Richard Lapchick and the fight for human rights in sport




Jones, Tanya Kathleen

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The United States went through a tumultuous time during the mid-twentieth century. The Civil Rights Movement dominated the 1960s making way for a new movement to form in the 1970s. The human rights movement in the U.S. focused on the indisputable rights of African American citizens and all marginalized groups across the globe. During the 1970s, many non-governmental organizations began in the United States to pursue social justice issues. One of these groups was the American Coordinating Committee for Equality in Sport and Society (ACCESS), created by human rights activist Richard Lapchick in 1976. Lapchick created ACCESS in alliance with the anti-Apartheid movement. He believed that using sport to fight against Apartheid would play a crucial role in South African politics. While Richard Lapchick’s early work focused on the campaign to end America’s sporting participation with South Africa, he blossomed into an influential and dynamic human rights activist. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he worked with multiple human rights organizations and anti-Apartheid associations to bring attention to injustices occurring in the U.S. and South Africa. These groups sought to use sport to alleviate the issues created by South Africa’s culture of racial segregation. As the end of South Africa’s Apartheid regime appeared, Lapchick started advocating for other marginalized groups like women, LGBTQ+ members, and student-athletes. Studying Lapchick’s career provides an original contribution to sport history by examining individual activism and exploring how sport can significantly impact politics and society. Richard Lapchick needs to be recognized and remembered for the work he has done and is still doing, both in the U.S. and abroad. His commitment to human rights and the anti-Apartheid movement adds new insights into the intersections of race, sports, politics, and social movements in the United States. Examining his life not only provides an understanding of how sport has created political and social changes in the past but how activists can continue to use sport for social justice.


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