FROM THE ARCHIVES: Black student athletes’ fight for social justice in Sac State athletics

In+a+50-year-old+State+Hornet+story%2C+black+athletes+describe+how+it+felt+being+discriminated+against+on+a+college+basketball+team+a+year+after+the+Civil+Rights+Movement+ended.+The+athletes+compiled+a+list+of+demands%2C+which+included+the+restructuring+of+the+athletics+program+to+include+both+black+and+white+athletes+in+decision+making.
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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Black student athletes’ fight for social justice in Sac State athletics

In a 50-year-old State Hornet story, black athletes describe how it felt being discriminated against on a college basketball team a year after the Civil Rights Movement ended. The athletes compiled a list of demands, which included the restructuring of the athletics program to include both black and white athletes in decision making.

In a 50-year-old State Hornet story, black athletes describe how it felt being discriminated against on a college basketball team a year after the Civil Rights Movement ended. The athletes compiled a list of demands, which included the restructuring of the athletics program to include both black and white athletes in decision making.

File photo - The State Hornet

In a 50-year-old State Hornet story, black athletes describe how it felt being discriminated against on a college basketball team a year after the Civil Rights Movement ended. The athletes compiled a list of demands, which included the restructuring of the athletics program to include both black and white athletes in decision making.

File photo - The State Hornet

File photo - The State Hornet

In a 50-year-old State Hornet story, black athletes describe how it felt being discriminated against on a college basketball team a year after the Civil Rights Movement ended. The athletes compiled a list of demands, which included the restructuring of the athletics program to include both black and white athletes in decision making.

Milan Cabebe

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In 1969, Sacramento State basketball players voiced their grievances against the university’s athletics department at a public press conference held on campus after experiencing prejudice and discrimination while on the team.

The team was coached by Jack Heron at the time. The disagreement on his handling of the team occurred a year after he was named head basketball coach.

The athletes shared that the greatest failure of the athletics program was its lack of sensitivity to the needs and desires of the student athletes and its failure to promote their development athletically, academically and personally. For black athletes, the problem was even greater.

“The racist attitudes displayed by members of the athletic staff, no matter how unintentional they may be, are direct assaults upon the humanity of black athletes on this campus as well as black people in general,” the representatives said in their statement.

The athletes felt that Heron didn’t handle the team as a team and that he hadn’t dealt with personnel on ability, but rather on, favoritism. They also included a list of demands.

11 days before this press conference, black members of the basketball team did not show up to practice to show that they didn’t stand for how the athletics department ran the team anymore.

That same night, a meeting was called to order which included the missing athletes, Athletics Director Fred Lewis, Heron and his assistants. Following the meeting, the representatives said that it all came to a personality conflict.

“It has been presented to us as black unit that the coach neither acted on the problem nor did he feel that it was a problem,” the representatives said.

Read the entire statement in the 50-year-old State Hornet story below to better understand how these athletes felt being on a college basketball team a year after the Civil Rights Movement ended.

The State Hornet is celebrating its 70th anniversary with stories from our archives. Below is the original article by The Hornet Staff, published Nov. 21, 1969. For more throwback content, click here.


Black athletes air grievances concerning athletic program

File photo – The State Hornet
In a 50-year-old State Hornet story, black athletes describe how it felt being discriminated against on a college basketball team a year after the Civil Rights Movement ended. The athletes compiled a list of demands, which included the restructuring of the athletics program to include both black and white athletes in decision making.

Black representatives from the athletic department voiced their grievances to the news media at a press conference in the Sierra Room Wednesday morning.

Here is their statement:

With the recent publicity given to the dispute between black athletes and the athletic program (specifically the basketball program), it seems proper to us to now, for the first time, publicly state our side of this dispute.

It is important for the public to realize that our grievances with the athletic program are not personal, but rather deal with the whole structure, function, and effectiveness of the athletic program at Sacramento State College. It is clear that the athletic program of this college is and has been a dismal failure. It has failed to gain significant support from both the campus and larger Sacramento community, while at the same time a number of high schools in the area have been extremely successful in developing viable athletic programs.

The greatest failure of this program, however, has been its lack of sensitivity to the needs and desires of the student athletes and its failure to promote their development athletically, academically, and personally. For the black athlete, the problem is even greater. The racist attitudes displayed by members of the athletic staff, no matter how unintentional they may be, are direct assaults upon the humanity of black athletes on this campus as well as black people in general.

Mention has been made in the press that in our last confrontation or conflict with the athletic department, we had no demands. Let us make this point clear, that we did and do have specific grievances and demands to make upon the athletic department, but in the past black athletes were willing to deal in good faith with the athletic department. Black athletes are primarily interested in building a good athletic program, but it is clear from the actions and statements of the athletic staff that they are not concerned with the program but rather their own personal desires and prejudices.

These then are our demands:

  1. The total restructuring of the athletic program at Sacramento State College to include both black and white athletes in the decision making process of the athletic program.
  2. The immediate removal of racist members of the staff of the athletic department and their replacement with new coaches and staff members chosen jointly by athletes and staff.
  3. The immediate hiring of a significant number of black coaches in all sports at Sacramento State College.
  4. The equal treatment of black and white players.
  5. The recognition by the athletic staff that we are adult males and not little boys.
  6. The establishment of grievance procedures which will eliminate the need for us having to air our grievances to the press.

To us these demands seem to represent necessary steps toward building an effective student-oriented program. In our conversations with the athletic staff, it is clear that they are not interested in taking positive steps to improve the program and consider our demands.

Therefore, we the black athletes of the Sacramento State College basketball team, find it impossible to continue to participate in the program. We feel that coach Jack Heron has not handled the team as a team. We feel he has not dealt with personnel on a man’s ability, but on favoritism.

We have tried to bring this to the attention of not only the coach, but to Fred Lewis, director of the athletic program. We all agreed Nov. 10 that we would not go to practice to show we were not satisfied with the handling of the team. That same night, the blacks and Fred Lewis, with coach Heron and his assistants, held a meeting. The meeting came to be a personality conflict.

It has been presented to us as black unit that the coach neither acted on the problem nor did he feel that it was a problem. On Nov. 18 the State Hornet printed an interview with Jack Heron and Heron still demonstrates an attitude that’s show the only way to solve the problem is for the blacks not to play under Jack Heron.

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