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International Journal of the History of Sports. Henderson. 'Crossing the Line: Sport and the Limits of Civil Rights Protest'

International Journal of the History of Sports. Henderson. 'Crossing the Line: Sport and the Limits of Civil Rights Protest'

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Published by Stokely1979
Scholars have ably considered the extent to which sport has been, and continues to be, a
force for racial progress. What has been less comprehensively explored, however, are the
unique difficulties encountered by athletes who have attempted to use sport to promote
civil rights activism. Black athletes, and sympathetic white teammates, have faced
considerable obstacles as sportsmen who supported the civil rights struggle. Sport has
restricted the ability of sportsmen to successfully engage in civil rights activism. In the
belief that it has provided an example of racial progress for the rest of society, in fact,
sport has resisted the civil rights movement. This article explores the difficulties faced by
athletes who attempted to be part of that movement.
Scholars have ably considered the extent to which sport has been, and continues to be, a
force for racial progress. What has been less comprehensively explored, however, are the
unique difficulties encountered by athletes who have attempted to use sport to promote
civil rights activism. Black athletes, and sympathetic white teammates, have faced
considerable obstacles as sportsmen who supported the civil rights struggle. Sport has
restricted the ability of sportsmen to successfully engage in civil rights activism. In the
belief that it has provided an example of racial progress for the rest of society, in fact,
sport has resisted the civil rights movement. This article explores the difficulties faced by
athletes who attempted to be part of that movement.

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Published by: Stokely1979 on Aug 22, 2010
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09/30/2010

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[Liverpool John Moores University] 
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Routledge 
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
International Journal of the History of Sport
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713672545
Crossing the Line: Sport and the Limits of Civil Rights Protest
Simon Henderson
aa
Co. Durham.,Online Publication Date: 01 January 2009
To cite this Article
Henderson, Simon(2009)'Crossing the Line: Sport and the Limits of Civil Rights Protest',International Journal of theHistory of Sport,26:1,101 — 121
To link to this Article: DOI:
10.1080/09523360802500576
URL:
Full terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
 
Crossing the Line: Sport and the Limitsof Civil Rights Protest
Simon Henderson
Scholars have ably considered the extent to which sport has been, and continues to be, a force for racial progress. What has been less comprehensively explored, however, are theunique difficulties encountered by athletes who have attempted to use sport to promotecivil rights activism. Black athletes, and sympathetic white teammates, have faced considerable obstacles as sportsmen who supported the civil rights struggle. Sport hasrestricted the ability of sportsmen to successfully engage in civil rights activism. In thebelief that it has provided an example of racial progress for the rest of society, in fact,sport has resisted the civil rights movement. This article explores the difficulties faced by athletes who attempted to be part of that movement.
Scholars have ably debated the extent to which sport has provided – and continues toprovide – a force for racial progress. What have been less comprehensively explored,however, are the unique difficulties encountered by athletes who attempted to usesport to promote civil rights activism. Black athletes and sympathetic whiteteammates – faced considerable obstacles when using their position as sportsmen tosupport the civil rights struggle. Particularly instructive were the problems faced by athletes who supported racial justice in the 1960s and who lived in the midst of arevolutionary struggle for civil rights in wider society. The same sporting creed thatpreached the ideal of racial equality on the playing field worked to restrict the ability of sportsmen to successfully engage in civil rights activism. Believing that it providedan example of racial progress for the rest of society, the sporting world resisted thecivil rights movement. In some important respects, therefore, the sporting arenaactually lagged behind the civil rights movement which was affecting wider society.This article seeks to explore this dynamic by focusing on the reactions to racialprotests surrounding the Olympic Games of 1968 and on the college campus in thelate 1960s.
Simon Henderson, Oakenshaw, Co. Durham. Correspondence to: sihen79@hotmail.com
The International Journal of the History of Sport Vol. 26, No. 1, January 2009, 101–121
ISSN 0952-3367 (print)/ISSN 1743-9035 (online)
Ó
2009 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/09523360802500576
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ Li v e r p o ol  J oh n  M o o r e s  U ni v e r si t y]  A t : 14 :41 22  F eb r u a r y 2009
 
The perception of sport as a force for social progress is heavily ingrained inAmerican culture: ‘By 1920, most Americans thought that organized sports providedthe social glue for a nation of diverse classes, regions, ethnic groups and competingpolitical loyalties.’ Following the onset of the Cold War, sport became increasingly politicized and was used as a ‘way for Americans to reassure themselves about theirdestiny and project their values on a global scale’. [1] It was important that sport onthe international stage could be used to show the superiority of American democracy in competition with the Soviet Communist system. Beyond the integration of American sports and the end of the Cold War, the popular perception of sport as apositive racial force remained. A 1996 poll conducted for
US News and World Report 
revealed that 91 per cent of Americans believed that participation in sports helpedpeople ‘get along’ with different racial groups. [2]This idealized view of sports as a positive racial force has, however, been attacked.Harry Edwards, the sociology professor who provided the most vocal expression of ablack athletic revolt in the late 1960s, argues against the notion of sport as a wholly positive force for racial progress. Edwards asserts:
America had a headlock on the black community, and on the white community,which essentially amounted to this mythology that blacks had made it in athletics,that it was the one area where it was not the colour of your skin or the status insociety, but only how well you played the game [that mattered]. [3]
The reality was and continues to be more complex than the ideal. In his controversialwork 
Darwin’s Athletes
, John Hoberman argues that a ‘sports fixation damages black children by discouraging academic achievement in favour of physical self-expression,which is widely considered a racial trait’. Hoberman strongly attacks the romanticizedview of sport as a force for positive racial progress, and instead argues that sport hasbeen detrimental to black America. He does concede that integrated sportingcompetition can promote better race relations, although adding that the social benefitscan be ‘transitory and difficult to confirm’. Hoberman goes on to assert that‘optimistic and unexamined assumptions about the effects of integrated sport havealways encouraged the idea that the sports world is a kind of racial utopia’. [4]Hartmann argues that sport and race inhabit a ‘contested racial terrain’. He assertsthat the sporting world represents ‘a social site where racial images, ideologies, andinequalities are constructed, transformed, and constantly struggled over rather than aplace where they are reconciled or reproduced one way or the other’. [5] DouglasKellner refers to this phenomenon as a ‘double-edged sword’. Focusing specifically onMichael Jordan, he argues that sport can be used as an arena from which to project apositive image of blackness, while also serving to perpetuate negative racialstereotypes associated with blackness. Jordan was viewed as a positive black symbol,a role model for young people who transcended race and integration in Americansociety. Consistently, however, his blackness is overemphasized and has been citedas a determining factor in his gambling and in his alleged links with organizedcrime. [6]
102
S. Henderson
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ Li v e r p o ol  J oh n  M o o r e s  U ni v e r si t y]  A t : 14 :41 22  F eb r u a r y 2009

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