Black History Month: Black Athletes Who Changed Sports

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Black athletes can now take part in the same sports as their white counterparts without derision, but this wasn’t always the case. In years gone by Black athletes were looked down upon or taunted by their opponents and the public but the following athletes made huge changes to sport.

In 1910 the world was shaken when Jack Johnson became the first Black Heavyweight Boxing Champion after defeating white boxer James J. Jeffries. Prior to the match Jeffries launched a racial slur at Johnson and stated that White boxers were better, before being downed in the 15th round.

Jesse Owens and the Nazi Olympic Games are two phrases that create a brilliant story of one man’s victory in a sea of racists. Owens clinched 4 gold medals in a version of the games that was intended to prove that white athletes were supreme.

Golf was one of the hardest sports for Black athletes to break into but Charlie Sifford smashed his way into the sport. Despite being the target of death threats and blatant hostility he went on to play in more than 400 golfing tournaments.

Venus and Serena Williams are two of the biggest names in tennis but Althea Gibson was the one that paved the way for them. She was at her peak in 1956, when she became the first Black athlete to win a Grand Slam title.

Wilma Rudolph not only received a backlash for her race, she also received negative press as a female track and field athlete. She inspired hundreds of women, Black and White, to become stars in the sport.

There are few people on the face of the earth who don’t know the name Muhammad Ali but many assume that his size and talent made him immune to race tensions. Not only was he perceived as inferior to White boxers, he was also mocked for his conversion to Islam.

Tiger Woods is arguably one of the biggest names in golf and he has inspired a generation of players, young and old. His fame even inspired a series of games that were previously known as the PGA Tour Golf Series. Now, the rebranded Tiger Woods PGA Tour games are available on a variety of games, thanks to his partnership with EA Games. Nowadays, Golf is very popular game and there even golf bingo cards, maybe in the next coming year will see golf bingo games in newest sites that offer this kind of games.

John Carlos was a member of the 1968 Olympic medal winning track and field team but he used his time on the podium for something special. He and his teammate took the media’s attention to the racial issues they faced with a Black power salute on live TV.

No Black man has ever won Wimbledon aside from Arthur Ashe and he used his fame to speak as an advocate. He spoke for Black rights and HIV awareness before his death from AIDS in 1993.

Nowadays the NFL is filled with Black athletes but one of the first was Frederick “Fritz” Pollard. He faced down almost unbeatable odds to also become the first head coach of an NFL team.

Jim Brown was a football star who is believed to be one of the best stars of the sport. He retired at the age of 30 but continued to be active in the African American community to improve the standing of Black athletes as well as working with underprivileged children.


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