Sports, the Most Progressive Force in America
MAY 1, 2014
In the capital of the old Confederacy, Richmond, Va., on a boulevard of elegantly aged homes and muscle-limbed trees, stands a string of large statues honoring a nation that enshrined human bondage in its founding document. Generals and politicians, these heroes of the Civil War South are well known.
At one end of Monument Avenue is a more recent addition — the statue of the tennis great Arthur Ashe. It is no small irony that Ashe would be property, with fewer rights than a horse, were he to live in his hometown under Article One of the Confederate Constitution. The South, its rebel founders made clear in 1861, would forever be a slaveholders’ republic. “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in Negro slaves shall be passed,” it states.
It’s a tribute to Richmond, in the face of much contention, that an African-American athlete is on the same street as Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. But it’s also a tribute to sports, and shows — as the swift censure of a racist billionaire basketball owner does — that if you want to find racial progress in America, look to the games we play. ...
Muhammad Ali, with a mouth as quick as his jab, forced a conversation about pride and prejudice that went far beyond the boxing ring.
Here is video of the sainted Muhammad Ali holding a conversation about pride and prejudice and how Joe Frazier is a gorilla:
And football’s Richard Sherman, of the Seattle Seahawks, had his Ali moment last season, flushing out people who use “thug” as a code word for something more derisive, as the Stanford graduate noted.
Most strikingly, look how white Southern men came together to stand up for the rights of Jameis Winston when some white person was so impertinent as to accuse him of rape. (And how the national media has paid almost zero attention to reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis getting nabbed shoplifting this week.) We've definitely made a lot of progress since the days of To Kill a Mockingbird!