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Heroes of the Gridiron

By Dan Lebowitz October 18, 2016

In the late 1960s and in early 1970, nine Syracuse football players, later known as the Syracuse 8, a sign of structured and institutional racism in and of itself, took a stand against racial inequality. They outlined a list of injustices, protested openly in their community, and boycotted the 1970 spring practices in an attempt to achieve the following: (1) better healthcare for themselves and their teammates, (2) equal tutoring opportunities as white players, (3) merit-based, as opposed to race-based, depth charts, and (4) an end to the 72-year-old tradition of exclusively white Syracuse football coaches. Their efforts were met with considerable resistance and persecution, but these athletes risked their college and professional careers to remain on the right side of history.


Social justice and sacrifice have always been interwoven into a badge of courage that hate-seekers continually endeavor to rebrand as a scarlet letter. The gloved fists of John Carlos and Tommie Smith, the Olympic boycott of Lew Alcindor, the conscientious objection of Muhammad Ali, the vocal truths of Walter Beach, and the silent protest of Colin Kaepernick, while separated by four decades, are the voices of freedom unfulfilled and reason vilified; but they also resound the marching drum of destiny unrelenting and on its way. Social justice is compassion and passion unbridled—a force of willful humanity that has chosen to write a new chapter of perseverance with purpose rather than turn a blind eye to injustice. Its history is replete with worthy causes and admirable heroes who have sacrificed much in order to change a long-standing status quo of exclusion into an unequivocal new reality; a reality defined not by a qualified inclusion, but by a truly equal share of access and prosperity without the burdens of wrongful persecution.


In that vein, and in keeping with our 32-year history of promoting social justice and racial justice through sport, we, at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, are proud to co-host an event for these historic Syracuse athletes and heroes at The Museum of African American History in Boston, MA on Friday, October 28th.  The agenda will include an opportunity to talk with the players and hear about their new book, Leveling the Playing Field: The Story of the Syracuse 8.


History is made by those who seek a better world. Come meet them and celebrate the triumph of human selflessness and spirit through the vehicles of sport, courage, and conviction.


Doors Open at 5:00PM (EST)

  • 5:00PM- Reception
  • 6:00PM- Panel Discussion
  • 7:00PM- Book Signing

All events are complimentary.

Please click here to register for the event.

(This post was written with help from CSSS Intern Carson Wheet.)


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