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Black History Month and Sports

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St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Curt Flood in March 1968. He was a three-time All-Star and hit .300 or better six times in his 12 full seasons. Photo: AP

February is Black History Month and there are some sports people starting with Muhammad Ali who should be remembered. Ali, the members of the 1965 American Football League All-Star team that refused to play in New Orleans following the 1964 season because of Jim Crow and Curt Flood should make the list.

Ali’s refusal to join the armed forces in 1967 was the second great statement by African-American athletes in the 1960s. It came about two years after 22 African-American football players who were denied services in New Orleans in the lead up to an all-star game. The players voted to boycott and the game was moved to Houston. New Orleans ceased being in the running for either an AFL or an NFL team.

On April 28, 1967, after refusing to join the army because he was against the Vietnam War, Ali faced a felony charge and jail. That was enough to get the New York State Athletic Commission to suspend his boxing license and the World Boxing Association to strip him of his title.  Eventually Ali would get his case heard by the Supreme Court and would win. The Supreme Court decision came after the March 1971 Ali-Frazier fight. In 1970 a judge ruled the New York State Athletic Commission was wrong to strip him of his boxing license and Ali went back to fighting.

During his exile from the ring, Ali gave anti-Vietnam War speeches. Sports columnists, politicians through their state boxing commissions and others stuck it to Ali.  

After the 1969 season, Curt Flood began his battle with baseball over the reserve clause after being traded by St. Louis to Philadelphia. John Carlos and Thommie Smith protested poverty and financial inequality during a medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The Smith-Carlos protest didn’t change anything. Those problems continue.  All of those athletes put their careers on the line for causes.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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