Jesse Owens Berlin boycott?

Nebuchadnezzar

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Should Jesse Owens have boycotted the 1936 Berlin Olympics?

I have very little interest in sport. I know very little of Jesse Owens. However, last night, out of utter Covid boredom, surfing the channels I came across Race on RTE 2. This biopic of Jesse Owen’s life was a very unexpectedly worthwhile couple of hours.

Briefly, Owens amazing success in winning 4 Olympic goals destroyed the Nazi ambition to use the event to showcase Aryan supremacy. Reading about those events this morning it seems that the film was generally faithful to the facts. Whilst portraying in full his and America’s triumphs over German racism it also clearly shows how badly Owens was treated in America because of the colour of his skin. One particular scene in the film shows how Owens and his wife were refused entry at the main entrance to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NY. This for a dinner function that was held in his honour. Himself and his wife had to enter the hotel via the service entrance.

However, beyond the fascinating events portrayed in the film, myself and family pondered whether he should ever have gone to the Olympics? In similar circumstances today I think it would have been very probable that such an athlete would boycott such an event. It seems that there calls for Owens to boycott. His stunning success and the subsequent disruption of the Nazis propagandistic hopes gives a certain amount of justification for his participation but I’m not sure that provided a valid moral justification at that time prior to the event.

Interested to hear what those more familiar with his life think.
 


Glenshane4

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Should Jesse Owens have boycotted the 1936 Berlin Olympics?

I have very little interest in sport. I know very little of Jesse Owens. However, last night, out of utter Covid boredom, surfing the channels I came across Race on RTE 2. This biopic of Jesse Owen’s life was a very unexpectedly worthwhile couple of hours.

Briefly, Owens amazing success in winning 4 Olympic goals destroyed the Nazi ambition to use the event to showcase Aryan supremacy. Reading about those events this morning it seems that the film was generally faithful to the facts. Whilst portraying in full his and America’s triumphs over German racism it also clearly shows how badly Owens was treated in America because of the colour of his skin. One particular scene in the film shows how Owens and his wife were refused entry at the main entrance to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NY. This for a dinner function that was held in his honour. Himself and his wife had to enter the hotel via the service entrance.

However, beyond the fascinating events portrayed in the film, myself and family pondered whether he should ever have gone to the Olympics? In similar circumstances today I think it would have been very probable that such an athlete would boycott such an event. It seems that there calls for Owens to boycott. His stunning success and the subsequent disruption of the Nazis propagandistic hopes gives a certain amount of justification for his participation but I’m not sure that provided a valid moral justification at that time prior to the event.

Interested to hear what those more familiar with his life think.
Is there any evidence that Sports boycotts can force a government to reform? Is there any evidence that external pressure, other than military pressure or economic pressure, can force reforms on any State?
 

ruman

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Should Jesse Owens have boycotted the 1936 Berlin Olympics?

I have very little interest in sport. I know very little of Jesse Owens. However, last night, out of utter Covid boredom, surfing the channels I came across Race on RTE 2. This biopic of Jesse Owen’s life was a very unexpectedly worthwhile couple of hours.

Briefly, Owens amazing success in winning 4 Olympic goals destroyed the Nazi ambition to use the event to showcase Aryan supremacy. Reading about those events this morning it seems that the film was generally faithful to the facts. Whilst portraying in full his and America’s triumphs over German racism it also clearly shows how badly Owens was treated in America because of the colour of his skin. One particular scene in the film shows how Owens and his wife were refused entry at the main entrance to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NY. This for a dinner function that was held in his honour. Himself and his wife had to enter the hotel via the service entrance.

However, beyond the fascinating events portrayed in the film, myself and family pondered whether he should ever have gone to the Olympics? In similar circumstances today I think it would have been very probable that such an athlete would boycott such an event. It seems that there calls for Owens to boycott. His stunning success and the subsequent disruption of the Nazis propagandistic hopes gives a certain amount of justification for his participation but I’m not sure that provided a valid moral justification at that time prior to the event.

Interested to hear what those more familiar with his life think.
The true horror of the Nazis wasnt evident at stage we can be experts in hindsight.

Its unfair in my view to put this decision on individual athletes. The athletics federation should make the call to participate or not
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Is there any evidence that Sports boycotts can force a government to reform? Is there any evidence that external pressure, other than military pressure or economic pressure, can force reforms on any State?
I don’t know really. I thought the boycotts of South Africa sporting events was significant part of the campaign against Apartheid?
 

owedtojoy

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Is there any evidence that Sports boycotts can force a government to reform? Is there any evidence that external pressure, other than military pressure or economic pressure, can force reforms on any State?
I believe the boycott of South African rugby and the dearth of international matches and tours really forced white South Africans to confront the unpalatable fact that Aprtrheid made them global pariahs.
 

toughbutfair

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Today’s athletes dedicate their lives to their sport and if you miss the olympics you mightn’t get another chance. No way they’d boycott an olympics.

Also, re Owens , after the 1968 olympics he didn’t give support to the two black guys on the podium who made their black power protest.
 

owedtojoy

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Should Jesse Owens have boycotted the 1936 Berlin Olympics?

I have very little interest in sport. I know very little of Jesse Owens. However, last night, out of utter Covid boredom, surfing the channels I came across Race on RTE 2. This biopic of Jesse Owen’s life was a very unexpectedly worthwhile couple of hours.

Briefly, Owens amazing success in winning 4 Olympic goals destroyed the Nazi ambition to use the event to showcase Aryan supremacy. Reading about those events this morning it seems that the film was generally faithful to the facts. Whilst portraying in full his and America’s triumphs over German racism it also clearly shows how badly Owens was treated in America because of the colour of his skin. One particular scene in the film shows how Owens and his wife were refused entry at the main entrance to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NY. This for a dinner function that was held in his honour. Himself and his wife had to enter the hotel via the service entrance.

However, beyond the fascinating events portrayed in the film, myself and family pondered whether he should ever have gone to the Olympics? In similar circumstances today I think it would have been very probable that such an athlete would boycott such an event. It seems that there calls for Owens to boycott. His stunning success and the subsequent disruption of the Nazis propagandistic hopes gives a certain amount of justification for his participation but I’m not sure that provided a valid moral justification at that time prior to the event.

Interested to hear what those more familiar with his life think.
Off-topic, but ...

The Guardian have a good piece today on Richard Seaman, a British Grand Prix driver who won the German Grand Prix in 1938. Driving for Mercedes, and surrounded by Germans, Seaman felt obliged to give a flaccid Nazi salute.

 

owedtojoy

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Three months before the above, the English soccer team also gave the Nazi salute at a match in Germany.

The Nazis exploited these occasions ruthlessly. The British Legion were induced to similarly bring a tour of veterans to Germany that was used by Goebbels to convince Germans that the Nazis had widespread international acceptability. In a way, he was right.
 

wombat

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I don’t know really. I thought the boycotts of South Africa sporting events was significant part of the campaign against Apartheid?
There can be no comparison between the Nazis and any other dictatorship, not even Stalin or Mao can be compared in modern times, maybe Robespierre, although I doubt it?
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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The true horror of the Nazis wasnt evident at stage we can be experts in hindsight.

Its unfair in my view to put this decision on individual athletes. The athletics federation should make the call to participate or not
Yes but the deeply racist nature of Nazi ideology was clear enough. It was clearly of a different order from that of America. Interesting that the issue of American participation was a very contentious one at the time. The Amateur Athletic Union voted narrowly, 58 vs 55, to go ahead. One of the strongest proponents of a boycott was Jeremiah Titus Mahoney, the Irish American president of the Union. He resigned when the results of the vote to participate were announced.
 

owedtojoy

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Should Jesse Owens have boycotted the 1936 Berlin Olympics?

I have very little interest in sport. I know very little of Jesse Owens. However, last night, out of utter Covid boredom, surfing the channels I came across Race on RTE 2. This biopic of Jesse Owen’s life was a very unexpectedly worthwhile couple of hours.

Briefly, Owens amazing success in winning 4 Olympic goals destroyed the Nazi ambition to use the event to showcase Aryan supremacy. Reading about those events this morning it seems that the film was generally faithful to the facts. Whilst portraying in full his and America’s triumphs over German racism it also clearly shows how badly Owens was treated in America because of the colour of his skin. One particular scene in the film shows how Owens and his wife were refused entry at the main entrance to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NY. This for a dinner function that was held in his honour. Himself and his wife had to enter the hotel via the service entrance.

However, beyond the fascinating events portrayed in the film, myself and family pondered whether he should ever have gone to the Olympics? In similar circumstances today I think it would have been very probable that such an athlete would boycott such an event. It seems that there calls for Owens to boycott. His stunning success and the subsequent disruption of the Nazis propagandistic hopes gives a certain amount of justification for his participation but I’m not sure that provided a valid moral justification at that time prior to the event.

Interested to hear what those more familiar with his life think.
Today, yes. Then? Hard to judge.

It was important for Owens to show a black man's prowess. If he had not gone, he would not have gained any kudos from American racists. They would have derided him as a chicken.

It might have been the implications for his own country that made Owens travel.

These issues really came to a head after the German Max Schmeling defeated Joe Louis for the World Heavyweight Boxing Title in 1936,. A black American became the upholder of American national honour, and the champion of democracy against Nazism. Many racists refused to accept that.

 

wombat

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Yes but the deeply racist nature of Nazi ideology was clear enough. It was clearly of a different order from that of America. Interesting that the issue of American participation was a very contentious one at the time. The Amateur Athletic Union voted narrowly, 58 vs 55, to go ahead. One of the strongest proponents of a boycott was Jeremiah Titus Mahoney, the Irish American president of the Union.
At the time, there was huge prejudice against black athletes, one of the more interesting stories is of James Braddock - Cinderella Man movie - who agreed to fight Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship - he lost and Louis became part of sporting history while Braddock worked in construction.
 

james toney

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There was also a cultural and academic boycott of South Africa.....while the divestment boycott also played a part in ending Apartheid.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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At the time, there was huge prejudice against black athletes, one of the more interesting stories is of James Braddock - Cinderella Man movie - who agreed to fight Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship - he lost and Louis became part of sporting history while Braddock worked in construction.
Jesse Owens seems to have struggled for many years after 1936. Various casual menial jobs such as petrol pump attendant.

“People say that it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do? I had four gold medals, but you can't eat four gold medals.”
 

james toney

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Today’s athletes dedicate their lives to their sport and if you miss the olympics you mightn’t get another chance. No way they’d boycott an olympics.

Also, re Owens , after the 1968 olympics he didn’t give support to the two black guys on the podium who made their black power protest.
Sadly Owens was used as a patsy and was gullible enough to be persuaded by the US olympics committee to try and talk Tommy Smith and John Carlos out of giving their salute in 1968.

Smith recalls what Owens said to them....
'If you guys demonstrate or do anything that would tend to be perceived as embarrassing the United States or the United States Olympic team, you won't be able to get a job when you get back home' and I think it was Carlos who stood up and said...
'Jesse, what are you talking about? I can't get a job now.' It was the kind of thing that he was almost oppressed into and I think that ultimately he regretted."
 

wombat

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Jesse Owens seems to have struggled for many years after 1936. Various casual menial jobs such as petrol pump attendant.

“People say that it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do? I had four gold medals, but you can't eat four gold medals.”
Athletes were badly treated until relatively recently. There was a great Kenyan runner called Henry Rono? who died a penniless alcaholic in the U.S. A British journalist investigated his story - after athletes started to get paid, the custom was that the prizemoney was administered by the national athletic associations so the runners got nothing. As far as he could tell, Rono got one purse at a meeting in England where the organisers, knowing of the corruption, paid him in cash. I hate the Olympics.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Sadly Owens was used as a patsy and was gullible enough to be persuaded by the US olympics committee to try and talk Tommy Smith and John Carlos out of giving their salute in 1968.

Smith recalls what Owens said to them....
'If you guys demonstrate or do anything that would tend to be perceived as embarrassing the United States or the United States Olympic team, you won't be able to get a job when you get back home' and I think it was Carlos who stood up and said...
'Jesse, what are you talking about? I can't get a job now.' It was the kind of thing that he was almost oppressed into and I think that ultimately he regretted."
He seems to have changed his mind a couple of years later....writing in 1972.....

“I realized now that militancy in the best sense of the word was the only answer where the black man was concerned, that any black man who wasn't a militant in 1970 was either blind or a coward.”



 

stopdoingstuff

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He seems to have changed his mind a couple of years later....writing in 1972.....

“I realized now that militancy in the best sense of the word was the only answer where the black man was concerned, that any black man who wasn't a militant in 1970 was either blind or a coward.”
I knew about his earlier errors but what I read just now really makes me respect him so much more. People rarely admit that they were incorrect about something.
 

rainmaker

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Is there any evidence that Sports boycotts can force a government to reform? Is there any evidence that external pressure, other than military pressure or economic pressure, can force reforms on any State?
It certainly contributed with apartheid era South Africa.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Today, yes. Then? Hard to judge.

It was important for Owens to show a black man's prowess. If he had not gone, he would not have gained any kudos from American racists. They would have derided him as a chicken.

It might have been the implications for his own country that made Owens travel.

These issues really came to a head after the German Max Schmeling defeated Joe Louis for the World Heavyweight Boxing Title in 1936,. A black American became the upholder of American national honour, and the champion of democracy against Nazism. Many racists refused to accept that.

Last nights film had a scene that referenced that Lewis vs Schmeling fight.

Schmeling was an interesting character...A proud German who disagreed with Nazi racial claims of superiority, “I am a fighter, not a politician. I am no superman in any way.” He refused to replace his Jewish coach, Joe Jacobs. He gave refuge in his house to two Jewish boys on the night of Kristalnacht.

Another example of ‘a good German’ of that time is that of Jesse Owens rival, Luz Long. He was the first to congratulate him after his long jump win, posing for photographs together and walking arm in arm to the dressing rooms whilst under the glare of Adolf Hitler. The story of Long’s life thereafter is particularly poignant. He corresponded with Owens and in last letter, written during the war and with premonition of his death, he asked Owens to contact his sons after the war and to tell his then infant sons about their father and “what times were like when we were not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”

During the war Luz Long was conscripted to the Luftwaffe. As a victim of the Biscari Massacre war crime, he was captured and then murdered by American troops in Sicily in 1943.

Biscari massacre - Wikipedia

One of Luz Long’s two children died in 1944(cause ?). His surviving son Kai became good friends with Jesse Owens and Owens was his best man at his wedding.
 


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