Executive Summary

Integration of Sports in American Society

Racial tension in the United States grew throughout the twentieth century erupting into the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.  At the same time American interest and excitement, not to mention financial investment, in sports significantly expanded as well.  The popularity of sports and the fan following grew as viewers could watch games from in town and across the country.  For example, the NFL Championship Game in 1940 was broadcasted across the nation over the radio for the first time.  Less than forty years later, Bill Rasmussen launched ESPN, a cable network dedicated to sports that would bring us 24 hour sports coverage from Thursday night College Football games to the World Scrabble Competition.  With both of these major pieces of American culture becoming more and more important, it comes as no surprise that the two intersected and influenced one another.  In fact the integration of sports and the racial barriers broken on the field reflect the changing racial atmosphere in the nation as a whole.

The integration of white and black players from High School Football to the NBA forever impacted sports and the nation.  The growing level of competition and skill demonstrated by integrated teams served as a model to the nation that the races could work together for the betterment of everyone.  The path to change did not come naturally, but was instead forged by athletes in every sport that led the way in advocating for change.  Looking specifically at Arthur Ashe, the Black Power salute, the Celtics vs. Lakers rivalry, Jackie Robinson, Jessie Owens, Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson, Texas Western, the Redskins, and Tiger Woods, this unit will demonstrate the changing nature of race relations in sports and in the country through the actions of these individuals and events.  Each of these people or events has an individual story that, when combined, forms the history of racial change in America through sports and athletic competitions.

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