Friday, March 15, 2013

“Game of Change”: Breaking the Racial Barrier in American Collegiate Sports

Racial Discrimination | Los Angeles Laywers

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There have been many instances in American history where the racial barrier was broken in many facets of life. One of these facets is in the realm of athletics, particularly in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

In fact, one of the memorable moments in the tournaments’ history happened exactly 50 years ago that defied the segregation sentiments of the nation. It was the matchup between the Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers and the Mississippi State University Bulldogs (then called the Maroons), in what was to be called the “game of change.”

It was during March Madness 1963 when the college athletics was marred with politics, especially with all the segregation between African-Americans and whites. During those times, collegiate basketball was still predominantly white. Many teams that time only had two to three black players on their rosters. Loyola had four in their starting lineup.

The tournament kicked in with the Ramblers beating an opening round opponent, paving way to their matchup with the then-called Maroons. But then, due to the segregation issue, many felt the two teams shouldn’t go up against each other. In fact, the Maroon’s center Bobby Shows was even aware of an unwritten law in which “no college basketball team from Mississippi would ever play against blacks.”

To add fuel to the fire, then-state governor Ross Barnett, a known segregationist, issued an injunction that would stop the Maroons from going to East Lansing, Michigan, where the game was to be held. Fortunately, the state university’s president, Dean Colvard, along with the coaches, team manager Jimmy Wise, and the players decided to leave before they could be served with the injunction.

The game was held March 15, 1963. Before the opening tip, the two team captains, Joe Dan Gold of the Maroons and Jerry Harkness of the Ramblers, walked to midcourt and shook hands. It was a pivotal moment not only in the world of collegiate sports, but also in the world of sports. For Harkness, “it was more than just a game. This was history being made.”

The game ended with the Ramblers winning over the Maroons 61-51. The former went on to win the 1963 national championship. Meanwhile, the Maroons won the consolation game and went home to a cheering crowd of fans.

Indeed, the “Game of Change” helped signal the end of the segregation policy during the troubled period in American history. From then on, collegiate teams fully integrated African-American players into their athletics programs, totally destroying the racial barrier in the country.

For many Los Angeles employment lawyers, these are one of the moments in American history which inspired others to stand up for their rights and also paved the way to equal opportunity not only in sports, but also in many other facets of life.


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