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.
Last month, author Dave Zirin visited KU to deliver a keynote address for “The Power of Sport: A Conversation on Business, Race and Sports,” presented by the KU School of Business, the Langston Hughes Center and Kansas Athletics. The event, co-sponsored by the KU Alumni Association and streamed live for alumni, included an unfiltered discussion of race at the intersection of big-time college athletics.
In his no-holds-barred talk, Zirin, who is sports editor for The Nation magazine, tackled challenges involving racism, sexism and the exploitation of collegiate athletes, an issue that he cautioned has grown out of control. He argued that the NCAA may be nearing a breaking point.
“If we don’t get student athletes at the table, there is the risk of the entire system collapsing,” he told the audience.
During his talk at the Kansas Union, he also gushed about KU. Referring to his visit as a pilgrimage, Zirin was impressed not only by Allen Fieldhouse but also by his tour of the academic support facilities. He confessed to the crowd, “I actually do believe that Kansas is special, and I’m not just saying that because I’m here.”
“There is something else about Kansas, which I witnessed first hand. …I saw something that I have never seen at other big-time state basketball schools: utter engagement of the athletes with the academic and campus life.”
Zirin suggests that, by virtue of its reputation as a basketball superpower, Kansas has an obligation to help lead efforts to reform college athletics.
“As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and Kansas has a responsibility to not only feel content about what they are doing in Lawrence but to challenge the NCAA to fundamentally reform.”
Other than Kansas, he wrote, “one would be hard pressed to think of a major institution that has the credibility to stand up to the NCAA and be heard.”
On Feb. 18, the KU Alumni Association co-sponsored “The Power of Sport: A Conversation on Business, Race and Sports,” presented by the KU School of Business, the Langston Hughes Center and Kansas Athletics. The second annual event featured a panel discussion with former KU student-athletes Ernie Shelby, f’59, Lisa Braddy, ’92, and Wayne Simien, c’05, moderated by Shawn Leigh Alexander of the Langston Hughes Center. Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine, provided the keynote address.
Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the event held in the Kansas Union ballroom, and alumni all across the country watched the conversation streamed live online at kualumni.org/powerofsport. Several current Jayhawk student-athletes were spotted in the audience, including the entire KU men’s basketball team. The evening’s conversation spilled over onto social media, as #KUracesports became a trending topic in the area on Twitter.
The entire event is available to watch below or on YouTube. The KU Alumni Association was proud to partner with the KU departments of African & African-American Studies; Health, Sport & Exercise Sciences and K Club in supporting this important KU event.
The event begins at the 13:05 mark with a welcome from Dr. Sheahon Zenger, KU director of athletics. –David Johnston