Two Student-Athletes Share Thoughts on Jesse Owens

Two Student-Athletes Share Thoughts on Jesse Owens

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jesse Owens is the African American sprinter who amazed the world by breaking Olympic records and winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, which, at the time, served as  headquarters of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.

Owens and his quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history is the subject of Race, a biographical sports-drama film that was released in the United States on Friday. As part of Goucher College's observance of African American History Month, two student-athletes of color shared some of their thoughts on Jesse Owens.

Quiche Johnson
Freshman Goalie     Field Hockey
Baltimore, Md.

Being a black athlete in a sport that is majority white isn’t and will never be easy, but luckily for me, I have pioneers to look up to. One that comes to mind is Jesse Owens especially because there was recently a biopic released about him, called ‘Race’. He definitely paved the way for not only black athletes, but for minorities involved in sports in general. His determination to follow his dream no matter what issues surrounded him due to the color of his skin is what pushes me to become a better athlete and person everyday. Mr. Owens set the standards and now I reach to be just as great as he was.

Although, he did pave the way for the minority athletes, it still does not change the way the majority looks at you. Mr. Owens won four Olympic gold medals in Berlin and still was not allowed to enter the front doors of an event that was honoring him, nor did President Roosevelt congratulate or even acknowledge him. No matter what we accomplish, we’re still going to be looked at as another black person. That is definitely the hardest part because although I am very proud to be black, nothing will make others look past that. This issue will not make me shy away from talking about being a black athlete, instead it will make me go harder because I have to work twice as hard to be noticed.

I, personally, believe that there are more negatives than positives when being a black athlete because the spotlight is always on you. For example, Cam Newton is one of the best athletes to ever play the quarterback position, but he gets called cocky, even though he can back it up. He also gets called disrespectful for doing a dance that just happens to be popular within the black culture. Meanwhile, QBs like Aaron Rodgers do a celebration dance, get a commercial, and everyone loves them. It’s just disrespectful and sad that we will never get the credit that we deserve. With that being said, I will never not be proud of who I am no matter what obstacles I face during my run to success but I will always be aware of society's thoughts on me.

Norman Allen II
Senior Guard     Men's Basketball
Bowie, Md.

Personally, to be a black athlete is something that other (black athletes) take for granted. It is important for us to understand that black people were not always able to participate in organized sports, which should mean that as a black athlete, we should carry that title proudly. For example, there was a time when black males were not able to play in the NBA until someone broke the barrier. Someone had to take initiative and be the first to compete in the sports that they wished to, and if no one did then all black people who aspired to play sports professionally, would not have had an opportunity to do so. I am proud to represent my race in the sport that I play, because it is more than just being able to compete. 

There are negative aspects to being a black athlete. Because we are black, we hold more weight to our name than other athletes. Whatever we do may not be as bad if we were of a different race. We have to make sure that we're always on our "best" behavior because the spotlight is always on us waiting for us to make a mistake. There are certain things that we cannot do that may be acceptable for others to do.

The adversity Jesse Owens overcame to win four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games has been very influential in my life. It has shown me that no matter what your circumstances may be in life, you can achieve anything if you stay focused and persistent.