Symposium on Race in Sports
Sports are supposed to be fun. But they also involve some difficult issues -- including race, which indeed is still an issue in U.S. society. For most people race is not an easy issue to discuss, or to face. This semester, under the leadership of professor of sport management and media Ellen Staurowsky, IC hosted a forum to do both.
First African Americans in Professional Sports
1875: Oliver Lewis wins the first Kentucky Derby.
1896: John M. Shippen Jr. plays in the second U.S. Open championship at Shinnecock Hills, the golf course he helped to construct.
1902: Charles W. Follis begins playing football for the Shelby Athletic Club, a pre-NFL team.
1940: Jimmy McDaniel, Negro national champion, plays for the American Tennis Association.
1947: Legendary player Jackie Robinson is transferred from the Negro Leagues to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
1950: Althea Gibson begins her professional career at the U.S. Nationals.
1950: Chuck Cooper is drafted by the Boston Celtics.
1958: Willie O'Ree plays his first game for the NHL's Boston Bruins.
1963: Wimbledon winner Althea Gibson turns from tennis to the LPGA tour.
Information courtesy of the African American Registry, www.ourgolf.com, and www.africanamericans.com.
The two-day event, titled "From Jack Johnson to Marion Jones: Gains Made, Struggles Remain for African Americans in Sport," featured 20 workshops led by Ithaca College professors and experts from around the country.
Seminar topics ranged from racial issues in college sports to the hiring practices of the National Football League. Featured keynote speaker Wendy Hilliard also discussed her experiences as the first African American to compete on the U.S. Rhythmic Gymnastics national team.
The program was funded by the President's New Initiatives Fund for events and programs initiated by staff and faculty that support the College's ideas and goals. Staurowsky says the forum is in keeping with the College's mission, and it was exciting for the campus to host respected scholars on the subject. "Race issues are so important within sports issues," Staurowsky says. "It just made sense to have extended dialogue with experts from around the country."
Amanda Cobb '05 attended the symposium as part of Staurowsky's one-credit course African Americans in Sport. She says that several of the sessions intrigued her, including a presentation by C. Keith Harrison of Arizona State University in which Harrison explained an integrated academic, athletic, and entertainment program that he cocreated, which rewards athletes for keeping their GPA above 3.0. Cobb said she learned a lot from each session and did some extracurricular research on some of the topics covered at the symposium. "It was a once-in-a-student's-lifetime opportunity," Cobb says.
Although Staurowsky says the event was a learning experience for all involved, she believes the final session left the biggest impression. The four-person panel "Conversation about the State of Race and Sport in the United States" gave the audience a chance to ask questions about race and sport without fear of dismissal or retribution. Discussion topics ranged from the difficulty of being in the minority in a mostly white environment to personal stories of racism in the workplace.
Staurowsky hopes to create a similar event on a smaller scale for next year. "There were some of the most candid discussions on race that we've ever had on this campus," she said. "It was very powerful."