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Opinion: See one of the two athletes Obama said was the most inspirational to him

The new CNN film"Citizen Ash"is a permanent tennis legend and humanitarian Arthur Ashe. Explore the heritage. It will be broadcast on Sunday, June 26th at 9:00 pm. ET / PT. Read moreOpinionson CNN.

(CNN)Arthur Ashe wasmuch moremore than a talented athlete on the tennis court: he was his In sports African Americans were active in the fight forto end apartheidin South Africa. He was also deeply involved in the campaign to blame AIDS. AIDS diedat the age of 49 in February 1993

Born in 1943 in Ash. He grew up in the isolated south of Richmond, Virginia. He first picked up a racket at the city's black-only municipal tennis court. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on a tennis scholarship and became the first African-Americanto represent the United States at the Davis Cup in 1963.
Prof. Harry Edwards
Prof. Harry Edwards
Ash is history as the first black man to win a Grand Slam tournament Was built. He won the first Grand Slam titleat the 1968 US Open and the second title at the 1970 Australian Open. Ash's third and final Grand Slam Crown was held in 1975 in Wimbledon.
However, the CNN movie "Citizen Ash" focuses on the undervalued aspects of Ash's illustrious career. As an activist and advocate of citizenship.
Harry Edwards, a sociologist, educator, and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeleyand documentary film producer, was also Ash's best friend. He talked about the legacy of his late friend in the movie. Not only was he one of the greatest players in his sport, he was also an avid supporter of social justice.
Edwards is one of the first African-Americanin sports. He is probably best known for his role as founder in theOlympic Human Rights Project. This project organized the historicBlack Power Salut Protest by athletics at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Tommie SmithandJohn CarlosHe is also the author of "Black Athletes Rebellion". Athlete Arena.

CNN's Opinion Editor, Stephanie Griffith, interviewed Edwards about decades of friendship with Ash and the legacy of tennis greats as humanitarians and activists. This interview has been summarized and lightly edited for clarity.

CNN: Over time, Arthur Ashe became one of your close friends, but you were clearly not impressed by him at first. This movie shows off to his modest attitude and somewhat conservative personal style in the early days when he was a college student at UCLA and played professional tennis before you really knew him. It shows that it was done. What has changed the way you see him?

Edwards: Of course I knew him when I first approached Arthur Ashe in 1968. He is already a great tennis player and I knew him in my work as a sports scholar. But I didn't know Arthur Ashe personally.

He was often in these Yuri White clubs. He was the only black tennis player at most of the events he was involved in. When I spoke to him about supporting theOlympic Project for Human Rights, he said, "I respect what you are doing. I understand what you are doing. But that's not my way. "

I was sent off by him. But as I got to know him better, I found that, like many, I had a prejudice against him. I expected to know him soon.

CNN: And what did the real Arthur Ashe look like?

Edwards: First of all, he was absolutely great. Second, he had the courage-more so than some of the more radical people of the time. He had a sense of unusual personality. He was reaching out while most of us were raising his fist-not only to his friends, but also to his enemies. He was a person with a vision. While many of us were talking about Pan-Africanism, he practiced it in hisactivities in South Africa
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Everywhere I said it was wrong Everywhere is a threat to justice-and Arthur was doing it. He could see the relationship between what is happening in South Africa and what is happening here and organized athletes and artists in this country to fight fraud in South Africa. He broke the color wallby playing in aSouth African tournament.

He protested against racism at home and abroad. He clearly saw the connection, but his commitment did not discourage him because of the trajectory and substance of the Black Power movement that was taking place at the time.

It took me a while to get everything in. But in the end, for years, I didn't have an ally, mentor, or companion as valuable as art. He called me from time to time in the middle of the night and talked to me.

CNN: There are many black female tennis players, but what did he do from the fact that he remains a peculiar personfor blacks? Is not it. American male Grand Slam tennis champion.

Edwards: I think Arthur understood the environment he was in. He fought a battle that could be won on racial issues. But the problem of black men's participation (in tennis) was a bridge too far away.

There is a reason why there wasn't another black male tennis player of Arthur Ashe's height up to this point. Everything that happened in terms of creating progressive nature changes, including race in the United States, was a transaction.

And he started and participated in theprogram, creating opportunities for tennisfor black men and women to move up the ranks, and to make it happen. There was no trading leverage for. Own.
For example, it wasn't brotherhood to putJackie Robinsonin Major League Baseball. It was a business. From World War II, there was a labor shortage understood byBranch Rickey-the sharp businessman he was. Therefore, it is a complex terrain to move when trying to understand racial relationships in sports.

In the field of social justice, nothing happens just because it is morally correct, constitutionally appropriate, or ethically correct. Arthur knew that. He and I talked about it-about being there literally alone throughout his career.

CNN: The same is true for black athletes in sports like golf, but in reality it wasn't very diverse.

Edwards: Of course. So once people were talking about how Tiger Woods would release this and it and other black golfers and more. I thought it was nonsense at the time.

There is no transaction leverage to bring it about. The white golf structure is very satisfying as it can point to Tiger Woods and one or two golfers further down the status and ranking chain. black. However, there is no black golfer's pipeline because there was a black pipeline going into basketball or a black pipeline going into soccer.

CNN: We talked about how emotions evolved over time in terms of understanding who Arthur Ashe is. But I think he has evolved over the years.

Edwards: Of course. I don't think Arthur has just become a devoted, courageous, and conscientious advocate. He became more activist in his last year. He was arrested in protest, even when he knew he was dying.

It wasn't part of his character in his early days. He was an advocate and sought a reason and a rational solution by reaching out beyond the barricade to not only his friends and those who agreed with him, but also those who did not agree with him. He believed in his reasonable argument with serious conviction. He believed that it was always best to reach out with his outstretched hand, not his fist.

But as he grew older, he became more convinced, I think, that the extremists had that virtue. And he started exhibiting it more-even until he was arrested in a demonstration later in his life.

He was interested not only in America, but also in the race, ethnicity, and gender relationships of the world.His fight for equality and justice in South Africa was so determined and so powerful that he asked Nelson Mandela (1990) who he wanted to be whenleft prison. By the way,, his answer is "How about Arthur Ashe"
CNN: "Citizen Ash" is the most inspiration for him. GivenThere is a clip talking about the athlete {159 I named Arthur Ashe and Muhammad Ali. Ants make a list of almost everyone. Why do you think people don't call Arthur Ashe's name more often?
Edwards: Because they don't know him, and because they presume they know him. But Arthur digs deeper. He wasn't like (civil rights activist)Stokeley (Carmichael). He wasn't likeMalcolm XHe wasn't even like Dr. King.

Arthur digs deeper into who he is, what he is, what he supports, what he believes-and he has the courage to pursue it. Had a commitment, intelligence. And most people don't move on the basis of deep diving. They move on the basis of their first impression. But when he really got to know him, he realized he was one of the immortal members of the Pantheon in terms of sporting activities in the 20th century.

I put him in the same Pantheon asBill Russelll.Elgin Baylorgot out of the game in 1960 over discrimination and racism in the South. When he was playing with the Los Angeles Lakers. Of course, I put him in the same category as Muhammad Ali,Smith and Carlos, Jackie Robinson,Kareem Abdul Jabbar. All these great activist athletes.

He is part of the athlete's Pantheon, who has influenced beyond the arena. Arthur is with them.