Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete

By Amy Bass | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
The Power of Protest and Boycott:
The New York Athletic Club
and the Question of the
South African Springboks

What is South Africa? A boiler into which thirteen million blacks are clubbed and penned in by two and half million whites. If the poor whites hate the Negroes, it is … because the structure of South Africa is a racist structure.

—Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

We hope to bring to the world arena the attention of the entire world that America is as guilty of racism as South Africa.

—Harry Edwards, San Jose Mercury News, 1967

American media focused a lot of attention on the spectacles of the Mexican student uprisings, particularly when the furor regarding the Olympic Project for Human Rights began to subside. Most observers felt confident that African American athletes would fall into line and the U.S. team would compete as a single, cohesive entity. Indeed, Stan Wright, the only African American member of the U.S. Olympic coaching staff, commented, “As far as we're concerned, the boycott issue is dead. We're here to win medals.” 1

What Wright did not count on, however, was the possible alliances that could be built, conjecturally if not officially, on the transnational possibilities of human rights struggles. Both the press and the FBI went into an uproar when Harry Edwards was alleged to have met (in San Jose) with Mexican students who claimed to be leaders of the Comité Anti-Olímpico de Subversión (CAOS). The students, according

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