Celebrating Arthur Ashe [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

Celebrating Arthur Ashe

TennisHack
02-05-2003, 01:42 AM
So I found this article and thought it was interesting, and realized how little I knew about Ashe. Does anyone know more about his political stances?

Enjoy :)

Arthur Ashe's impact felt far beyond tennis
By STEVE WILSTEIN, AP Sports Writer
February 4, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- On a winter's day, James Blake gave a clinic for
children at the Harlem Tennis Center, the old wood-floored armory where Arthur Ashe once did the same when Blake was a child.

To Blake's regret, he doesn't remember meeting Ashe and didn't learn much about him until his death from an AIDS-related illness 10 years ago Thursday, when Blake was 13.

"The more I learned about him, the more impressed I was with him," Blake said before going to Croatia to play this weekend for the U.S. Davis Cup team, as Ashe did with distinction so many times.

"He made such a difference in this world and it overshadows what he did as a tennis player. What I learned from Arthur was to be a well-rounded person, to make academics as important as tennis. That's what worked for him and that's what worked for me. That's something I try to pass on to kids."

What Ashe did is still making a difference. His spirit is alive in
programs he started in education, urban health, junior tennis and
the fight against AIDS.

At a time when athletes are arrested regularly and outlandish
behavior abounds in so many sports, Ashe is missed as much for his grace and dignity as for his intelligence and willingness to address the larger issues facing society.

Ashe's portrait dominates a folk-art mural on a brick wall at the
entrance of the Harlem center, the U.S. Open is played in Arthur
Ashe Stadium, and a commemorative garden at the National Tennis Center is dedicated to him. A bronze statue of him, two books in his right hand raised higher than the racket in his left as he talks to children, stands in his native Richmond, Va.

"I don't like Arthur being remembered as bricks and mortar or as
someone who died of AIDS, just those things," his widow, the
photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, said. "I think the most
extraordinary thing about him is that he had simple gifts and he
used them. That was why he touched so many people.

"Arthur was not an Einstein, not a genius. He did something that all of us can attain, and that in itself is extraordinary. It's
exemplary. Because we can all actually achieve some of that in our life, regardless of what our passion is."

Each year she has remembered this somber anniversary with a Mass in his honor. This year, she said, there will be no funereal tone to the occasion, but rather "a joyous celebration of the meaning of his life" in a New York church with family and friends.

Ashe, the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open champion who died at 49, was one of the few athletes, like Muhammad Ali, who transcended sports by taking stands on political and social issues.

Race, he said famously, was a greater burden on his life than AIDS as he grew up in the segregated South and rose to the top of the whites-only world of tennis.

He protested apartheid in South Africa and the rejection of Haitian refugees by the United States. When it became public that he had contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion during heart surgery, he did what anybody who knew him would think he would do and became a leader in the fight against the disease.

"People criticize athletes today, like Tiger Woods, for not taking a
stand on issues," Moutoussamy-Ashe said. "Arthur was criticized,
too. People wanted him to do more in the '60s, to join the fight.
Yet Arthur knew that he would have a bigger impact if he could
become the best in his sport and gain that platform to be heard.
Arthur felt very strongly about athletes leading their communities.
He was very much about the greater cause.

"We can only hope that those who are in a position to do that now will do the same. I'm not criticizing anybody. That's not my place. But that was his role, and at times he suffered for it. But it's 10 years later and look where his legacy is."

The aptly named "Voice of Conscience" award for humanitarian efforts is given out in his name each year by the Aetna Foundation -- last year's going to former Atlanta Mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, who married Ashe and his wife.

Lean and bespectacled, a UCLA graduate and a systems analyst as a second lieutenant at West Point, Ashe carefully thought through his positions. His quietness amplified his voice.

"When I think about him," Moutoussamy-Ashe said, "I miss his
kindness."

Their 16-year-old daughter, Camera, she said, has his dry sense of humor.

Ashe's impact is best measured by the work that continues in his
name -- the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, the Safe Passage Foundation, the Arthur Ashe Foundation and an endowment for AIDS research -- and by those he inspired beyond breaking barriers in tennis.

He co-founded the National Junior Tennis League in 1969 to help
inner city kids learn a game that had country-club roots and to
encourage them educationally. In 2002, the program, now run by the USTA, served nearly 200,000 children.

"Some youngsters in the program will become world class players, as did James Blake and the Williams sisters, who came off the streets of Compton, Calif., and they'll make millions of dollars," said David Dinkins, the former New York City mayor who has been on the league's board for more than two decades. "Over time, there are perhaps hundreds of thousands of youngsters who will play sufficiently well as to earn college scholarships. But what's important to me is the millions nationwide who simply stay out of trouble and become productive citizens because of tennis and because of Arthur Ashe's Junior Tennis League."

Richard Lapchick, the sports sociologist and chairman of a graduate program emphasizing diversity, community service and ethics in sports at the University of Central Florida, first met Ashe in 1977. They were on opposite sides of the anti-apartheid issue in the early days, Ashe believing that going to South Africa would help build bridges, Lapchick serving as head of a national group leading a boycott.

At a protest Lapchick had organized at the U.S. Open against South African athletes, Ashe decided to address the crowd.

"My first reaction was that it was going to be disastrous," Lapchick said, "because here's the only black American tennis player of note and he believes that we're wrong. If he comes out and tells that to the crowd he'll have such credibility that he'll pretty much disperse the protesters."

Instead, Ashe told the demonstrators that he supported them, that he had been wrong in going to South Africa for several years. He thought he was doing the right thing, he said, but changed his mind when he tried to buy tickets for some African children on a recent trip and was told to go to the "coloreds-only" ticket booth on the other side of the stadium.

"He became the greatest advocate of the boycott for all the reasons I feared that he might be a voice in opposition to us," Lapchick said. "He just had such credibility, for all the reasons that made him Arthur Ashe, but one more for me was that there aren't many people who say that they were wrong about something."

The way Ashe carried himself and the way he competed -- fiercely but with integrity -- made a difference in the way white tennis players and fans viewed black players. When he won the U.S. Open in 1968, only months after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, Ashe emerged as a voice of reason and social awareness in the sports world.

"He was one of the few athletes who understood that he could take public stands on issues and not be cut out of the greater picture of sports," Lapchick said. "That's always been a fear of athletes in this country, that the leagues or endorsers will cut them out. Arthur, Ali and Bill Russell spoke out consistently throughout their lives and ultimately became more admired by the public."

Steve Wilstein is a national sports columnist for The Associated
Press. Write to him at swilstein(at)ap.org

Tryphon
02-05-2003, 07:32 PM
If you like reading, I recommend "days of grace", a special book from a special man.

TennisHack
02-05-2003, 08:41 PM
Thanks, Tryphon, I'll keep an eye out for that :)

Tryphon
02-05-2003, 10:22 PM
Another article on the USTA site (http://www.usta.com/protennis/fullstory.sps?iNewsid=27282&itype=921&icategoryid=171)

Tryphon
02-09-2003, 04:28 PM
from the NY Times:

Remembering Arthur Ashe: A Gentleman, a Revolutionary
By DONALD L. DELL

The Arthur Ashe I knew was not only a tennis player, an activist, a thinker, a writer; he was also a man of uncommon grace and power. On this, the 10th anniversary of his death — Arthur died on Feb. 6, 1993 — I want to express my sentiments about my good friend of 23 years.

When I first met him, he was a skinny young man with a whippy tennis game. He had great wrist action in his strokes, on both his forehand and his backhand. He had a tremendous arsenal of shots; he could hit his backhand about seven different ways. He was shy, introverted, but he was a risk taker. He was never afraid to take a chance to win a point. Even then, there was a touch of the quiet revolutionary in him.
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As he matured, he developed into a genuinely intellectual man: inquisitive, studious, a man who loved learning. This side of his nature is what led him to champion so many causes, rationally and reasonably. To say that Arthur Ashe transcended tennis is an understatement.

Yet it was tennis that remained a passion. Arthur was focused on being the best player he could be. He achieved that zenith in 1975 with his victory over Jimmy Connors to win Wimbledon — in my opinion, his greatest triumph on the court. That match remains a classic example of brains over brawn. Connors's combination of power and consistency was considered invincible, and yet Arthur diffused that force, thinking and calculating his way to the signature championship of his exceptional 15-year career.

Of course, Arthur always knew that he carried more obligations than merely winning tennis matches. He knew that he was representing his race at all times. The demands of such a burden are difficult to fathom, certainly for those of us who have never experienced it. Through it all, Arthur remained patient, always willing to give of his time to meet with people, to sign autographs or to conduct a clinic for underprivileged kids.

I was surprised when I read Arthur's quote that the toughest obstacle he had faced was not his two open heart surgeries, or even AIDS, but rather, as he put it, "being born black in America." We had a long discussion about it. He told me that regardless of how prominent you were, each day every black person in this country was made aware that he or she was black. Arthur had faced racism as a young man growing up in Richmond, Va., and regardless of his success, he continued to have to deal with it his whole life.

His commitment to making a difference, along with his sense of justice, led him to become a leader in the anti-apartheid movement. He assumed the role in his usual intellectual way. He first visited South Africa in 1973, largely as a learning experience. At the time, he was denounced by the black community, much of which felt that he was being used as a pawn by the South African government. But Arthur believed that you could not speak out against apartheid unless you knew something about it. He also thought it was important for young blacks there to see a free black man, one of accomplishment and stature in his chosen field.

Arthur's sense of responsibility to his race, again coupled with his intellectual curiosity, led to one of his proudest achievements. While attempting to research the heritage of black athletes, he found no definitive work on the subject. In typical Ashe fashion, he set out to produce one. He invested three years of his time and money and employed three research assistants to write "A Hard Road to Glory," a three-volume history of the black athlete in America. That work, published in 1993, is a milestone in the field of historical sports writing; the script for the television version, which Arthur also wrote, won three Emmys.

For all his public achievements, I was always struck, in my personal relationship with him, by his overriding sense of trust. That trust pervaded my professional dealings with him as his lawyer for 23 years. We never had a formal contract. After an initial letter of agreement in 1970, he and I renewed each year with a handshake. Trust came naturally to him. He strongly believed — and we would debate this long and often — that there was a lot more good in people than bad.

But that trusting nature belied his toughness. Clearly, Arthur was tough on the tennis court, but off the court, he was just as strong-willed. One need look no further than the strong, unpopular stands he took on issues like more stringent academic standards for college athletes. Often swimming against the tide, Arthur always chose what he believed to be the moral and principled course.

And, obviously, Arthur had to be a man of great courage to deal with his medical traumas. Not once, when he learned that he had AIDS, did he say, "Why me?" He felt that same question could be asked of all the wonderful things he enjoyed in life. Why did he win Wimbledon? Why did he marry a beautiful, talented woman, Jeanne, who was such a major force in his life, and become father to a loving, precious child, Camera? No. When it came to adversity, Arthur preferred to pose the question differently. "Why not me?" he would ask.

When our group was leaving South Africa in 1973, someone handed my wife, Carole, a newspaper. Rolled inside it was a poem from Don Matera, a South African poet and freedom fighter who had recently been banned and was therefore prohibited from meeting with Arthur in public. I think that poem really captures the essence of Arthur Ashe.

I listened deeply when you spoke

About the step-by-step revolution

Of a gradual harvest,

Tendered by the rains of tolerance. . . .

and I loved you brother —

Not for your quiet philosophy

But for the rage in your soul,

Trained to be rebuked or

summoned. . . .

These lines reveal the true Arthur Ashe: a man of quiet philosophy, with a raging, noble soul — a man I loved so much. We may never see his like again.

Donald L. Dell was the United States Davis Cup captain in 1968-69 when Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Bobby Lutz and Charley Pasarell won the cup. He was chairman of Pro Serv from 1970 to 1997, and is currently a senior vice president at Clear Channel Entertainment.