San Jose State Creates Institute on Sports, Social Change

Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown voted for Hillary Clinton, but that didn’t stop him from meeting with Donald Trump.

“I’m an American citizen, I voted for Hillary Clinton, and we lost,” Brown said. “Why wouldn’t I meet with him?”

Bridge building was an important theme Tuesday, as Brown and a collection of sports legends convened at Hammer Theatre as part of a San Jose State University event to announce the creation of the Institution for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change. Speaking on a star-studded panel moderated by SJSU alumnus Dr. Harry Edwards, Brown was joined on stage by Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, former 49ers Anquan Boldin and Takeo Spikes, five-time NBA all-star Chris Webber, and Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith.

In an earlier panel, Smith—a SJSU alumnus who won the 100 meters at the 1968 Olympics and changed the world by raising a black-gloved fist in protest during the National Anthem—was joined on stage by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ann Killion, retired U.S. Women’s soccer player Danielle Slaton, editor-in-chief of ESPN blog The Undefeated Kevin Merida, and Marc Spears, a senior writer for The Undefeated.

The first panel of the day was moderated by Jocelyn Benson, CEO of Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a partner to the new Institute, and conversation centered around the power of social media and the challenges athletes face when taking public political stances.

“There will always be challenges after you take a stand, but the people taking the first steps are paving the way for the next set of activists,” Smith said. The track and civil rights legend also stressed the importance of non-athletes using whatever platformthey possess to have their voice heard. “Professors, bus drivers, garbage disposal people, you got to rise, too!”

The theme of the event, “Words to Action,” will be the focus of the new institute's work, and few people in sports could claim to have lived their life by this creed more than Dr. Edwards, who founded the Olympic Project for Human Rights that led to Smith and John Carlos’ bold political statement in 1968. Edwards has been a mentor to athletes going on five decades, including 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and his work has sparked conversations about sending the right message to youngsters who idolize star athletes, as well as how to make the jump from protest to progress.

“The first thing is to take the lessons of the older generation and bringing them to places to discuss like this,” said Boldin, who in 2015 received the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his public service.

Panelists debated whether college athletes should be paid—almost all agreed they should—and discussed the way the NCAA uses college athletes’ bodies with little regard for their long-term health, while raking in millions on endorsements and television deals.

“When you go to college you are suppose to get an education,” Brown said. “We are allowing the system to intersect (business) with education.”

Webber noted how flawed the NCAA’s recruitment system has become, as athletes are being courted by coaches and scouts by the time they just entering their teens.

SJSU’s new institute will be home to further debates on these and other topics that come into contact with sports, and Smith hoped it will be a groundbreaking trend for other schools around the country. More athletes are using their notoriety and social media platforms to voice their thoughts, he said, making the new institution both timely and relevant in the current political climate.

Edwards capped off the event by encouraging people to be a force for positive change by encouraging youth to get informed and speak up.

“We need to tell our young ones to dream with their eyes open,” Edwards said.


  1. I think the SJSU Chief Diversity Officer needs to look into the SJSU Institute of Sports and Social Change.

    Diversity check list:
    A. Racial diversity. Maybe not.
    B. Gender diversity. Ummm.
    C. Political diversity. Well, Jim Brown DID say a nice thing about Trump (before he voted for Hillary, along with everyone else.)

    Progressives have absolutely no sense of irony.

    • Actually, there were 3 women on the first panel. One was biracial and the other two were white. So, please, DO SOME RESEARCH before you spout off. It’s just embarrassing for you… talk about irony.

      • > Actually, there were 3 women on the first panel. One was biracial and the other two were white.

        You can’t count the whites. Whites are not diverse.

  2. “… Smith—a SJSU alumnus who won the 100 meters at the 1968 Olympics and changed the world by raising a black-gloved fist in protest during the National Anthem…”

    Changed the world? Two clowns, who between them couldn’t muster up enough brain power to remember to bring two pairs of gloves to their self-centered little stunt (so they could both raise gloved right hands), changed nothing except the notion that the gift of a college education (not to mention the chance at fame and glory) might ever be sufficiently appreciated. Of course, as the decades have proven, nothing given is ever appreciated, which is why we need to put an end to the giving.

    • You do realize they were wearing the gloves of the 3rd man on the podium. The white man gave one glove to each of the other men in his own act of solidarity. And they are raising different fists because one guy got the left glove while the other got the right. Have you done ANY research before spouting off? Maybe if you could muster up enough brain power to GOOGLE it, you wouldn’t embarrass yourself.

      • Actually, they did share Smith’s gloves but Norman (the Australian) suggested they each wear one on opposite hands. And he wore a human rights button to stand in solidarity. You not understanding the significance of that act as Hitler stood and watched, is why we MUST teach history in our schools. It was a world-changing event at the time. Your small mind can’t change that fact.

        • In your first post you criticized me for ignorantly spouting off, then you followed it up minutes later correcting yourself. In other words, I was right that a pair of gloves was forgotten (something I read in an interview with one of these clowns) and you were wrong.

          And your reference to Hitler makes me wonder about your sanity.

    • I’f I was black, athletically talented had their money, and they had a feather up their butts we’d all be ticked pink!
      Abuse of athletes is no worse that 40 years in skilled trades or being a cop or a soldier accept no one gives a rats
      ass about the common man.

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