Urban Confrontation; 50; Arthur Ashe: The Dilemma of the Black Athlete
From Northeastern University the National Information Network presents urban confrontation. In the corporate world if you're going to work for somebody's social contacts have a lot to do with your success. I dare say even your wife has a lot to do with your wife to keep you from making the top or your lack of social grace or style can keep you from making the time. But being from Richmond and being in the south. If I had been white I could have made the same social contacts that I have now but I could really use them. That is that they would really be useful to social contacts that I make now they're just acquaintances. They're just people that I know and say hello to but I can't really capitalize on them to the extent that it's going to help me top of some corporate ladder. This week on Herman confrontation. Arthur Ashe internationally famous tennis player a member of the United States Davis Cup team. This week's program. Arthur Ashe the dilemma of the black man. Here is your host Joseph R. Baker.
Arthur Ashe we're interviewing you today because you're a Black champion black tennis star. Rod Laver is a white tennis champion and will probably never interview him. How do you feel about being pursued for interviews by the mass media because you're an athletic star yes but also because you're a black athletic star. Mainly my objections center on the fact that only black tennis stars get asked questions about black this and black that. However last weekend at Hampton Virginia did another term and I persuaded some other newspaper reporters to go ask white tennis players the same questions ask me Have you ever noticed the tendency among reporters to sort of assume that every Afro-American who's famous is supposed to be an expert on blackness on black problems and a black spokesman. Yes that is true but I guess the essence of that feeling is that no matter what shade of blackness you are the thing that
unifies all non-whites together is the black experience. So to that extent I guess people may feel justified in in asking black questions of black stars poncho Gonzales said that your service is the best in the game. You're a hero to thousands of tennis buffs. How much differently are you treated now than the way you were treated before fame came to you. First of all the person who was joy is a degree of fame is treated differently while he's famous. You think it will last a little less until I stopped playing. That'll stop there the residual effects but they didn't last as much as say somebody who was a singer or an entertainer. The public forgets very fast and after a while they were saying what was his name. So and so star played quite a few years ago is pretty good but the name will be quite interesting on the tips of their tongues.
Tennis has been described as one of the last remaining racially segregated sports. Why is this really true. Yes it's true because of its orientation historically that being one of country clubs and tennis clubs it was the socially elite and the jet set so those people played the game and it segregated in a socio economic sense too. Yes and at the best facilities and all the accoutrements that go to make up the tennis set are centered around these clubs. Doesn't that fact make tennis if it is a rich man's sport sort of out of touch with the vast majority of Americans. Oh yes it does. Be they black or white I dare say. Participant level. Lots of people play the game but people are not really exposed to the game. At a level which would be necessary if they want to be professional players. But just to fool around. Just enjoy yourself just to have fun. Get some exercise. That is the build of the mess as
well as the socially elite. Everybody in the country plays football and you can crowd tens of thousands of people into a football stadium. Tennis is never caught on that way to go you can only get generally two to 3000 people in to see a tennis match do you think we will ever see the time when tennis will catch on as a nationally popular sport not just for the rich but for all Americans. No I really don't think so. Tennis will always be a minor sport when compared to say football basketball or baseball. I think it will enjoy some fame at the same levels as say track golf. I think it has a good chance of catching golf wait at least approximating the fame the gov has. Are you involved in any efforts to bring tennis to the ghetto both poor white and poor black ghettos. Spanish American ghettos get underprivileged children involved in the game give them a chance to play. Yes mainly it's the efforts of the National Junior Tennis League which I
think is going to be brought up here to Boston. Summer is an effort to go right to the playgrounds of the urban areas not necessarily ghettos but just the playgrounds and get teams of kids with different colored uniforms and get their rackets in the balls and play team matches against other sections of their own city. For instance rock for him a play so forth and I think this will go a long way toward breaking down some of the social barriers around the game but now I'm eating competition from the conventional Tennis Association because it flaunts its its dress rules and it's quite a bit. It's not a pretty superficial thing to challenge an enterprising social effort such as the one you describe. Yes but is this organization now involved in the superficial niceties of dress and decor.
Yes friends I only wear blue and yellow shirts of course and lots of players fishel would rather see me just wear the white one accord and my words had a factor very euphemistic go stuff and I got to do it. What's their reaction to your reaction. I don't know because they don't let their reaction really show in front of me because I'm sure that there are more played reactions around what would happen if you want a winner. If you could in a sense be challenged. But I'd be forced to take it off your winning ways make you as a black out lead someone impregnable. Well just winning ways as an athlete really is sort of a shield you from the usual brunt of blame for anything. Let's shift the questioning again. Arthur Rasch you were here in Boston involved in an enterprise and a series of tennis matches which is generally an attempt to bring tennis to the masses.
Yes. Benefit match really for the sports worst tennis club who is trying to belittle or trying to build a tennis club and Roxbury and I dare say doing very well. It's a very novel enterprise. I think leasing the land from the city of Boston for a very nominal fee and a 99 year lease or whatever it is and I think it's going to go for it. And we've been talking about the background of the people who play tennis tennis being described as primarily a rich man's game. When you first started winning in tennis you began to find yourself playing some of the finest tennis clubs in America. Yes that's true. What kind of reception did you get there socially. I always got a good reception socially although it was on the surface and there were the usual defensive feelings and attitudes of some people and there was a feeling pre-filing I should say before I got there. Well he really doesn't fit here so let's bend over backwards to be nice
to him and make him feel as though he does fit here even though he doesn't sort of self-conscious niceness. Yes but you know I realize that. The problems that they had so I see. So I went along with it. I read in a magazine before coming over to talk with you this morning read about an incident in which apparently someone mistook you for a waiter asked you to get them a drink. Is that the kind of thing in the mass media overplayed in terms of your. Yes that's only happened two three times and have been a long time but say the last five years that happened at all. But it's happened a couple times and I thought I would throw a perfectly understandable really. What makes a person's mind automatically jump to that kind of a conclusion. You know like face each example took place in a country where they figured if I were there at all I worked there I certainly wasn't a member so if I worked there. You really are a waiter or you worked in the Gulf pro shop cleaning shoes or.
Something like that. And if I was in a locker room where I was obviously you were a locker room attendant. So would you give me a glass of water or a Coke or a drink or I'll have my shit go off shoeshine clean. Was this tough to take. You're no pretty calm cool and collected Phil.. Yes but I thought this was pretty understandable. If I were white and belong to this segregated club the members being all white. If I found any blacks in my locker room I would conclude that they weren't there. They certainly weren't members because they're only black members. Does this general problem segregation prejudice etc. has it posed a big hurdle to you as you've moved into this. No only all whites you know it has been that hurdle has been an asset as far as press and so forth. I mean even if there are other players who are just as good as I am even better but they don't get nearly that I get only because
I'm black. The pressure the coverage right. Just for a moment if we were to assume that you weren't black and just from a economic point of view you don't have come from a family with as much money as the people who you now must become associated with while you're playing ball. Yeah I would. That would be completely different. If I were white I could possibly make a field that I would have a say a future in Virginia. I belong to the local country club in Virginia. You know I'm from Richmond. Yes I would be set up for life socially economically so forth. You could capitalize on the status of yes socially which goes a long way as far as your organisation man's concerned toward making the dollar right. And sure it is financial success. You seem like a terribly calm fellow. Things don't affect you and yet doesn't a gripe you just a little bit. Well you know I mean but you know that capital is you know I can capitalize on it money wise but in the corporate world if you're going to work for
somebody's social contacts have a lot to do with your success. I dare say even your wife has a lot to do with your wife to keep you from making the top or your lack of social grace or style can keep you from making the top. But I dare say that being from Richmond and being in the South if I had been white I could have made the same social contacts that I have now but I could really use them for social contacts that I make now. There are just acquaintances or just people that I know I can say hello to but I can't really capitalize on them to the extent that it's going to help me to the top of some corporate ladder or. You get my name in the Social Register of Richmond's counterpart of the Social Register or the membership and the clubs and this that and the other. It doesn't work that way because if you're black you're not going to belong to any country club. You're not going to be as they say set up in the same social circles
in Richmond. Obviously that has reorient my future away from Virginia. Kind of an experience has it been just to be a person with not very much money in a world of great money just from an economic point of view whether you're black white pink green or blue. What what kind of world is this. Oh world of tennis and affluence. If there were you read about the society pages in the newspapers that's the sort of setting. Every day we predominately. Mingle and maybe are listeners riding on their cars right now or listening in the kitchens and living rooms. Perhaps they haven't got a chance very often to read the society pages. You know you describe it only I would dare say only certain people read the society page probably. But what's it like for our listeners who may not know for our society but I think it's a very simple superficial existence although that doesn't bother me because everybody knows superficial Arab body knows they're playing a game.
Yes everybody knows it and so nobody cares and nobody minds. They're having a good time there. Obviously you have more means at their command than is necessary for a meager existence so this is a war their way to have fun with people that other people have means. There isn't too much of a conscientious effort. Conspicuous consumption so to speak. That is where people dress although I understand some of the women tennis players that you speak of. Would you buy this dress and where do you buy your shoes and then there's the usual gossip. Some of it sexist some of it not. You can be a pretty racy atmosphere at times. You ever get the impression that a lot of people playing the game are sort of bored. Oh yeah I mean I have had lots women make passes at me millions of times as do the rest of the tennis players and I'm just bored sexually bored with life in general bored with the nice cars nice homes in the world. Or is there you know sort of the trite
cliche that really you would only find a social event at these clubs but in the daytime usually everybody's busy trying to get determined to run well. So there is no hint of boredom then. But along comes Saturday night dance or whatever. And yes they look pretty bored as if sort of a deja vu feeling just I've been through this before. Why didn't somebody liven it up you know. Well what about the whole idea of spending so much time on a tournament to ward off boredom. What about the importance of tennis and for that matter many other sports in a world that has so many problems. Pardon my saying so but isn't it possibly a little irrelevant hitting a tennis ball over a net or even kicking a football over a goal post when social commentators give a rather gloomy prediction as to whether we're going to survive as a civilization. In fact everyone for sports people may have survived the day and
there's a word you say that was the most I would first of all and if it's a sport you cannot play like football or boxing or baseball or basketball and you don't play anymore. You go and you possibly ride to relive and regain your own inadequate sexual prowess by watching somebody else especially if it's a team and you can feel like you've had to cheer for your team and it's a game that you do play like tennis or golf or swimming. You make good to come out to a tennis match or watch Arnold Palmer and television just to see what you can do to improve your game. If you took this idea of yours to a national level would this be a justification for international tennis matches or soccer matches or what have you that if the nations keep all their aggressions on the soccer field or on the tennis court and don't carry them over into war these mock sports bottles could be sort of a bloodless way of letting off steam.
Or is that just a little NO much. No I think that's very true monks. Some hot blooded countries like the Latin American countries take us out of the game Brazil of a few have been killed. The referees have been killed in soccer games in Brazil because they get very emotional about the games. I would say that that applies to sever the quote unquote more civilized countries of the world like the US or England although there brightening the old time especially with their football. Well let's depart from that line of questioning Althea Gibson was the first prominent black female tennis player. What impact do you think she has had on tennis. Well the shock of seeing a black woman out there. In White playing against white with white lines I don't know why. Yes perhaps with a shock that she was a tremendous athlete. I dare say she really she wanted to pick some other sports you would have excelled at that also. Do you think White seeing white tennis player defeated by Althea Gibson has an
effect on white people. What effect do you think it might be. It was certainly has an effect on black people. They come out to see Alfie or beat whoever she's playing. They want to see her you know and her opponent as I do myself except in team managers say Oh when I was in school in college and I happened to play against my old black and I'm just playing a tennis term that I know are probably the only black there are any black hats in the crowd obviously is pulling for me no matter who I'm playing this is rather understandable isn't I mean given your country right. There aren't many blacks in tennis. What kind of an impact do you think as the in the number one I guess the only black tennis player male. What impact do you think you've had on tennis and on the athletic world. White and black. Oh I don't think the impact has been that great to people sports not so to speak. It's just kind of Abyssinia later that quote unquote of black players would play the game and probably right some level of excellence
playing it. But my biggest impact so far has been the possibility is there ever going to be kicked out of the Davis Cup all because of me. How has that come about. Well I just tried it out I just I couldn't play the termit down there so I said well if I can play you can play to the country so to speak. What did you mean by that I think. Well the non-time his audience might like some elaboration also Africa plays the Davis Cup. That's probably a common name to your listeners and I don't think they should play Davis Cup because they're a country of about 15 million blacks and about 3 million whites. And only the whites allowed to play the game allowed to play Davis Cup and their Davis Cup too obviously does not truly represent the population of South Africa. That's the first rule that they violate a very general way. The second thing is that if they did they would hold racially segregated trials.
And thirdly I as a member of the international body called International Tennis Federation. I am allowed to play any any term of that sort anywhere in the world. They hold tournaments. I said I could not play. The government would not issue movies. So if I can't play I don't think. Qualified to play the Davis Cup or the international federation so I dare say that there's a possibility that they may be kicked out of both. Let's shift the question again. Arthur Ashe Perhaps we should tell our audience who may have just tuned in around the country that we're talking with Arthur Ashe an internationally renowned black tennis star. And we're talking about the impact of black athletes on athletics in general. And let's talk a little bit more about this impact of black athletes become sort of the hero figure. Do they not. Yes there are figures too. OK.
No matter what their code psychologists believe that television programs such as mob squad in the Bill Cosby Show and others are very significant in preventing racism because the heroes are black men but the children are both white and black who identify with these black men know how important you think black heroes are to our society at this time in our history. I think they're important but a couple of things come into the thinking there one is that on television youngsters in early age begin to realize that TV is a make believe world too. They realize that. They get used to seeing black faces and in that quote unquote normal situations normal life situations. However the crunch comes when there is no parallel real life situation to actually involve themselves in. That is if they don't have a black teacher like Room 222 or if they don't have a
black playmate like you your son or. They don't know any CIA agent like Bill Cosby or. I don't know. Maybe they don't have any kids black kids to see and converse with like Sesame Street if their life experience personally does not closely parallel that which they see on television. They still think it's make believe. Especially if their parents are quote liberal in thought but conservative and practice doesn't make any difference at all. I think it's only applies if you can match that to life experience and the TV experience. This is a tremendous disappointment for the child who finds nothing in real life to match the television experience then. Yes but the biggest disappointment is that if in the end he finds his parents are not what they said they are. The distinction between the ideal and the reality yes. Yes I think not only must parents practice what they preach but it is imperative that it is a must that their child or children
see them put into practice what they preach. They must live the experience of these teachings. I'm sure the audience listening to this program contains many black athletes who are proud of their race. But perhaps a little unsure of themselves as they start out into the world of big time and big glamour sports what pitfalls would you warn them about to watch out for. Football's what you've come upon. Perhaps you'd like to have them profit from your experience. If I were talking to a young blacks I would have to warn them really because they stand for war and anyway just the black experience enough to know that people are people no matter what walk of life you may be in. I mean I hear the phrase it. Sports and Entertainment have been good to the black man so to speak but that doesn't really make any sense because sports composed the same people that run everything else in the name of money of sports.
Money has no respect for black athletes has made them immune to the no prejudice no it doesn't it makes you able to run away from it if you want to or to sort of glide over it but it's still there. If you want to find it but the end then again I say it runs a whole spectrum. There are a lot of very honest well-meaning people in sports as well as another common example would you personally like to sub for young black athletes growing up not only tennis players but football players other sports other black athletes. I don't think I can really do that. I've heard that question lots of times I would rather not try to set an example which these kids would good conscientiously trying to follow. I think each must sort of grow for himself. I think he'd be better off in the end if he used his own wiles. I mean for guidance I would just say Try to be as adaptable as possible. But don't you have a style though of your own little unique charisma.
That's the exact reason I don't want to try to transplant my charisma or my style to somebody else. I mean he may not like it. It's much more fun setting your own style. How would you describe that style. Reporters say you're icy cool on the court you don't be trained to what you write. I'm pretty Actually I am pretty cold cool to people I don't know especially reporters like me you know well known not so much you because you're taping this. But reporters are writing feverish deadlines to meet their right anything and the public is so gullible. The American public I think is the most gullible in the world they'll believe anything just put in the paper in black and white it is true. This is one of the advantages we have with these tape recorded programs where you have to push as much for the deadline and we can go in a little bit more depth I want to go into a little bit more depth on this question because when a white man loses his temper in a tennis match no one says well all white
men are like that all white men are hot heads. Jackie Robinson found as I won the first black baseball player he held his temper for years while I played baseball avoid having black athletes tagged as hot heads. Your demeanor as you agree is described as icy cool. Why why are you so calm on the court as some of us drive know it this is very simple I was taught to play this way 15 years ago. My teacher thought for survive many terrace and play it in teachers I did not want me to in the turn of it and they would look for an excuse not to invite me next year. So he says you must develop this wall around yourself so theyll have no excuse to kick you out. Just after that the feeling still persists today. I mean even this way off the court which is bad sometimes but that again has nothing to do better right now to an interview with a fellow who not only is a successful tennis player a star a black star but also is obviously a man who was frankness and honesty about his way of carrying himself through this
world. White black pig or green a good man. Thank you Arthur rush. Runs Eastern University has brought you Arthur Ashe internationally famous tennis player and. A member of the U.S. Davis Cup team. Today's program. Arthur Ashe the dilemma of the black man. The views and opinions expressed on the preceding program were not necessarily those of Northeastern University or this station. Questions asked where the moderators method. Of presenting many sides of today's topic. Your program host has been the Joseph fire behavior Director Department of radio production. This week's program was produced by Stephen Friedman directed by Robert emmel the technical supervision by Jeffrey Feldman. Urban confrontation is produced for the division of instructional communications at the nation's largest private university.
Northeastern University. Requests for a tape recorded copy of any program in this series may be addressed to urban confrontation. Northeastern University Boston Massachusetts home to one of your own I'm sorry Dave Hammer. This is the national educational radio network.
- Urban Confrontation
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- Urban Confrontation is an analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century man in the American city, covering issues such as campus riots, assassinations, the internal disintegration of cities, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. Produced for the Office of Educational Resources at the Communications Center of the nations largest private university, Northeastern University.
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Producing Organization: Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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- APA: Urban Confrontation; 50; Arthur Ashe: The Dilemma of the Black Athlete. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-v698bm4q