Sports and Civil Rights

By Valentine, Victoria L. | The Crisis, November/December 2006 | Go to article overview

Sports and Civil Rights


Valentine, Victoria L., The Crisis


The sports world Is a rarified universe. According to Forbes. Tiger Woods is the highest-paid athlete in the world, earning $90 million from June 2005 to June 2006. A number of other African American athletes joined the golf great on Forbes ' annual list of the World's Most Powerful Celebrities, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Venus and Serena Williams, among them.

They're certainly not struggling. Yet, sports seemed an appropriate topic to tackle in The Crisis: It's a field that has long provided an avenue of opportunity and a path to financial security for African Americans; labor, education, economic and access issues permeate sports; historically. Black athletes have been among the most outspoken on social justice and human rights issues; and throughout the past century, Black athletic milestones have symbolized racial progress in America.

In 1968, Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) became the first Black man to win the U.S. Open, and in 1975 the first to win Wimbledon. Ashe was also known for his efforts beyond the tennis court. In 1968, he helped create the United States Tennis Association's National Junior Tennis League, a development program designed for underprivileged youth. He was also an early outspoken critic of South African apartheid, in 1970 calling for the nation to be expelled from the International Lawn Tennis Association. After suffering a heart attack, Ashe later served as national chairman of the American Heart Association in 1981. In 1992, he was arrested for demonstrating in front of the White House in protest of the U.S. crackdown on Haitian refugees. That same year, Ashe, who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion, addressed the United Nations on World AIDS Day.

Ashe is probably the best example of an athlete who used his celebrity to shed light on society's ills. In this special issue, William C. …

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