Historical Social change Motivated by Sports

Equal Rights

Jackie Robinson

There was a time in the in history, as you may be aware when racism and segregation were prominent. There were toilets for white people and toilets for ‘nonwhite people’. Therefore there were sports leagues for white people and sports leagues for nonwhite people.

Jackie Robinson was a nonwhite baseball player, African American to be precise. He started professional baseball in 1944 after he was discharged from the army. Soon after starting his career, he played shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro league [5], and soon after he stopped playing in Negro league. But did not necessarily stop playing baseball.

He was chosen by the then president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey to help integrate major league baseball. In other words, he acted as a Sport for Social Change agent [1]. In 1946 Robinson joined the all-white Montreal Royals and later moved to Florida to begin spring training with his new team. From the beginning of his career with the Dodgers, Robinson’s will was tested. This ‘test of will’, mostly racism was best described by Bill Nack of Sports Illustrated, quoted from Larry Schwartz article [2], saying “Robinson was the target of racial epithets and flying cheats, of hate letters and death threats, of pitchers throwing at his head and legs, and catchers spitting on his shoes”. Even some of his teammates objected to having an African American on their team. Despite all of this the number 42 Robinson had a successful year and was promoted to join the Dodgers.

Robinson played his first game at Ebbets field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, making him the first black athlete to play major league Basketball in the 20th century [6]. He was Rookie of the year and two years later he was MVP. His lifetime average .311 and he was voted into the hall of fame in his first year of eligibility [5]. Jackie Robinsons’ story is a very good example of how athletes can be effective Sport for Change agents.

Jesse Owens

Another African American to protest racism was Jesse Owens, this time in a global event in Berlin. Yep, you guessed it, on Adolf Hitler’s very own home ground.

 In 1936 the Olympic Games were hosted by Berlin the now capital of Germany. Being the host country Adolf Hitler had big plans for the games. I trust that you are aware of Hitler and his stance on the “Master Race” but in a nutshell. “For Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, the 1936 Berlin Olympic games were expected to be a German showcase and a statement for Aryan supremacy” right! Among the countries competing at those Olympics were Americans and Hitler lambasted them for including back athletes in their roster [7].

Of those black athletes lambasted by Hitler was Jesse Owens. Born in Oakville Alabama, Jesse Cleveland Owens was a track and field star. In 1935 at the Big ten championships he established three world records in long jump, the 220-yard dash and 220 yard low hurdles and tied the 100-yard dash [8]. Pulitzer-prize described him as “The guy who tweaked Hitler’s Mustache. He said This was the guy who showed the master race they were the minor race” [7]. How exactly did he do that?

Well like I said, he competed at the 1936 Olympic Games against Hitler’s Master Race and won gold medals in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, the long jump and the 4×100 relay for his team country. That is a total of four medals. According to various sources Hitler stormed out of the stadium. I doubt if he was awarded any medals for that.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Thando W. Dlamini, BA

Sport Development and Exercise Science Practitioner

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Hey there! I simply would like to give you a big thumbs up for the excellent info you’ve got here on this post. I’ll be coming back to your website for more soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate Site »