Tag Archives: Jules Boykoff

Olympian John Carlos reflects on his controversial stand for human rights

John Carlos, participant of the 1968 Olympics, stands in front of a mural made by students on the campus, at Palm Springs High SchoolBy Jules Boykoff, Contributing Writer

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, John Carlos rocked the world. After winning the bronze medal in the 200-meter dash he—along with gold medalist Tommie Smith—thrust his black-glove-clad fist into the sky to reflect solidarity with the civil rights movement and the strength of the human spirit. They wore black socks and no shoes to represent impoverished people who had no shoes of their own. Meanwhile, Peter Norman, the Australian silver medalist, stood with them in solidarity, pinning an Olympic Project for Human Rights button on his sweat jacket. It was an iconic moment that placed them under the international spotlight. Following the controversial ceremony, they paid a price for their courageous gesture. Carlos and Smith were dismissed from the Olympic Village. The athletes were bombarded with death threats against them and their families. They were pilloried in the media as unpatriotic, with young reporter Brent Musberger writing in the Chicago American that Carlos and Smith were “unimaginative blokes” and, even worse, “black-skinned storm troopers” who had brought shame on their country. Carlos persevered, successfully navigating a career in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. He also represented Puma and carried the Olympic torch at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. He later worked with the city of Los Angeles to create possibilities for underserved communities. Carlos has continued to live true to his political beliefs, standing up for civil liberties and justice and against racism and greed. In 2011 he spoke at Occupy Wall Street in New York. Earlier this month, he was in Oregon to deliver the 2012-2013 Whiteley Distinguished Lecture at Pacific University in Forest Grove. Today he is a high school guidance counselor in Palm Springs, Calif.

Jules Boykoff: Why did you do your medal-stand protest at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City?

John Carlos: To set a standard. To have society show its best face. To bring attention to the plight of people who were less fortunate. To wake up the consciousness of those who had let their conscience go dormant. And to encourage people to stand for what’s right as opposed to standing for nothing.

J.B.: Your act generated a huge range of responses. For instance, one disgruntled person from Racine, Wisconsin, wrote in a letter to Avery Brundage, the International Olympic Committee president, “The colored men who disgraced our country should be shot for treason and nothing less!” On the other hand, numerous people from around the world wrote Brundage to say your act was dignified and that you didn’t deserve to be kicked out of the Olympic Village. What was it like being the focus of so much attention, both positive and negative?

J.C.: When all the negatives came in, that was something you endured prior to the Olympic Games. It wasn’t anything that I hadn’t heard or experienced before or that people of color hadn’t experienced before. They were just venting their feelings because we denounced them and stood against them and made a worldwide spectacle of them in terms of their approach to life. So, I wasn’t concerned about that. The positive things that came about were to see the fact that what we did united the people. It united the people of color and then at the same time it brought an openness to society, period. Continue reading

The education of Marcus Camby

Photo by Sam Fornenich/Getty ImagesBy Jules Boykoff, Contributing Writer

Marcus Camby plays center for the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team. A 14-year NBA veteran who has played for the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, and Toronto Raptors, Camby is renowned for his hard work and defensive capabilities, earning the league’s defensive player of the year award in 2006-2007. Camby is also highly regarded for his work off the court. He founded the Cambyland Foundation, which focuses on educational opportunities for youth, and has been honored widely for his community service work. As the Blazers prepare for the new season, Camby sat down with Street Roots at the Blazers practice facility in Tualatin to talk about education, history, and the work he does in the community.

Jules Boykoff: You’ve done a lot of volunteer work and philanthropy around education. And your NBA.com profile says you would like to someday become an elementary school principal. How have you come to care so much about education? Have your own experiences as a student affected your views on education?

Marcus Camby: I think so. You know I was an education major at the University of Massachusetts and part of my curriculum was substitute teaching, going into elementary schools. I substitute taught in Math, English, and Science, so I always took a liking to the younger generation. The old cliché is that “the children are our future” and I’m just trying to better as many kids’ lives as possible while I’m still blessed to be able to do it. Growing up as a kid, one of my heroes was my high school principal. I liked how he was well liked by everyone in the student body. I liked how he carried himself. And I liked how he cared. So he was somebody I have tried to pattern myself after. He really got me into education.

J.B.: Speaking of schools, a recent count found that there are more than 1,000 students in Portland Public Schools who are homeless.The Trail Blazers and sports in general have been called symbols of hope for many people experiencing homelessness and poverty. Would you like to say anything directly to the homeless community in Portland? Continue reading

SR talks with Scot Thompson of the Portland Timbers

By Jules Boykoff, Contributing Writer

Scot Thompson is one of the longest standing members of the Portland Timbers in the modern era of the franchise. For years he’s been a crowd favorite on the field, but this year he has taken on a new off-the-pitch role as community ambassador. As the team transitions toward joining Major League Soccer next year, he sat down with Street Roots to talk about soccer, community service, and overcoming adversity.

Jules Boykoff: What does your role as community ambassador entail?

Scot Thompson: Basically in years past I’ve kind of been the person everyone goes to to facilitate different public appearances, different coaching clinics, but it was never really an official role. It was just something I kind of naturally did because I’ve been here probably longer than anyone else. This past year, with the title, I work a lot more with Sierra Smith who’s Director of Community Outreach, and I’m basically the spearhead when it comes to every appearance. I make sure the right players are working with the right groups. Because we have different players with different skill sets. We have guys that are much better public speakers as opposed to guys that are better hanging out with young kids or guys that can do the corporate appearances as well. That’s the main role, and then I’ve been given greater leeway to take the projects I like best and give them more face time, so I work a lot with the Children’s Book Bank — that’s one of my big ones.

J.B.: What’s that?

S.T.: Dani Swope, who I know through my coaching — I actually coach her son — she has this program that basically is a book drive organizing book deliveries for Head Start kids and kids who don’t have opportunities to have books in their homes. She has this great foundation that gets tens of hundreds of books to kids. Myself (Timbers teammates) Tony McManus, Keith Savage, George Josten, we’ve gone out a couple times now and helped them with the books, we’ve helped read at some of the schools. And that’s one of the big things that I really enjoy. I personally like to read a lot. I’m big into “Harry Potter,” and right now I have some pretty serious books I’m borrowing from [teammate] Adin Brown. But I do like to read a lot of kids books because I like being in that mindset. So, going out there and being able to read — kids really enjoy having us out there. Hearing from us that, yeah, we play soccer, but we also like to read, we like to have intellectual stuff going on besides the fun stuff of soccer.

J.B.: What’s the best part about being a professional soccer player in the United States? And what’s the worst part?

S.T.: The best part I would say is the guys that I get to hang out with on a daily basis. I have some very good friends throughout the league and in life from the group of guys I’ve played with. And I’ve been able to play with some of the top National Team players and I’ve been able to play with some guys that have only played a couple games but they’ve all really influenced me in what I’ve done. I’m not going to lie: it’s nice having some recognition. But at the same time, soccer is still a growing sport in the States and it does suck sometimes when people don’t know who you are or when you get asked a generic question like “Oh, you play for the Timbers — where do you guys play?” We’ve been working so hard to get soccer to a national level, but still many people don’t know — it’s not there yet. So, that part is kind of tough sometimes. When I went overseas for a couple trials, even as a trialist people knew was trying out with the team. You’d walk down the street and people would say, “Oh, you’re a footballer.” They’d talk to you. And here, you get recognized in pockets, but I can probably say that I’m more known in the community for my coaching than I am for playing for the Timbers. But I like that too — I really enjoy coaching kids.

J.B.: Without resorting to platitudes, what advice do you have for people who are trying to overcome adversity?

S.T.: You know, I would just say that you never know who’s watching you and you never know when you’re going to have an opportunity. So, every day should be a day when you try to put your best foot forward. There are going to be days when you don’t want to, days when it’s raining outside, you’re cold, you’re miserable, but you never know when an opportunity is going to knock. I always try to carry myself in the most professional way possible, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities come to me because I carry myself in such a way, and I don’t try to mess up. I don’t try to put myself in a bad light. And people’s reputations go beyond your initial reaction. If you have a good first impression and someone tells somebody else who tells somebody else, through word of mouth, people will hear about what you do.

J.B.: Sometimes overcoming adversity involves having people you look up to, a lot of times people in the public sphere. Who has inspired you?

S.T.: My dad was a huge, huge influence in my life. He’s a very black-and-white type of guy, and he instilled in me early on that you do your work first and then play soccer. And personally I’m a play-first-work-later kind of guy, but I do balance it out, I do actually work a lot now, but back when I younger he was always “Work first, play second. Always be on time. Always be professional. Always dress as if you’re being interviewed.” He definitely instilled my moral compass. I also had a couple youth coaches who really helped me get where I am today, who taught me — probably more so than anybody else—that you never know who’s watching. I think that’s always in the back of my head, because you never know, even when you want to do something stupid — because there are times when everybody wants to lay back — and you never know how that’s going to affect you later in life.

J.B.: Any public figures or historical figures who jump out to you as influential?

S.T.: I know it’s kind of cliché but Dr. King was always influential. To have to deal with that much adversity and still go out every day and put your best foot forward and still hold yourself to a high standard even though you have so much on your plate and so much against you. I really admire him.

J.B.: What are the “serious books” you’re reading?

S.T.: The book I’m reading right now is “A Man in Full” by Tom Wolfe, which Adin recommended to me. It’s basically high-stakes politics and all the internal espionage and everything that goes on in the city of Atlanta. It’s really interesting. I like to take people’s recommendations for books. I’m also a big science-fiction and fantasy reader. My dad got me really into Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Star Trek and all that, so I have a lot of those books at my house. And every once in a while I divert and go in a different direction.

Jules Boykoff played professional soccer for the Portland Pride, collegiately at the University of Portland, and represented the US Olympic Team in international competition. He teaches political science at Pacific University.

Extra! Extra!

Squeeze the most out of the final weekends of summer with a few moments in the sun and a good local read! Look no further than the latest edition of Street Roots and your friendly neighborhood vendor. Here’s what’s inside:

The bigger pitch of Scot Thompson: An interview with the Portland Timbers’ star, and now community ambassador, by former soccer pro and author Jules Boykoff.

East Portland’s violent little secret: A special report by Anthony Schick on the alarming rate of domestic violence in the city’s least served communities.

Living for two: Pregnancy among homeless teens is rising, alarming providers. Amanda Waldroupe reports on how service providers are responding to the troubling increase and what it means for youths on the streets.

Believers brew: An interview with author Adam Elenbaas, who drank a psychedelic herbal mixture called ayahuasca and gained a new vision on life. “It’s like mud mixed with battery acid and pee.” Now there’s a vision.

Plus, insights from housing authority Heather Lyons and homeless advocate Leo Rhodes, plus news, poetry and more. So much to read you’ll need the extra holiday this weekend to take it all in. Thank you, readers!