James Brown, Dr. Harry Edwards Talk Athlete Activism on Campus

With the Crimson, Brown was a three-time All-Ivy selection. The team went 45-33 in his three seasons with the varsity but never qualified for the NCAA Tournament, something that Harvard did not do at all between 1947 and 2011. On Wednesday, he lauded Amaker for turning Harvard into a perennial Ivy League and mid-major powerhouse.

“I have the biggest cheer for Harvard whenever I see them because I know the foundation upon which Tommy stands and that he never accepts the compliments—he always defers them,” Brown said. “That’s because he was a point guard in basketball, and he’s a point guard in the game of life.”

Brown worked for FOX NFL Sunday for 13 seasons before joining CBS for his second stint with the network in 2008. He alluded to a trip he took to Israel in 2015 with 19 NFL stars and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer as an example of the impact that athletes can have outside of the realm of sports.

“It’s interesting to me that people have the attitude ‘stick to sports,’” Brown said. “Athletes are very much a part of the community, absolute citizens like anybody else. People say, ‘Well, why don’t they take their advocacy to another arena?’ Are you kidding me?...No, don’t stick to sports, just be informed and articulate it properly because sports is continually used as an arena that moves the needle forward in society.”

Edwards has put much of his life’s work into using sports as a platform for African Americans to speak out on issues of race. While much of his work centers around basketball and football, he has worked alongside Major League Baseball to address the sport’s lack of African American players.


“Basketball is still considered the quintessential black sport, and so anything happening in the African American community and Boston generally, anything happening among African American students on this campus, potentially can interface with basketball,” Edwards said. “You want to always be aware of that broad community connection and that ethnographic political history of basketball and its emergence as the quintessential black sport.”

Edwards ended the press conference with a call for students at Harvard to make their voices heard.

“You talk about the number of African American kids who come in this fall and so forth,” Edwards said. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that they are not at some point going to say, ‘What is our disposition toward Black Lives Matter? What is our disposition toward the latest police killing? What is our disposition toward the DACA situation? Are we in one of those things where they come for DACA, and then when they come for us, [and] there’s no one left to say anything? What do we do? What stand do we take?”

—Staff writer Stephen J. Gleason can be reached at


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