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CAS Trail Blazers host lecture on ‘Sports an Politics’

TAMPA, Fla. -- Modern science has revealed through research that it is very difficult to learn on an empty stomach. The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Florida embraces this truth as they continue their 30-year-old tradition of feeding the minds and bodies of alumni and community leaders at its Trail Blazers lecture series.

Last month, the Trail Blazers lecture series invited Abraham Kahn, Ph.D. as their guest speaker at the University Club.

Kahn is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication with a joint appointment in the Department of Africana Studies. Kahn is also the author of “Curt Flood in the Media: Baseball, Race and the Demise of the Activist Athlete.”

At the Trail Blazers event, Kahn lectured on “Sports and Politics: The Tradition and Today.” Alongside delicious Mediterranean chicken, spinach and mashed potatoes, guest received knowledge from Kahn as he lectured on the dynamics of the activist athlete. Guests consumed information about the historical tradition of American athletes participating in politics and their status today.

Kahn began his lecture with the iconic image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two African-American athletes, holding their fists in the air at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics after the men’s 200 meter sprint. The speaker explained the symbolism of the orchestrated image from Smith and Carlos’ hand gestures to their attire.

“It is perhaps the most iconic image in the history of sports,” Kahn said. “This images is significant as it comprises the American athlete interest in the political stage.”

During his lecture, Kahn explained the instrumental actions taken by athletes historically. His lecture reminisced in the nostalgia of great athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Curt Flood, Muhammad Ali and more. “Jackie Robison’s life was the testament to the truth of integration, its social truth, its economic truth and its moral truth,” Kahn said.

According to Kahn, athletes like Robinson were experienced. They searched for solidarity, embraced risk and utilized poetry to convey their political beliefs unlike contemporary activist athletes today.

Kahn noted recent events such as the Miami Heat’s 2012 political statement through a team photo in which players wore hoodies to protest against the shooting of Trayvon Martin. This image, alongside thousands of other similar images, circulated social media for months.

Kahn expressed appreciation for contemporary athletes’ participation in politics. While referencing the Miami Heat’s photo, Kahn noted the difference between historical and contemporary athletes’ participation in activism.

“You see it but it doesn’t stick,” Kahn said. “It enchants but it does not grab hold of you.” The guest speaker argued that contemporary athletes like the Miami Heat are taking subtle strides in realm of athlete activism.

“The Miami Heat lead from behind,” Kahn said. “They followed popular sentiment. They didn’t manufacture it.”

Although current athletes are participating in activism by engaging within political dialogue, Kahn expressed the socialization of athletes to stay away from politics as one of the prime reasons why athletes are not as involved in politics today as their predecessors once were. Kahn argued that something is undeniably missing.

“Dialogue often pretends that there is equality between participants when there isn’t,” Kahn said. ”We need action, invention and commitment.”

Luke Mohamed, a sports and entertainment management graduate student at USF, expressed his overall appreciation for the lecture.

“It’s always enlightening to see someone who is such a great public speaker,” Mohamed said. “I feel genuinely more educated about this subject, and I’m definitely interested in future lecture series.”


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Communication    
Author: Kristan McCants