Latter-Day Protest? Proposition 8 and Sports

By Dave Zirin
x-posted fromEdge of Sportswith permission.

As supporters of Gay Marriage have discovered, it's never easy to be on the Mormon Church's enemies list. The Church of Latter-Day Saints backed the anti-Gay Marriage Proposition 8 in California with out-of-state funds, and gave the right a heartbreaking victory this past election cycle. But the Mormon Church has been challenged in the past. Just ask Bob Beamon.

If you know Beamon's name it's almost certainly because he won the long jump gold medal in legendary fashion at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Beamon leapt 29 feet, 2.5 inches, a record that held for twenty-three years. Great Britain's Lynn Davies told Beamon afterwards, "You have destroyed this event." This is because Beamon was not only the first long jumper to break 29 feet, he was the first to break 28.

But you may not know that Beamon almost never made it to Mexico City. Along with eight other teammates, Beamon had his track and field scholarship revoked from the University of Texas at El Paso, the previous year. They had refused to compete against Brigham Young University. Beamon and his teammates were protesting the racist practices of the Mormon Church, and their coach at UTEP, Wayne Vanderburge, made them pay the ultimate price.

They weren't alone. As tennis great Arthur Ashe wrote in his book, Hard Road to Glory, "In October 1969, fourteen black [football] players at the University of Wyoming publicly criticized the Mormon Church and appealed to their coach, Lloyd Eaton, to support their right not to play against Brigham Young University. . . . The Mormon religion at the time taught that blacks could not attain to the priesthood, and that they were tainted by the curse of Ham, a biblical figure. Eaton, however, summarily dropped all fourteen players from the squad."

The players, though, didn't take their expulsion lying down. They called themselves the Black 14 and sued for damages with the support of the NAACP. In an October 25th game against San Jose State, the entire San Jose team wore black armbands to support the 14.

One aftershock of this episode was in November 1969, when Stanford University President Kenneth Pitzer suspended athletic relations with BYU, announcing that Stanford would honor what he called an athlete's "Right of Conscience." The "Right of Conscience" allowed athletes to boycott an event which he or she deemed "personally repugnant." As the Associated Press wrote, "Waves of black protest roll toward BYU, assaulting Mormon belief and leaving BYU officials and students, perplexed, hurt, and maybe a little angry."

On June 6th, 1978, as teams were refusing road trips to Utah with greater frequency, and the IRS started to make noises about revoking the church's holy tax-free status, a new revelation came ...

Whether a cynical ploy to avoid the taxman or a coincidence touched by God, the results were the same: Black people were now human in the eyes of the Church. African Americans were no longer, as Brigham Young himself once put it, "uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable, and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind." The IRS was assuaged, the athletic contests continued, and the church entered a period of remarkable growth.

Similar pressure must be brought to bear on the Mormon Church today for its financing of Proposition 8 in California. One nonprofit crunched the numbers and found that $17.67 million of the $22 million used to pass the anti-gay marriage legislation was funneled through 59,000 Mormon families since August. It was done with the institutional backing of the church, though many pro-gay Mormons have spoken out defiantly against the church's political intervention.

The question now is whether this latest tale of social conflict and the Church of Latter-Day Saints will also spill onto the athletic field. Men's athletics have been one of the last proud hamlets of homophobia in our society (although the attitudes of male athletes is more progressive than you might think). But women's sports has been historically more open around issues of sexuality.

Will any women collegians raise the specter of Proposition 8 if they have to travel to the schools of Utah? Will we see the ghosts of Black 14 emerge from the past? If any athletes choose to act, the ramifications could be "Beamonesque."

Chino Blanco

Tags: BYU, CA-Prop 8, Dave Zirin, lds, Mormon, Proposition 8 (all tags)



Happy New Year!

I've compiled the 2009 Schedule of BYU Performing Arts and Mormon Tabernacle Choir Performances here: Tp_C8hS6i2IuU9u6Masiag&hl=en

Still working on the BYU 2009 (away) sports calendar.

My sense is that BYU is very concerned about becoming the target of protests next year. I made a brief mention over at my place about protesting their performing arts groups, and by the next day, BYU had taken down the schedules (thank goodness for the ol' Google cache).

To my mind, protesting BYU (and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) at their own scheduled (away) events in 2009 sure seems like a no-brainer. All it would take is a few folks with signs and the attendees would provide a made-to-order audience for the message.

by Chino Blanco 2008-12-31 05:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Latter-Day Protest? Proposition 8 and Sports

I still cannot phantom this blame the other side for organizing , when the blame lies in the hearts and minds of the people who voted YES on prop 8.

the Mormon church is only as powerful as the people pulling the lever. an overwhelming majority of minorities in the democrat party voted yes on prop 8. The blame is not in the organizer but lies on the feet of the voter.

the blame as I have cited before lies more on the feet of African Americans, Latinos, Asians and women who being a part of the minority that once faced the hatred of discrimination, quickly forgot what it was to be on the side that gets discriminated.  

I can spend 100 million in asking people to hate this country  but can only be successful if people themselves buy into the message.

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-31 05:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Latter-Day Protest? Proposition 8 and Sports

and to add something I am sure is going to inflame the gays groups. speaking candidly, you must while trying to win the hearts and minds for this just cause, show courage through decency when you have these characters within the gay community who dress up in costumes, paint themselves and walk into a church to holler and hoot or make a  mockery of that religion.  You can't stop the fringe behavior but your leaders must speak up against it and not condone such behavior.

the above---It may a silly example to mention , but we see this on TV as your detractors plaster this on cable shows. Even I cringe when I see such acts. Respect is two way street , yes. But the minority in this country did not win its civil rights because of groups like weather underground or black panthers. They won it because decent men and women did not stay silent thanks to the civil right leaders in our country.

lastly ( on a lighter note), the times are changing and your time to be treated as equals is coming. The kids and the generation today are more accepting . You just have to wait a couple of decades for the old farts to pop off and not be in the voter pool :)

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-31 06:04AM | 0 recs
By any means neccesary

While I agree, it WILL take a generation to not stay silent (the millenials are the key...when enough boomers are dead and buried, THEN this change will occur),
folks involved in the struggle LIKE the Panthers, and more specifically folks like Malcolm X, who were much more militant the many mainstream leaders lite a fire under the country.

They also kept the issue on the front page, where as less "theatatrical" approaches did not grab the headlines.

Take the Olympic protest pictured here. That created a firestorm, but it made people think...

Finally, the people you worry about being offended are NEVER in many cases going to be those who come around.

They are the people that want the gays to stay closeted, to accept second class citizenship.

I say, let your freak flag fly.

OH, and if upsets our stately instituions, the Mormons AND the Catholic churches.

Fuck them and the horse that brung em

Their sins are legion, and they use their political muscle to overcome them.

HOW DARE the Catholic church (and I was raised a strict one, Catholics schools till highschool)pretend to be the arbiters of morality after burying the priest pedophile scandal for decades.

They ought to have their tax excempt status revoked for pouring the money in Prop 8.

by WashStateBlue 2008-12-31 06:33AM | 0 recs
Boomer, here

With gay brother and sister, who have been living more or less out, for three decades.

I think you need our parents' generation to die off, they're the most homophobic, having having become adults and parents in a world where gays were either invisible or considered perverted.

I've seen some charts, and boomers per se may not be as threatened as the previous, all senior citizens now and a big voting bloc.

by judybrowni 2009-01-01 07:14PM | 0 recs
I'm sorry, but I think that's crap ...

... and it suggests to me that you haven't been paying attention.

There's been plenty of discussion about how our side failed to organize properly.  Our GOTV?  AWOL.

That said, I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to complacency and to thinking back in August that there was no way we were gonna lose this contest.  Even after the onslaught of Mormon-funded FUD ... just like CNN on election day, I figured we were set to beat this thing.

From what you say, you've obviously previously cited your numbers elsewhere, and it's no doubt my fault for not noticing ... but if you're still around, humor me and post the discrete percentages for each of the "minorities" that you bundle together and collectively blame for Prop 8's victory.  

by Chino Blanco 2008-12-31 06:25AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm sorry, but I think that's crap ...

the majority of the minority in the democratic party voted yes on prop - that is not a figment of my imagination. It was posted such on huffington and kos after people who looked at the numbers wrote so.

now I don't remember where the specific diaries written by the ( what do u call it) front page diarist . you know the ones who official blog for these sites, reside.

I'll try to find it all the same.

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-31 07:36AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm sorry, but I think that's crap ...

so far found one in La times . 08/11/70-of-african-a.html

70% of African Americans backed Prop. 8, exit poll finds
12:10 PM, November 5, 2008

A lot of Obama/Yes-on-8 voters? The Associated Press exit polls show that African Americans and Latinos backed Proposition 8 in good numbers. Details here from AP:

   California's black and Latino voters, who turned out in droves for Barack Obama, also provided key support in favor of the state's same-sex marriage ban. Seven in 10 black voters backed a successful ballot measure to overturn the California Supreme Court's May decision allowing same-sex marriage, according to exit polls for The Associated Press.

   More than half of Latino voters supported Proposition 8, while whites were split. Religious groups led the tightly organized campaign for the measure, and religious voters were decisive in getting it passed. Of the seven in 10 voters who described themselves as Christian, two-thirds backed the initiative. Married voters and voters with children strongly supported Proposition 8. Unmarried voters were heavily opposed.

-- Shelby Grad

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-31 07:41AM | 0 recs
Your post reinforces my point

eligious groups led the tightly organized campaign for the measure, and religious voters were decisive in getting it passed.

Many low information voters will follow their Church.

My take is, the Catholic church comes out STRONGLY against Prop 8, enough of the Latino vote switches, and it goes down to defeat.

The Churches deserve Scorn, Ridicule, and what ever protests people can muster.

Bigotry can not sit silent, even if someone wearing a collar and robes is selling it to his flock.

by WashStateBlue 2008-12-31 07:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Your post reinforces my point

You can't talk about the catholic church as the one to blame anymore than you can blame the black church leaders or the Chinese ( a decent voting bloc in CA) religious leaders without understanding that it was the voter who pulled that lever.

this prop lost not in Montana but in CA! Its larger than any churches, it's a mindset that needs to be changed. starting w/ the group "minorities" that need to approached first.  

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-31 07:52AM | 0 recs
I sort of zero on the Catholic Church

Bieing a total cracker Irish White Boy, I have some cred there.

Also, the Catholic has become MORE and MORE conservative in my lifetime, it used to be for the poor, now it's all about working it's minority flock, like the Latinos, to keep up membership.

And, its become more and more the Church of Anti-Abortion and Anti-gay rights.

I haven't seen a decent anti-death penality push from them in 20 years, but they condeme Catholic Dems like Kerry for his pro choice stance.

Still, I think my point is valid.

Prop 8 LOST because of groups like the Latinos voting against it.

HAD the church been STRONGLY against Prop 8, I think a lot of Latinos would have followed.

by WashStateBlue 2008-12-31 07:59AM | 0 recs
Re: I sort of zero on the Catholic Church

And that is exactly why we need to fight for equal rights in everything and not just marriage. The more we concentrate our efforts on just marriage the longer it will take for us to gain equal rights. Organized religion will have an easy time of denying us "marriage" but will have a very hard time trying to deny us Equal Rights.

by venician 2008-12-31 08:30AM | 0 recs
Re: I sort of zero on the Catholic Church

there is a difference in equal rights and rights only afforded by marriage.

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-31 08:41AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm sorry, but I think that's crap ...

and Washingtonpost. also understand I don't blame the loss to solely on the minority. My point is we have to first convince minorities within democratic voter bloc and then look outward. This group " minority" be it race or gender , should be appalled that they would discriminate vs others. tent/article/2008/11/06/AR2008110603880. html

Most of California's Black Voters Backed Gay Marriage Ban
53% of Latinos Also Supported Proposition 8
Citizens Rally Against Propostion 8
Protests ensued in the days after California voters narrowly passed proposition 8, amending the state's constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-31 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Latter-Day Protest? Proposition 8 and Sports

Plenty of White Men voted for Prop 8, and again, as I said below, low information voters were annihilated with a propaganda campaign from the Mormon and Catholic Churches.

The Latino community is fiercly loyal to the Catholic Church, had the message been Beat Prop 8 from the pulpit, I am sure many would have voted against it.

Tax free status, my fricking backside.

by WashStateBlue 2008-12-31 06:36AM | 0 recs
On second thought, nevermind ...

I posted my request before seeing your second comment.

I know what's "plastered on the cable shows" ... is that the only place you get your info?  The boob toob is no arbiter in my world, why is it in yours?

The times are definitely changing, and it's time you change the channel.

by Chino Blanco 2008-12-31 06:34AM | 0 recs
Re: On second thought, nevermind ...

It in not me your enemy or the target of your debate that needs to change its mind.  It is what happens to be the effect on many that leads to such prejudice.

Now as far as another discussion, i can't reply to any as my comments are getting zero'ed today by the little kids here ( no big deal they are dishing out exactly what the group who said yes to prop 8 did to the gay community), so I cant see any counter arguments. But rest assured the ones who need to read, can do so.  It still keeps my post standing. :)

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-31 07:30AM | 0 recs
Re: On second thought, nevermind ...

Mumbai, I don't see anyone giving you hides on this thread?  

You comments are not being hidden on this dairy that I can see?

by WashStateBlue 2008-12-31 07:37AM | 0 recs
Re: On second thought, nevermind ...

It happened on other comments earlier in another diary , where I talked in support of Israel.

Its just weird , I think it my IE or Firefox. comments disappeared, till I posted as such above and voila it shows up again.

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-31 07:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Latter-Day Protest? Proposition 8 and Sports

Very interesting discussion.  Just so I'm clear, did BYU itself have racist policies back in the day, or was it simply the Church's ideology that was being protested?

by Steve M 2008-12-31 06:38AM | 0 recs
Meaningless distinction ...

BYU is a private LDS (Mormon) institution.

When Dick Cheney shows up to deliver the commencement address at BYU, nobody wonders why ... nothing happens at BYU without the approval of Salt Lake City.  

When phone banks get set up on campus to support the Yes on 8 campaign, again, no need to wonder why ...

It's why I transferred to NYU.

That said, I never met so many wicked smart kids as I did at BYU.  It's no Bob Jones U.

by Chino Blanco 2008-12-31 07:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Meaningless distinction ...

I understand what you're saying, but I wish you would have just answered the question.  Either BYU was implementing the Church's racist ideology or they weren't.  It was an honest question.

by Steve M 2008-12-31 07:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Meaningless antipathy ...

Sorry, Steve.    

by Chino Blanco 2008-12-31 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Meaningless distinction ...

BYU is part and parcel of the church and they follow all of the church's doctrine. So I think "meaningless distinction" did answer your question. Just to give an example of how inseperable the two are, there was a story a few years ago about a (non-Mormon) football player from Los Angeles who went to BYU and was expelled because he had sex with his girlfriend (in Los Angeles) during summer break.

by LakersFan 2008-12-31 09:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Meaningless distinction ...

Whatever, maybe it's meaningless, but I do not understand what is so hard about answering with a yes or no.  God, I found this diary very interesting and I was eager to participate in the discussion, and now I'm just annoyed.

Can anyone explain this absurd reluctance to answer my question?  Did BYU have racist policies at the time, or didn't they?

by Steve M 2008-12-31 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Meaningless distinction ...

I am wondering about whether BYU allowed black students too. But I think maybe you're missing part of the significance of this. "Not being eligible for the priesthood" in the Mormon church makes one a complete 2nd class citizen. Especially when you attend a school filled with returned missionaries who are part of the priesthood. There are all sorts of privelges that go with the priesthood that would have been denied to any black students (if there were any).

by LakersFan 2008-12-31 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Meaningless distinction ...

On further reading, it looks like BYU was not admitting black students. This article: rage/paper864/news/2006/02/28/News/The-L egacy.Of.A.Ram-1709607.shtml says that in 1969, "Due to Mormon ideologies, BYU had yet to admit any black players or students into the school."

Is that what you were looking for?

by LakersFan 2008-12-31 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Meaningless distinction ...

Well, yes and no.  It's not like I'm trying to evaluate whether it was "right" to protest BYU in the 1960s.

My perspective is that while you and I might agree that BYU is nothing more than a part of the church, other people might see them as two separate institutions and would want to know why people are protesting BYU over something the church did.  In that sense, I'd be happier if you had told me that BYU actually was integrated in the 1960s and was protested solely because of their link with the church, because it would be a better precedent for the kind of protest suggested in this diary.  Does that make sense?

I'm all in favor of people protesting BYU or any other arm of the LDS church they can get their hands on.  The reason I doubt, as an empirical matter, that there will be any boycotts within the sports context is that you don't have a very good parallel to the way racial issues shook out.  In bygone days, you basically had players on integrated Northern teams protesting the conduct of segregated Southern schools.  Now, to carry this analogy forward, I can imagine a scenario where some college football team has an openly gay member, his teammates all accept him and love him like a brother, and they get riled up to protest BYU because they can't imagine how people could be so cruel as to deny folks like their teammate their civil rights.  But while I could picture this happening, I don't think it's likely to be the common experience.  I think gay people - gay men, at least - generally get a much colder reception from their teammates than black students did once upon a time on integrated teams.

by Steve M 2008-12-31 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Meaningless distinction ...

I don't necessarily think that protesting BYU athletics would be effective against Prop 8. I think for black students and athletics it was totally appropriate and effective because there is a direct correlation and there are many, many fans that were affected. If there were competetive inter-mural interior design teams (for example), a protest against them might affect the target audience.

But I disagree that people view BYU and the LDS church as two seperate institutions -- that's like saying West Point and the U.S. Army aren't connected.

by LakersFan 2008-12-31 10:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Meaningless distinction ...

That should have been "intercollegiate" not "inter-mural".

by LakersFan 2008-12-31 10:28AM | 0 recs
Re: It's with that in mind that I'd initially ...

... thought to focus on Mormonism's "cultural ambassadors" ... like "Young Ambassadors" or the MoTab, etc. ...  and I still think they're the low-hanging fruit in all of this, i.e., the audience for BYU's performing arts groups is an audience that we've obviously got a better chance of reaching.

That said, Dave's article was a useful reminder ... civil rights don't come wrapped in a pretty bow, they're won by struggle, sacrifice and confrontation.

by Chino Blanco 2008-12-31 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: It's with that in mind that I'd initially ...

In terms of the optics, I think it's also important to think about the difference between athletes protesting other athletes, and outsiders protesting a sporting event.  But I'm never one to tell people where they should and shouldn't protest, this is just food for thought.

I still think this is a very interesting topic because sports has been the vehicle for an awful lot of social change.

by Steve M 2008-12-31 11:13AM | 0 recs
Re: It's with that in mind that I'd initially ...

That's because if you're really good at athletics, no one cares about your family name, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or school you attended. Those things may get the scouts out to look at you, but they won't get you a job, and they won't make you successful at that job. Unfortunately, there aren't that many other professions where the hiring practices favor talent and skills over all other considerations.

by LakersFan 2008-12-31 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Latter-Day Protest? Proposition 8 and Sports

Thanks Chino. That is a really interesting story that I did not know about Beamon or BYU. And I never knew the revisionist Mormon history was so connected to IRS inquiries. Very interesting indeed!

I'm curious. Did BYU have (or allow) black students before then?

by LakersFan 2008-12-31 09:27AM | 0 recs
I arrived in '85 ...

... so, I'm not sure about the 70's.

As far as I know, the priesthood ban would not have prevented black students from enrolling at BYU.

by Chino Blanco 2008-12-31 10:57AM | 0 recs


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