Racism was apparent in all aspects of culture in 1947, even in federal laws, but Jackie Robinson defied that by playing professional baseball. Today he is seen as a civil rights hero who was one of the greatest ever to play baseball. In fact his jersey number, 42, is retired from baseball and he has his own holiday. Robinson single-handedly began the integration of professional sports.
At the time when JFK was elected on a pro-civil rights platform the NFL's only segragated team was located in the nation's capital. For the first time in history the federal government attempted to intervene in a professional sports team and try to desegragate them. The government did so by threatening Marshall (the team's owner) to hire black players or face federal reprocusions, and they would also be evicted from the District of Columbia Stadium.
Jackie played his first professional game for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, and Ebbets Field. Both Rickey and Robinson knew that Jackie was going to face harsh racist acts so Rickey made him promise that if you want to play for me you must not fight back to racists. From the very beginning of his career Robinson faced a lot of racism even from his own teammates, they even started a petition to not allow him to play on their team. If that wasn't enough, him and his family constantly recieved threats for their own safety if he continued to play a "white man's game."
American baseball did not begin with the banning of blacks. In fact before the new century, more than thirty Negroes were on professional rosters. Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first black to become professional in 1883. Soon signs became noticable that the racial barrier was tightening. Such as when two white players refused to sit for a team photo with a black player. Quickly things changed and by 1888 only four or five black players remained in the professional league.
Surprisingly, segregation is still evident in today's sports culture. Although it is no were near what is used to be and there's no federal laws against minorities, it is still constructed in social barriers. In fact, there are only four well-known African American lacrosse players and Kyle Harrison is one of them who has battled many stereotypes just to play in the National Lacrosse League. His struggles examplify the continueing segregation still evident today, even though it's on a smaller scale.
Unlike Jackie Robinson who had to break the color barrier solo, Earl Lloyd, Nat Clifton, and Chuck Cooper were the first African Americans to play in the NBA at the beginning of the 1950 season. Lloyd has been quoted to say that his situation was no were near as hard as Robinson's was because basketball was already integrated at the collegient level and his own teammates were not against him. Lloyd wasn't allowed to stay or eat at the same hotels as his teammates were. These three men aren't household names because there's not one man credited solely for the first African American to play in the NBA since they all began at the beginning of the season.
By 1961 the Washington Redskins were the only team that was all-white out of the 14 teams in the league. Weird enough they had the worst record that year of 5-30 as well. George Marshall was the owner at the time and he stated that he would add blacks to his roster when the Globetrotters started hiring white players.
Robinson began playing professional baseball in 1944 after he was discharged from the army. He began his career playing in the Negro Leagues since the sport was segragated. The president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, knew that Jackie was something special, not only physically but mentally. Which is why he chose Robinson to begin the integration of baseball.
Roberto Clemente believed that he was as good as the president of the United States. This mindset led him to become a leader in a period of major social change in the 50's and 60's. During this time blacks and hispanics strived harder for equality. His pride in his Puerto Rican heritage led others to hold their heads high as well even as they fought for respect off the field.
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