Author urges sports, politics connection

Nate Ulrich

Zirin speaks to students at M.A.C. Center

Dave Zirin, award-winning author and journalist, spoke last evening in the M.A.C. Center. Zirin’s book, What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States addresses issues of politics in sports. JESSICA NAPLES | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

The connection between sports and politics is often overlooked, but Dave Zirin was on a mission last night to bring that relationship to the forefront.

Zirin, columnist for SLAM Magazine and the author of What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States, spoke to students last night in the M.A.C. Center.

Zirin said the mainstream media waters down the political significance Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson had. Zirin said he wants to put the edge back in their voices.

“Right now there’s a double-barreled blast at Ali’s legacy,” Zirin said. “He’s being portrayed as a harmless icon. George W. Bush called him ‘a wonderful man of peace.’ I tried to write about the Ali who was so polarizing, so dangerous to the powers of this country.”

Ali defied an all-American image with one foot in the black resistance movement and the other in the anti-war protest, Zirin said.

Zirin said there is a myth that Robinson quietly endured racism as the first player in professional baseball.

“He was somebody who in the 1950s was a barnstorming speaker,” Zirin said. “He was the most-requested civil rights speaker by the NAACP. There is a gap between what we’re taught and what actually happened.”

The speech made Tracie Masek, higher education and administration graduate student, think about the differences between perception and reality.

“I think a lot of points that he made were very relevant to things outside of sports,” Masek said.

Zirin said the relationship between sports and politics is a living history.

“You don’t hear about Etan Thomas, the starting power forward for the Washington Wizards, who spoke at the anti-war protests in Washington, D.C.,” Zirin said. “It’s alive when Sheryl Swoopes came out of the closet because she said she was tired of living a lie. I mean, this is probably the most important black woman in America to come out of the closet, and it was barely a blip on the sports page.”

Zirin said Ali’s true legacy is the one that needs to be acknowledged.

“It’s a memory that we can’t throw away as if it’s politically insignificant,” Zirin said.

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Nate Ulrich at [email protected].