Martin Luther King: Sports Fan and Playground Athlete
It’s a big weekend in the sports world, with four NFL playoff games the marquee events, and we’re no doubt going to be reminded, in game telecast after game telecast, that it’s also a big weekend for the world at large — three days big, with Monday being Martin Luther King Day.
But that’s not the only connection between sports and Dr. King.
A year ago at this time I read a fascinating piece at AOL FanHouse by Terence Moore that has stayed with me. It delved into what Moore called the “hidden” side of MLK, which is an accurate description because while I’ve read a lot about King over the years, I did not know this: that he was a lifelong athlete and sports fan. The story relies heavily on the remembrances of Andrew Young, a friend and associate of King’s who went on to be mayor of Atlanta, a Congressman and US ambassador to the United Nations.
Here’s Young on the reverend as a basketball player: “Martin was small, but he always wanted to play under the basket. He was very quick, and he could shoot with either hand, and so he had a lot of quick moves. He could fake you to the left or to the right, because he could dribble with either hand. He also had a little fallaway jump shot, which for somebody his size — it was always successful, because it was such a surprise.”
On King’s favorite participatory sport: “We all liked sports, Martin and the rest of us, because you had to when you grew up in Atlanta on Auburn Avenue. He was good at sports. I mean, he could run, and he could shoot pool. Anything you learned at the YMCA, he did very well. But the one sport that was the family sport for all of us was swimming. Herman Russell [a local Atlanta entrepreneur] had a pool at his house, and after Martin got a little too well known, we’d go over to Herman’s house and swim in his pool.”
On MLK’s use of sports to further his civil right case at a 1961 demonstration in Albany, Ga.: “We realized that Jackie Robinson was from Cairo, Ga., which was in the next county over from Albany, and there were some churches burned down there. So Martin called Jackie , and he came down to visit us, and he also came with us to St. Augustine, Fla. That was very significant. See, you have to remember that the three people who sort of defined our sports life were Jesse Owens, Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson, and most of the guys in the movement, well, we were all huge into sports.”
Terence Moore, the former Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist, really scored with this piece. It gave us a glimpse of the everyman inside one of the great cultural figures of our time. For me, it also served as a reminder that it was on the sports field that I first glimpsed the realization of the “dream” Rev. King spoke of. The sports world has its annoyingly lingering racial issues, no question, but it’s always been the area where King’s ideals have best been put into practice — better than in the business world, the political arena, the arts, the culture in general. So I’ll be thinking about Rev. King all weekend long as the games unfold. You will, too, if you watch this:
Follow Sports Pulse on Twitter
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook