The KU School of Business, the Langston Hughes Center and KU Athletics hosted “The Power of Sport: A Conversation on Business, Race and Sports” last week at the University of Kansas.
The event featured a panel discussion with former KU student-athletes, including former KU women’s basketball and WNBA player Tamecka Dixon, and former KU track athlete and Olympic gold medalist, Billy Mills. Shawn Alexander, associate professor and graduate director of African & African-American studies and director of the Langston Hughes Center moderated the discussion.
Following the panel discussion, sports sociologist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, Harry Edwards delivered the keynote address to a crowded ballroom in the Kansas Union. Edwards has consulted on diversity issues for the MLB, NBA and NFL. He is the author of numerous articles and four books focusing on issues of race and sports.
The event’s organizer, Shawn Alexander, anticipated the conversation would attract strong interest from the KU community.
“Sport is a microcosm of society that allows us to talk about many issues, including corporate power, race, gender, homophobia, urban planning, health and labor,” Alexander said. “For the past two years, KU has been at the forefront of this discussion with its annual symposium.”
Last year’s event, featuring The Nation’s sports editor and author Dave Zirin, was live streamed by the KU Alumni Association, and the video can be watched here or on the Association’s YouTube channel. New York Times sports columnist and author William Rhoden delivered the inaugural keynote address in 2015.
This year’s event was co-sponsored by the KU Alumni Association, the Office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the K Club and the KU departments of African & African-American Studies; Health, Sport and Exercise Sciences; Sociology; and Political Science.
The event was free but registrations filled up quickly. A full rebroadcast of the event is available below and at kualumni.org/powerofsport. It can also be viewed on the Association’s YouTube channel. Alumni can follow the discussion on Twitter by searching the hashtag #KUracesports.
KU alumnus and Olympic Gold medalist Billy Mills will be honored at Native American Heritage Night with the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, Jan. 21. The Kings, featuring former KU standout Ben McLemore, take on the Brooklyn Nets, the home of Jayhawk legend Paul Pierce.
Special group pricing is available for the game: $25 for upper-level tickets and $54 for lower-level seats, a discount of up to 40% off regular prices. The first 300 fans will receive a Kings T-shirt.
Mills was the subject of the most recent cover story in Kansas Alumni magazine. Read an excerpt of the feature, written by Steven Hill, below.
A 26-year-old Marine Corps lieutenant and three-time All-American climbed aboard a shuttle bus in the Olympic Village in Tokyo, Japan. He was a relative unknown at the games, a dark-horse distance runner whom most track-and-field pundits gave zero chance of winning the day’s event, the 10,000-meter run. So when he sat down beside a young athlete from Poland, it was no surprise that she’d never heard of him.
“She asked me what event I was in, and I told her,” he recalls. “And then she asks, ‘Who do you think will win?’”
Fifty years later he can laugh—a deep, generous laugh that says, can you believe it?—but at the time the question unnerved him. “You don’t ask people that,” he says, grinning. As he sat in silence, the young woman pressed on, thrilled by the potential drama of the 6.2-mile race. Would it be Australian Ron Clarke, the world record holder, she wondered breathlessly, or Russian Pyotr Bolotnikov, the defending champion?
“Now she’s giving me a choice,” he says, “a choice that doesn’t include me!”
So he smiled his easy smile and said, very quietly, “I’m going to win.”
“And who are you?”
Running on cinders beneath the National Stadium lights later that rain-darkened afternoon of Oct. 14, 1964, the young Marine came from third place to blow past Clarke and Mohamed Gammoudi of Tunisia in the final 30 meters; Dick Bank, color commentator on the CBS race telecast, cut off play-by-play man Bud Palmer, who seemed oblivious to the unfolding spectacle, and screamed “Look at Mills! Look at Mills!” The runner felt the tape break across his chest and thrust both hands high before dropping them to cover his face, stunned that he’d just pulled off what many still consider one of the greatest Olympic upsets ever. When a race official grabbed him and asked, “Who are you?” Mills felt a moment of panic, fearing he’d miscounted. “Do I still have a lap to go?” he asked.
“No, no,” came the response. “Finished. Olympic champion.”
We begin this holiday season with gratitude for the continuing loyalty and support of our members. Membership dues have helped us expand the KU family this year to include 114 networks across the state, nation and around the world, and we have exciting changes in store for 2015.
Our annual color calendar full of memorable campus photos, along with the 80-page issue No. 6, 2014, of Kansas Alumni magazine and the Alumni Association’s annual report for fiscal year 2014 has been mailed to members.
The latest issue of Kansas Alumni includes a feature on Billy Mills, d’62, the “man with wings on his feet.” Fifty years after chasing his dream to Olympic gold, he has spent the decades since helping Indian youth find their own road to fulfillment.
Other features include an in-depth article about the University community’s search for lasting improvements after allegations from a 2013 sexual assault case caused anger across campus, and a profile on Los Angeles artist Kiel Johnson, f’98, who crafts a unique blend of mixed-media art.
Please look for Kansas Alumni among the holiday catalogs that spill out of your mailbox! Members can also read the full magazine online. Not a member? Consider joining today, or read a free preview article from this issue of the magazine.