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Black Sports Activism: Olympic Project for Human Rights

Harry Edwards created the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) in 1967. This group was founded to oppose racial inequality in sporting activities and the general society. During the 1960s, many institutions used sports to portray racial balance by sponsoring black students with good track or field records. However, the black students were discriminated against, banned from participating in extracurricular student groups, and excluded from decent and equal housing. It was such challenges that inspired the formation of the OPHR.

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To fight against institutional racism and other inequalities experienced by the black community in America, the OPHR championed black athletes to desist from participating in the Mexico-City Olympics, which were to be held in 1968. The group called for the resignation of Avery Brundage from the International Olympic Committee and the reinstatement of Muhammad Ali’s title. It also advocated for the recruitment of many black people as assistant trainers and the termination of apartheid rule in Rhodesia and South Africa.

Although the boycott was unproductive, Peter Norman, John Carlos, and Tommie Smith represented the OPHR in making a statement against racism. Smith and Carlos were blacks, while Norman was an Australian. After being declared Olympic winners in the 200-meter race, the sprinters wore OPHR badges at the coronation. Carlos and Smith raised their fist to represent black power; they were also shoeless and had black scarfs and beads on their necks. All these actions symbolized the oppression of the black community in America. As a result, they were disqualified from ever participating in international sports.

The protest was critical to all African-Americans because it exposed the severity of racism in America on an international platform. It showed the resolve of the black people to counter racial and economic inequality, which were prevalent in the country. The activism still matters because racism is rampant, and the black community continues to be targeted and profiled, resulting in massive deaths, particularly due to police brutality. Therefore, when sports-based activism is combined with other social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, more awareness against racism is created not only in the country but globally. For instance, in 2020, the NBA and WBNA players joined the public to protest against the murder of George Floyd. Therefore, black activism has been fundamental in reducing institutional racism and the mistreatment of African-Americans’ rights in the larger society.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Black Sports Activism: Olympic Project for Human Rights." December 18, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/black-sports-activism-olympic-project-for-human-rights/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Black Sports Activism: Olympic Project for Human Rights'. 18 December.

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