THE BLACK ATHLETE (CONT.)
Your series on The Black Athlete (July 1, et seq.) seems unquestionably destined to be remembered as the most significant statement ever published by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Jack Olsen has done an incredibly fine job in gathering materials and putting them together to emphasize the growing problem in the American athletic scene.
This is an article from the July 22, 1968 issue
There is something, however, that I would like to suggest as a positive result coming from an overwhelmingly evil system. It is by no means a justification for that system.
Athletics has a afforded middle-class whites, such as myself, the opportunity to come in contact with blacks, a meeting that I might have never had without athletics. My father, Joe Lapchick, was the coach of St. John's University for 20 years and of the New York Knickerbockers for 10 years. The Knickerbockers brought one of the first two black men, Nat (Sweetwater) Clifton, into the NBA. For four of my father's last six years at St. John's there was a black captain of the basketball team.
I attended St. John's myself. It was through personal friendships with the Le-Roy Ellises, Tony Jack sons and Lloyd Doves that I was able to sec what racial brotherhood is all about. My own understanding of ghetto life began with men like these. I know that I was not alone and that many other white students who otherwise might have traveled the road of misunderstanding and racial prejudice gained immeasurably from this personal contact with blacks.
I am now executive director of PRIDE, an organization which is attempting to coordinate nationally all the local movements to get Negro history taught in the secondary schools of America. It is an attempt to allow the black man to identify with his race and to have the PRIDE in his people that he richly deserves. Many black athletes, both professionals and amateurs, are on PRIDE's advisory board. Without sports PRIDE may never have begun, not, at least, at my initiative.
As I have said, this is by no means an attempt to justify the exploitation of black athletes by American universities. That is a horrible tale of America, but one that is so necessary to be told. I congratulate Jack Olsen and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for making this important and realistic statement.
I would like to discuss your interpretation—not your conclusions—of the data you have cited in Part I: "The Cruel Deception."
First, less than 50% of all students who enter any institution of higher education complete their degree requirements in eight consecutive semesters. Secondly, if you compare black, hungry athletes with white, hungry athletes, you will find no differences in backgrounds or completion rates. I believe if you had collected data on white athletes who are also being "exploited" you would have to conclude that it is not a problem of exploiting a race, but a social class.
What is a year like for these boys? During the season there are two to two and one-half hours of hard physical contact. In the evening it is review of plays and hull sessions to release the tension that is built up when you are in the top 10 and moving toward the national championship. Everything is directed toward the one goal—win.
Classes are attended. A few try to study a minimum—and maximum—number of hours each night. If you study too late, your timing is off the next day, you can't pay attention in class, the coaches get on your back and your teammates think you may be letting down.
On weekends it's get up for the game—unwind—sleep in Sunday, watch the Browns or Giants on TV, read an assignment, answer phone calls from reporters, alumni and girls. If your parents are here for the game, you spend the weekend with them.
This is repeated for 10 weeks, preceded by three weeks of intensive training, body and mind, from September 1 till classes begin, and if you make a bowl it extends to New Year's. A few months off, then spring training. Of course, you have to keep in shape in the meantime, so it's basketball and the weights three days a week and Saturdays.
In spite of all this a few black and white athletes get an education. I don't know how they do it. The athlete should need at least five years—including mandatory, supported summer attendance—and should be tutored if necessary. The alternative to a realistic slowdown in the academic rate is abolishment of intercollegiate athletics. Something has to give.
You are right, the institution gives nothing. It only takes with a pious attitude that turns one's stomach. Keep up the series, but don't restrict your conclusions to the black athlete. There are a hell of a lot of white boys being exploited, too.
Professor of Education
University of Wisconsin
I was appalled at the realization that there are Robert Bufords in Kansas City. But I now find that Buford is just one of many black high school athletes for whom hunger and homelessness is a harsh day-to-day reality.
Your description of the work being done in Kansas City by Bill Myles inspired me to want to help. On just a teacher's salary, he is supplying these athletes with food, lodging, medical expenses and, most of all, guidance.
After several personal visits with Bill, he and I have founded the Black Athletes' Fund of Kansas City. This fund will provide high school coaches teaching in the ghetto with money so that they can help these athletes without having to reach into their own pockets. Naturally, this money will not be spent in a way to alter the amateur status of the high school athletes, but will simply help them exist with the essentials of life.
Contributions are being solicited from sports-minded Kansas Citians. Rather than asking for single donations, we are asking for monthly contributions. The problem is a continuing one—the money is constantly needed. We are looking for those who are willing to contribute as little as one dollar per month. Naturally, we are accepting single donations, but the monthly plan represents a continuing commitment on the part of an affluent society.
We hope to find summer jobs next year for many of the recipients. In addition, we eventually hope to have a tutoring program for high school graduates during their summer before college as well as a college-scholarship fund.
All this is the result of your comprehensive report on the plight of the black athlete. I thank you for opening my eyes, and I urge those who want to help to contact the Black Athletes' Fund of Kansas City, Post Office Box 7158, Kansas City, Mo. 64113.
Kansas City, Mo.
The Black Athlete series is a combination of half truths carefully selected from a group of exceptions and woven into a tale that does nothing but misrepresent the actions of collegiate athletics and attempt to destroy the individual athlete, black and white, the individual coach and the individual college throughout the nation.
If there are injustices, and there are, let Mr. Olsen direct his article toward them. Let him use the material that he has gathered to a useful and just goal. Let the American public know of the injustice and where it has taken place, but do not condemn the whole of collegiate athletics because of the actions of the few. No one will judge, nor should they judge, the entire scope of collegiate athletics because of one man's open-ended, wanton and unfounded condemnation based on carefully selected statements taken from within a minority opinion.
Due to the wide circulation of your magazine hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of people will read the article. The majority of them will believe what they read, not because it is true, because it is not, but because it was written for, and printed by, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. These people will know only one side of the whole story; that is, the side which Mr. Olsen chose to proselytize. They will not know how it really is. Mr. Olsen has written a biased article that reflects all of collegiate athletics, the athletes, coaches and the administrators, in a false light.
NEIL I. COHEN
Director of Athletics
Allegheny Community College
I was pleasantly surprised in reading the July 1 issue to find that my recreational reading was of significant value for my professional work.
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit educational organization devoted to research, publication and executive development in public affairs for government, business and other leaders in our society. As part of the institution's executive-development conference program, I conduct conferences each year for government and professional leaders on major public-policy problems. Each conference involves approximately 25 participants for a period of six to 12 days. Each participant is furnished with a set of readings on public-policy questions, which he is asked to complete before participating in the conference.
I will be interested in obtaining reprints of your series, The Black Athlete, if these are going to be available.
HARRY R. SEYMOUR
Senior Staff Member
Your articles on the black athlete are powerful, revealing and much needed. They remind me of a picture taken last fall after a Green Bay victory in Milwaukee which showed ecstatic while fans carrying on their shoulders one of the Packer Negro backs who was responsible for the win. Curiously enough, Father Groppi during this period was encountering tremendous resistance to his integration efforts in the same city. I couldn't help but feel that many of the Packer fans who were displaying this enthusiasm for the black halfback wouldn't sleep nights if they felt he might move in next door.
RICHARD H. QUIGLEY
Asbury Park, N.J.
SI and Jack Olsen are to be commended for some extremely fine reporting. It ranks as one of the best in-depth treatments of any subject that I have ever read. If the rest of the series is as significant and as well written as the first part, Mr. Olsen may be headed for a Pulitzer Prize. He certainly has my vote.
JAMES R. BOWMAN
College Heights, Ark.
I would be interested to know what year the picture of Dick Harp on page 28, July 8 was taken. I watched Harp coach at Kansas while I was in school there and even took a course taught by him.
Are you sure that the man in that picture was Dick Harp, or do you have your picture files crossed?
•We crossed files. The coach in the original picture was John Dromo of the University of Louisville.—ED.
I could not help but be impressed with the sensitivity, candor and articulate manner in which Mr. Olsen presented the case for the black athlete.
Unquestionably the best Negro athletes have within recent years been proselyted and cajoled by major university athletic departments with only one thing in mind—produce on the field, court or track. But isn't this now going on in all segments of our society—business, industry, and government—as we go through this period of agonizing reappraisal?
By the way, in the last six issues of SI not one FACE IN THE CROWD is black. Is SI prejudiced or do you lack sensitivity? I doubt it.
NATHAN EL LAMM
I, as an ex-high school football coach who helped some 15 Negro athletes get into college over a five-year period, feel frustrated and castrated by Mr. Olsen's article. Did I help these youngsters because they helped me? Probably. But is it not a start for them, an opportunity in a new environment even if it is as bleak as Mr. Olsen pictures it in his "yellow generalization"? We must overcome 100 years or more of horrible neglect. Give us a chance, we can't make progress through this type of negative sensationalism.
New Brunswick, N.J.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED—you're all heart. Or should I say soul?
H. G. HIGGINS
While I am convinced that the Negro is getting a raw deal in virtually every walk of life, I also believe this—that the unhappy condition is a direct result of the prejudices of the current generation in power. These prejudices have been handed down by our white ancestors. However, I further believe that these prejudices will terminate when my generation becomes tomorrow's adults.
I have just graduated from junior high, where I won letters in three sports every year. I have found that there is virtually no discrimination among today's junior high students. I hate to use this worn-out cliché, but Negroes are "just like anybody else." They are exceptional team members and, of course, exceptional athletes. I enjoy being in their company.
It is high time that white America realized that the black athlete has gotten out of sports what he has today only because of the hard work he has put into it. Negroes don't owe athletics anything.
Someday I hope to be as good a receiver as Bob Hayes, as good a basketball player as Bill Russell or as fine a sprinter as Tommie Smith. I hold as much—or more—respect for them as I do for our while spoils figures.
Viva Jack Olsen!