Sports often mirror the world’s current state of affairs. It can show just how powerful teamwork can be and bring people together for a common goal. And there’s one thing for sure, sports weren’t always an integrated as they are now. To celebrate some of the bravest and most talented athletes to ever compete, CASSIUS rounded some of the most important athletes to break the color barrier in their respective sport and change the game forever.
The NFL may currently be full of successful Black athletes, but back in 1923 that wasn’t the case–even more so in college football. Jack trice was the second Black athlete to ever compete in college football at a major university. During a game against the University of Minnesota, he suffered a hemorrhaged lung and internal bleeding and passed away on October 6, 1923. He is the namesake for Jack Trice Stadium, Iowa State’s football team plays.
Jackie Robinson is known for being an amazing football player, but also for making history. He broke the baseball color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Instead of being relegated to the Negro League, Robinson would instead make history in the MLB. He was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949—the first black player to do so. And Robinson played in six World Series.
The name proceeds him. The track and field star is perhaps the most famous runner of all time, but few know the many amazing running feats he was able to accomplish. Known as the Buckeye Bullet, he lived up to the name as he broke and set three world records and tied another, all in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was also known as the man who won gold medals at the Olympic games that Hitler attended, he proved who was really superior.
At the height of the Jim Crowe era, Jack Johnson showed why he was a true winner. Johnson’s race was always an issue because he was one of the best boxers in the early 1900s when he was known for being a defensive boxer and waited for his opponents to tire out before he would attack. He was a boxing legend especially with his 1910 fight against James J. Jeffries dubbed the “fight of the century.”
“Eleven in a row, Bill Russell rings,” rapped JAY-Z alongside Kanye West in 2011. Reminding the world about just how much hardware Russell took home during his 13-year career. Who else was about to win 11 Larry O’Brien trophies during such a short amount of time? To cement his legendary status, even more, he became the first Black head coach of an NBA team as he was at the helm of the Boston Celtics from 1966 to ’69.