had a highly entertaining program on KMOX called “The Otis and Theotis Show.”

Brown remained in the Kansas City area after his retirement and worked for the Dallas-based Willis & Woy Sports Group as director of collegiate recruitment.

“The athletic world is a small world, it really is. Everybody wants to get in it, but not everybody can,” Brown recently said on Seahawks website.

“But once you’re in it, you’re in the club. There’s approximately 1,600 active players in the NFL, and for every 1,600 that are active, there are 16 million wishing they could have just that one opportunity, that one shot to see what they can do.”

Brown also has a unique relationship with on of the world’s most accomplished actors, a man he met at Skyline High School in Oakland. His locker mate was Tom Hanks.

“I used to say I went to school with a guy who was a two-time Academy Award winner,” said Brown.

“People would say, ‘James Earl Jones?’ ‘Denzel Washington?’ Or they would say, ‘Tom Hanks?’ I always used to say the difference between Tom Hanks and me was height and money – I was taller, and you figure out the rest.”

Maybe he can convince his old locker mate to come to a game in St. Louis.

XFL shaming NFL in hiring

The XFL’s commitment to diversity began last November when Doug Whaley, former Buffalo Bills general manager, was named the league’s senior vice president of football operations. He will report directly to XFL Commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck.

Whaley served in the Bills’ front office from 2010 to 2017, earning his way up the ranks before being named GM in 2013. He was assistant GM and pro personnel director, and then held the GM role for four seasons. He was serving as the director of college recruiting for the NFL Players Association’s Collegiate Bowl before joining the XFL.

In Houston, Brian Michael Cooper was recently named president of that XFL franchise.

He brings more than 20 years of experience as a sports attorney, agent, executive and advisor, and is a four-time Super Lawyers Texas Rising Star. Before returning to his law practice in 2017 at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, he served as director of sports programming for DISH Network.

“One measure of our success will be how well we engage the community. Another measure will be how effectively we tap into Houston’s passion for football. In both instances, I look forward to planting firm roots for the XFL by building a passionate, loyal fanbase for our Houston team,” said in a release upon his hiring.

He served as senior associate athletic director at Rice University from 2008 to 2010 before being named president of the NBA G-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

The XFL franchise in Washington, D.C. also has a black executive serving as president.

Erik A. Moses was recently named to the position after serving as senior vice president and managing director of sports, entertainment and special events for Events DC.

Pep Hamilton, who is also black, was named as the team’s head coach in April.

“I can think of no better next step than to work with this great community to establish the XFL in DC and across the entire Washington region and cultivate a passionate, loyal fan base for our team,” Moses said.

Hamilton said Moses “is exactly the right partner for the job, and I can’t wait to get started building our DC team.”

The XFL has also hired two women, respectively, as team presidents in the league’s two largest metropolitan areas.

Janet Duch, a veteran executive at Madison Square Garden who was serving as senior vice president of on location experiences, will help guide the New York franchise.

Heather Brooks Karatz, who served as executive vice president and general counsel of the Los Angeles Football Club and Banc of California Stadium, has been named president of the XFL football team in Los Angeles.

Winston Moss, L.A.’s head coach, is one of the three black men heading teams in the eight-squad XFL.

Commissioner Oliver Luck has so far proven that the XFL can and will find experienced and deserving African Americans and women to fill vital on-field and front office jobs.

I’m sure NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is keeping an eye on the XFL, which will kick off its comeback season in February 2020. Hopefully, this will spark more minority hiring as head coaches, team presidents and other front office jobs – which are woefully lacking in the NFL.

Black athletes and activism

Several high-profile black athletes and journalists joined in Washington, D.C. to discuss sports and activism in a series of panel discussions at Entertainment and Sports Arena.

Hosted by The Atlantic and Washington Mystics WNBA franchise, the event drew John Carlos, writer Jemele Hill and many other socially conscious athletes.

Hill said some black athletes are proving “that there is a lot of reward to using your voice.”

“I’m thinking specifically of LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick. Now obviously with Colin Kaepernick, it cost him his NFL career. But that being said, he’s one of the most powerful voices of his generation. LeBron is still highly paid. I think that (some athletes) see that those fears that they have that they will lose something, financially or otherwise, are unfounded or that they can survive if they really feel passionate about something.

“I don’t mean this to sound shallow, but in many ways, they’ve helped to make activism kind of cool.”

Carlos, who joined with Tommie Smith in a black-gloved, black power salute during the national anthem that cost them their respective gold and silver medals at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, said he is encourage by increased athlete activism.

“They’re realizing that they’re the voice for the voiceless. They’re using their platforms now in sports across the world to make political statements. Social statements. They’re encouraging others. It’s a domino effect,” he said.

Other athletes taking part in the discussion included former USNWT soccer goalie Brianna Scurry, former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett and Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud.

The Reid Roundup

All props to Andy “The Overweight Lover” Ruiz for his stunning defeat of Anthony Joshua in Saturday’s heavyweight title bout. Ruiz becomes the first boxer of Mexican heritage to hold a heavyweight crown – let alone three, which he won with the upset win … As for Joshua, brother you should be ashamed of yourself … Who told the world the St. Louis Cardinals would sweep a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs last weekend? That would be me … Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs were at Saturday’s Stanley Cup Finals game in St. Louis. Mahomes chugged down what looked to be a beer to the delight of the crowd and received a huge ovation when he appeared on the scoreboard video screen. Both Mahomes and Kelce were sporting Blues jerseys … A neutral site preseason game here in St. Louis featuring the Chiefs would be cool … Speaking of Mahomes, I keep reading about his possible regression in 2019 after his scintillating, All-Pro season last year. Why are we not hearing as much regression talk about other young quarterbacks, especially Sam Darnold of the New York Jets? He has to learn a new system under first-year head coach Adam GaseOdell Beckham Jr., showed up for one Cleveland Browns voluntary practice last week and missed the rest. Head coach Freddie Kitchens said he missed “A lot. The offense.” Beckham did show up early for mandatory minicamp, which began Wednesday … The Browns are also hoping often troubled St. Louis native Sheldon Richardson can get his act together after the defensive tackle was signed to a free-agent contract during the offseason.

Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.

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