The Societal Significance of Sports
Texas Program in Sports and Media hosts scholar and civil rights activist Harry Edwards
When Tommie Smith and John Carlos received Olympic medals at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, their victory and subsequent reaction would become a key event of the Civil Rights movement. As they accepted their medals – each barefoot, wearing black gloves and the badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights – they raised their arms in the Black Power Salute.
Harry Edwards, a sociologist at San Jose State University in 1967, had organized the Olympic Project for Human Rights, which supported an Olympic boycott by African-Americans in response to civil rights inequities.
In speaking through the University of Texas at Austin College of Communication's Texas Program in Sports and Media (TPSM) in late March, Edwards hopes students will learn more about how sports, race and media have been indelibly linked.
"Hopefully, students will never look at sports in quite the same way again" Edwards said. "People think there is really nothing of societal, political, economic, educational and – if you eliminate Tim Tebow – religious significance in sports. That is incorrect. Hopefully, they will come away with a much deeper, broad-scope vision of the role of sports in modern society and the role sports plays in race relations, and then apply this knowledge to describing sports as journalists."
The first lecture took place on Wednesday, March 28 in Michael Cramer's "Sports, Media and the Integration of American Society" class.
The second lecture will take place from 9:30-11 a.m. on Thursday, March 29 in Professor Louis Harrison's "African-Americans in Sport" class in Room 104 of the George I. Sanchez Building, 1912 Speedway Ave.
The lectures are open to the public, and RSVPs to email@example.com are requested.
Edwards will speak about developments at the interface of race, sports and society in the 20th century, as well as projections for the 21st century.
"In 1904, W.E.B. DuBois said the problem of the 20th century will be the problem of the color line," Edwards said. "His vision turned out to be prophetic. The problem of the 21st century will be diversity in all of its varieties and intricacies."
One example of a 21st century problem, Edwards said, is the conflict between university athletics and academics. Although the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics predicts that top university athletics programs will have budgets exceeding $250 million by 2020, educational dollars are becoming scarcer.
Edwards also will speak about the increasing pressure to compensate student-athletes who are involved in revenue-producing sports; the public's understanding of women's sports in a historical and societal context; and the Miami Heat players' support of Trayvon Martin.
His advice for students pursuing sports and media careers is to take a variety of liberal arts courses – including courses in sociology, economics, social psychology and race and ethnic relations – to help them better understand the connections among sports, media and society.
A frequent lecturer on the relationship of African-American athletes to American culture, Edwards is a professor emeritus of sociology from the University of California at Berkeley and author of "The Revolt of the Black Athlete." He also has served as a consultant to the San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors.
Founded in 2009, TPSM addresses the confluence of sports, media and society.
Laura Byerley, (512) 471-2182