By: Gordon Rupert
Framingham State University men’s basketball coach Bill Raynor spoke about the impact of black athletes on American society during his talk, “Beyond Sports,” on Feb. 20.
He explained his own history with black people in sports, remembering a time when the only black people on his three-channel TV were athletes.
He said, “Whoever was watching TV would yell and we would all come running over because you never saw a black person on TV.”
Raynor mentioned several prominent black figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, and spoke about their impacts on the world of sports, with MLK’s contributions to minority rights being remembered on Twitter by numerous modern athletes during the week of his remembrance. Raynor said while Mandela was in prison, he recognized the importance of sports bringing people together, and applied the idea with the South Africa rugby team.
During the talk, Raynor brought up several black athletes who had a positive impact on society, ranging from Jesse Owens to Muhammad Ali, what they meant to him personally, and how they were able to break new strides in how black people view and are viewed in different sports.
He spoke about Tiger Woods.
“When I was a kid you never hear of a black man playing golf. Now, you’ve got all these brothers out here playing,” he said.
Raynor recalled when he met John Carlos, famous for winning the bronze medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Summer Olympics and infamous for his black power salute with Tommie Smith when standing on the winners’ podium.
Raynor talked about how important the meeting was for him, saying while they only slotted five minutes to talk, they ended up spending over two hours in his office.
Raynor looked for his phone while joking to the audience, “I have his number. We should call him and see if he answers.”
Raynor discussed his disappointment with the media following Colin Kaepernick’s NFL controversies regarding kneeling during the national anthem. He read several poems, the first about Raynor’s own experiences in the late 1970’s with police shootings of young, unarmed, black men.
During the reading of Andrew Freborg’s poem, “I stand so you can kneel,” Raynor had a white man stand in front of the audience and a black Framingham State basketball player who kneeled next to him.
Raynor is a published author with two books of poetry – “Poetry In Motion: The meaning of Sports in Everyday Life,’’ and “Reflections.”
Raynor spoke about one of his personal heroes, who he called one of his greatest inspirations, Wilma Rudolf.
Rudolf was a professional sprinter who became the first woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics game. She broke several records to become, as Raynor put it, “The fastest woman in the world.”
While her achievements were legendary, Raynor said the true inspiration from Rudolf was the fact the she had to overcome scarlet fever and polio, which left her in a leg brace until she was 12.
Raynor emphasized his personal admiration for each athlete mentioned, and how sports manage to break down the importance of race.
Raynor quoted an old military expression: “I don’t see color in my players. You aren’t black. You aren’t white. Everyone’s green.”