Sports Illustrated, July 1, 1968 "The Black Athlete"

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Sports Illustrated, July 1, 1968 "The Black Athlete"


Black Athletes and Racial Commentary featured in Sports Illustrated in 1968.


Sports Illustrated from July 1, 1968 included featured content about Black athletes, called "The Black athlete: A Shameful Story." The July 1 issue was the first installment of a five-part series by Jack Olsen. Part 1 is titles "The Cruel Deception" and investigates the notion that sports is the most progressive national arena for positive race relations and opportunity for black youth. Olsen uncovers the many fallacies of this concept by exploring the realm collegiate athletics, and the social, academic, and cultural struggles that arise as black youth matriculate into PWI to play sports. To this end, Olsen interviews sociologists, black community leaders, coaches, ADs, and many athletes, themselves. Olsen editorializes, as well, arguing his point that the idea of racial harmony in sports is a myth. The essay covers racial tension, but is notably geared specifically towards white readers. The piece is an example of the ways Sports Illustrated used athletics as a vantage point from which to examine and discuss race with a white audience in the late 1960s. This collection includes Olsen's essay itself, as well as the advertisements that accompanied the piece.


Katherine Brown


Sports Illustrated


Time Inc.








Sports Magazine

Collection Items

"The Black Athlete" SI Cover July 1, 1968
This SI cover page features art depicting a young black man running towards a hurdle that resembles a road blockade. The background is a close-up of the man's face, his obstacle reflected in dark black sunglasses. The title reads "The Black…

“The Black Athlete” Prologue, page 12. SI 7/1/1968<br /><br />
The prologue to the Black Athlete cover story introduces the story, which probes whether or no sport is “one of the few areas of American society in which the Negro has found opportunity.” The introduction promises to complicate this notion, and…

“The Black Athlete” page 15, SI 7/1/1968<br /><br />
This page opens Part 1 of Jack Olsen’s five-part series on the ‘black athlete’, and it is titled “The Cruel Deception.” Olsen begins the piece by addressing the persistent story of racial opportunity in sports, citing the oft-used phrase “look what…

&quot;The Black Athlete&quot; page 16, SI 7/1/1968
On this page, Olsen engages the topic of black collegiate athletes, where he begins to reveal the “cruel deception” of racial opportunity in sports. Olsen traces the path of a black person recruited to a university to play high-level sports. He…

“The Black Athlete” page 18, SI 7/1/1968<br /><br />
On this page, Olsen turns his attention to the other part of the cruel deception: the false promise of success and social uplift that sports provides to black youth. Olsen notes the fall-out from this “meaningless dream” is the emergence of a “new…

&quot;The Black Athlete&quot; page 19, SI 7/1/1968
Olsen turns to the specific cases of Don Smith and Elvin Hayes to illustrate the troubling experiences that black athletes face which are unknown to the white fans they play for. Olsen calls this “a wall of ignorance and unfounded suppositions” which…

&quot;The Black Athlete&quot; page 20, SI 7/1/1968
Don Smith’s account of his youth finished with his recollection of being beaten by police officers, smoking marijuana, and spending time in jail. Olsen then switches back into his primary reporting on Smith’s tenure at Iowa State, but this page…

“The Black Athlete” page 21, SI 7/1/1968<br /><br />
After establishing the reverence that Hayes’ commanded at the University of Houston, Olsen documents the instant change in the attitude of white Houston residents when Elvin Hayes’ signed with a Sand Diego pro team, rather than the Houston Mavericks.…

“The Black Athlete” page 22, SI 7/1/1968<br /><br />
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Olsen continues to cover the story of Elvin Hayes’, particularly his path to basketball stardom. Hayes’ recalls being less academically successful than his five older siblings, who all had college degrees and excelled in school. Hayes’ remembers…

“The Black Athlete” page 24, SI 7/1/1968<br /><br />
Olsen resumes his overview of the experience and disadvantages of black collegiate athletes compared to their white counterparts, beginning with a discussion of education in many poorer black communities. Olsen challenges the stereotypes that white…
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