This week on Amplify Voices: Conversations from the Heart, we sat down with Harry Edwards, the father of sports activism, whose career has inspired us so much — his hand was in several of the major protests in professional sports you’ve heard of (and ones you haven’t). We talked to him about what’s been going on over the past year, what got him started on this path, and what advice he has for the next generation of athletes and activists. Listen here for the full interview.
In regards to the past 18-20 months: What’s on your heart?
The Covid-19 pandemic has rocked our entire world in ways no one could have predicted just 18 short months ago. Thousands of people have suffered, lost jobs, and lives throughout the pandemic. What’s even more interesting is that as the vaccine has become available, many still remain divided on the choice to get vaccinated or not due to the uncertainty of its immediate and long-term effects. Edwards shares his thoughts on the current state of the world.
“The part of the challenge that we have today, behind all of the different issues that come into is not to do the right thing, but what is the right thing to do. We have to be smart enough to make rational judgments about what our options are, and then to make the right call. That’s the real challenge today.”
He goes on, “Unfortunately, I think we have failed to do the job that we should have done as a society in terms of education. So, we have a lot of people out here who have no respect for science. They have no respect for facts. They have no respect for the consequences of collective action.”
How will the aftermath of the pandemic affect society?
While many seem optimistic about a speedy recovery post-pandemic and the push for distribution of vaccines, Edwards is not as convinced and believes we have a long road ahead for recovery.
“When you have a situation, and then you begin to have that situation impacted by scientific circumstances, which say, ‘Don’t trust anybody to be well, don’t get involved in gatherings, you can’t even go to church, or the mosque or the synagogue, be careful in the grocery store. Stay away from anyone who is not in your household, even if it’s your next-door neighbor, and look out for the mailman, all of that tends to compound.’ This whole situation is a lack of trust. And unfortunately, there are those who are naive enough to believe that after we deal with the pandemic, that we’re going to simply go back to, and pick up where we left off in 2019. It’s not going to happen in any arena.”
He goes on, “For large masses of people, there’s not going to be anything left after the pandemic. There’s not going to be any post-pandemic. Their lives have been changed irreparably. People who were in trouble before the pandemic are now in crisis, and without massive intervention and wise and visionary intervention, we’re not going to be able to bring them back anywhere close to even where they were, prior to the pre-pandemic and 2019.”
How do you think the pandemic has or will impact minorities and people of color specifically?
Minorities have been among the most vulnerable during the pandemic, partly due to being more likely to work in industries that are considered essential and simultaneously high risk. Edwards shares that these groups will have a tougher time returning to a sense of normalcy.
“We have a lot of work to do. We have to begin to think about what do we do about those groups who have been so severely impacted by this situation, that there might not be any post-pandemic for them.”
He goes on, “When we look at poor communities, communities of color, communities that were already struggling with adequate medical care and food, appropriate educational resources, and support, those communities have now been devastated. We’re looking at World War Two-level devastation in terms of the circumstances that they’re in now. We must focus on them and do everything we can as a society and a nation to bring them back to the extent that we can, at least so that their children will have a chance.”
Audrey Cavenecia 00:05
Coming to you live from Industrious in downtown Seattle.
Pete Carroll 00:07
I’m Pete Carroll.
Audrey Cavenecia 00:09
And I’m Audrey Cavenecia.
Pete Carroll 00:10
And this is Amplify Voices: Conversations from the Heart, a podcast where our goal is to really, truly listen.
Audrey Cavenecia 00:17
We’re inviting some of the most inspiring thinkers, dreamers, and changemakers alive today to come on in and speak their truth, to speak
Pete Carroll 00:23
what’s on their heart.
Audrey Cavenecia 00:25
Everyone’s got a story to tell. We’re all these complex, multifaceted beings, and we have so much to contribute,
Pete Carroll 00:31
but being truly seen and heard for who you are, that’s rare.
Audrey Cavenecia 00:34
as we like to say, we see you, we hear you and we love you.
Pete Carroll 00:38
Welcome to Amplify Voices.
Audrey Cavenecia 00:40
Let’s meet our guests.
Pete Carroll 00:42
Known as a giant of sports activism and the father of sports, sociology, Dr. Harry Edwards is a renowned sociologist and civil rights activist, with a focus on the vital connections between race, society, and professional sports. We are so excited for you to hear this conversation with Dr. Harry Edwards. Hey, well, first off, thank you so much for coming to us and spending time with us. This is such an amazing time for all of us. And there’s so much going on that the opportunity to visit with you and to have a chance to tap into the wisdom and the vision and all that you’ve been through. That has always been valuable to me, you and I’ve been connected for a long time and, and I’ve been very
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fortunate to feel comfortable that holler at you when I got my biggest issues and some of my smallest issues. But when when times really got tough, you know, it was it was really important for me to connect with you. Because I’ve always felt like you’re the at the source of really what needs to be known in particularly in the world of sports, as it has to do with sociology and in people in race in politics in every I every area that I’ve ever come to you. You’ve been awesome. So thanks so much for stopping by, what’s up? What’s going on?
Harry Edwards 01:57
Hey, you know that’s that’s that’s the question that Marvin Gaye raised and it’s still pertinent, What’s going on? And I think that part of the challenge that we have today, behind all of the different issues that have come into confluence is not whether to do the right thing., but what is the right thing to do. We have to be smart enough to make cogent rational judgments about what our options are, and then to to to make the right call. That’s the real challenge today. Unfortunately, I think we have failed to do the job that we should have done as a society in terms of education. So we have a lot of people out here who have no respect for science, they have no respect, for fact, they have no respect for the consequences of collective action. I made a statement about 30 years ago, when we were trying to get a massive education bond passed in the state of California. And it was turned down. As a consequence, we ended up spending more for prisons over the last three decades that we spent for colleges. And I made the statement that if you think that education is too expensive, wait until you get a bill for mass ignorance, that bill has started coming do with people refusing to be vaccinated with people not only being unable to distinguish between lies and the truth, but people for whom the distinction no longer matters. We have some real issues here that we have to sort through and we’ve got to do it without cancelling each other out. We’ve got to learn to listen, as well as to think,
Pete Carroll 04:00
you know, Doc, you mentioned truth in here and it to me, it’s this this there’s almost like a rebellion against truth, like truth doesn’t even factor in, within people’s perspective. It’s just what they want and what they got to have kind of thing and who they want to protect your stand up for. And it’s just cause such a, such a riff in, in, in, in all aspects of our social setting. I don’t where do we go when when truth is no longer you know, you know, so important to us?
Harry Edwards 04:31
Well, a lot of people have said over the years that truth is the first casualty when you get into division, but in point of fact, the first casualty of massive division is trust. And once the trust is gone, there is no basis upon which you can have a conversation to either start out truth because everybody tends to develop and cultivate, nurture their own facts. And once you get to that point, you have a very, very difficult challenge in front of you. It’s like a marriage once the trust, and that relationship is gone. I don’t care how many flowers you bring, I don’t care how much other things you might do to try to heal things until the trust is there, none of it really last very long, even if you’re able to implement it at all. So we have a situation of massive founded principally upon a lack of trust. And once trust begins to erode, it tends to metastasize, it may start off as we don’t trust that group or that class. But before you know it, you don’t even trust the system in which are all involved. And so now, there’s a real challenge to maintain the concept, the vision, the potential and the promise of democracy, not just freedom and justice for all. But the concept of democracy itself. We haven’t always been here, we’ve had issues
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about justice, we’ve had issues about Liberty with us about a core commitment to democracy was always there that has now been eroded. And that comes down again, to that erosion of trust, that has become profound over the last 15 years or so.
Pete Carroll 06:39
Yeah, in particularly magnified by the you know, that the last political regime where trust was eroded by almost by design, to cause fear, and it to generate a momentum and a following. And it happened, it did, it did happen in in frightening way. And now we’re battling against, you know, just trying to get back to some kind of semblance of balance, where we feel like we can start to trust and it’s okay to kind of get up and look at the news in the morning a little bit, you know, and all that. But I say that, then there’s so many things going crazy that, that it’s still most challenging.
Harry Edwards 07:16
It’s a tough one, it’s a very, very difficult situation. Of course, the overriding factor that this entire era will be remembered for, is not the erosion and demise of mutual trust, even among adversarial parties and interest country, but the situation was really frames everything. And then you begin to have that impacted by scientific circumstances, which say, don’t trust anybody to be well. Don’t get involve in gatherings, you can’t even go to church or to the mosque or to the synagogue. Be careful in the grocery store. Stay away from anyone who is not in your household, even if it’s your next door neighbor, look out for the mailman, all of that tends to compound, this whole situation of a lack of trust. And unfortunately, there are those who are naive enough to believe that after we deal with the pandemic, there that we’re going to simply go back to and pick up where we left off in 2019. It’s not going to happen in any arena. For large masses of people coach, there’s not going to be any after pandemic, there’s not going to be in a post pandemic, their lives have been changed irreparably. People who were in trouble before the pandemic, are now in crisis and the possibility without massive intervention and wise and visionary intervention, we’re not going to be able to bring them back anywhere close to even where they were, prior to the prep pandemic and 2019. Some people are going to be in a state of perpetual pandemic induced crisis, even after we have been vaccinated even assuming what some scientists say we’re now out of touch out of any range of this, we are able to achieve herd immunity. We have a lot of work to do, we have to begin to think about what do we do about those groups who have been so severely impacted by this situation, that there could be there might not be an imposed pandemic for them. This may be, in point of fact, and intergenerational crisis that they’ve been cast into. Something I’ve said decades ago when you live in a nominally integrated democracy, when something goes systematically, wrong, it happens first, worst and longest, to the least, and the lowest among us. And when we look at poor communities, when we look at communities of color, when we look at communities, which were already struggling around adequate medical care around adequate food, services around adequate and appropriate educational resources, and support, and so forth, those communities have now been devastated. We’re looking at World War Two level devastation, in terms of the circumstances that they’re in now, we must focus on them, and do everything we can as a society and a nation to bring them back to the extent that we can, at least so that their children will have a chance. So we’re looking at some pretty challenging situations here. And of course, sport reflects society, I heard somebody say, Boy, we’re going to fill the stadiums up again, by next fall, we’ll be back up to 100,000 people and so forth in the football stadiums, I kind of chuckle because I don’t see that happening. Coach, I’m sorry, but I don’t
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Pete Carroll 11:23
I know, I don’t know that that’s happening either. There’s, there’s enough reasons not to, I think they’re gonna find moderate ways of just trying to, you know, take steps forward that are safe. And as much as possible. There are there there is in certain areas, the the climate is shifting somewhat, where people are really seeking out, I think, a smarter way of looking at how they’re handling their business, and their movement, and their travel and their interactions and all that I think we continue to grow as we kind of draw from the panic, that we can get more clearly situated and make some good decisions and stuff. But I don’t think I don’t know when it’s gonna be where it’s like it was, you know, I don’t know that I think we’re talking about it’s a new day, it’s a new time, though.
Harry Edwards 12:17
Now we’re talking about a new time, post pandemic, even for the most fortunate among us is going to be something substantially different. So many of us have lost friends, relatives, children, parents, husbands wives, some entire families have been devastated by this situation breadwinners and leaders and matriarchs and patriarchs gone. That’s, there’s that aspect of it. And then, of course, as you state, when you begin to throw in with a pandemic, climate change, and some of these other issues that no one country, much less one person can can seriously impact. We have some major challenges, and what bothers me is not so much that we won’t have the will, eventually, to make the changes that are necessary, because I believe that human beings have demonstrated one thing throughout the course of our history. And that one thing is we will do anything to survive. And the thing that bothers me is not whether we will eventually develop the will. The thing that bothers me is will we have the time, some people already saying we have two years to get this climate thing together. Otherwise, we can forget our seaside homes and low lying areas, and so forth and so on. So there are a lot of issues that we have got to wrap our minds around. And the biggest challenge is not going to be the will, it’s going to be coming together collectively, as a society, as a nation as a world as a species to deal with it.
Pete Carroll 13:59
Doc, the wonder that you mentioned change and and, you know you have been involved with witnessing opportunities for change in being right there at the forefront of it for a great long while. And the changes that were that we were challenged by back in the 60s. And the protests that followed in the end, the effect of all of that is it was an indicator of maybe how you could predict things would would happen as you look now and you see the changes that are kind of on our doorstep, again, to be, you know, met with and all in the protests that also have followed. What do you see that you’ve that we’ve learned something from the past that can help us now? Or do Where are we right now in terms of change and protest and where we’re going?
Harry Edwards 14:49
Well, I think the one great lesson coming out of the 1960s was the same lesson that came out of the 1930s and the labor movement and the lesson that came out The Civil War. And that is that the one thing that you always have to be open to is change itself. Changing your disposition change, changing your attitude, changing your viewpoint, changing the way that you frame issues up and so forth. I don’t know of any great leader in the black community, for example, who didn’t change. W.E.B. Dubois changed from an ardent, talented 10th, integrationist and assimilationist, into someone who said,
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essentially, we’ve got to do both. We’ve got to develop economically and also look to participate in the mainstream. Malcolm X changed, Dr. King changed. By the time when he was assassinated, he was standing back to back with Malcolm X. And so the one thing that is absolutely clear, is at change is the rule of the universe of progress and advancement. And we have got to change one of the things for example, a protest activism is great. I mean, I, you know, I’ve led protest activism for half a century. But at some point, we have to get into collaborative activism, for example, we talk about police culture, and changing police culture, I don’t care how many hundreds of thousands of people stand outside of the police department, and crying (inaudible) and murder under cover of the badge and so forth. At some point, as we saw in the Chauvin trial over the George Floyd murder, the police who are involved in a situation going to have to step forward and say, we’re better than this. We don’t support this, this needs to change, which is what happened with the police chief and the commissioner and all of the other officers who came forth and testified in that trial. So we have got to understand that the people involved inside and the operation of these various institutions are going to have to take the lead in terms of major aspects of change, even as demonstrators and others outside pressure them to move in a particular direction. That means collaborative activism. That means not slamming the door on somebody because they wear a badge. It means sitting down listening, having a seat at the table and figuring out how can we make the changes necessary to live up to the promise of this great nation?
Audrey Cavenecia 17:30
Harry, do you see I mean, Pete had talked about your start, like in the Bay Area, and where you’ve come to today, do you see a specially with the youth and how involved that they’ve been in the protest? And over this past year? Does it occur different to you in terms of their stand and coming forward? Especially how many young white people have stepped in? Is it different than the 60s and 70s?
Harry Edwards 17:58
Well, first of all, I’m so let me say this. I’m so proud of these young people today. Even though I’m committed to to protest myself, my last words on my deathbed will probably be I protest. But at the end of the day, I’m so proud of these young people in the way they’ve stepped forward and stepped up. The the issue of the numbers most certainly is impressive. But we’ve got to change focus, again, it comes down to that issue of change. We go through this cycle of mass demonstrations and protests, over and over again, after Emmett Till mass demonstrations and protest, onset of civil rights movement, mass demonstrations and protests, the women’s movement, the mass demonstrations and protests. And so because oftentimes, we are dealing with the empathizing with the pain of those who are afflicted, as opposed to having that same energy and emotion mobility, around dealing with the problems that cause that pain. So, I’m very impressed by the massive numbers of young people out. The fact that they lead the state, they are the ones who brought us to this point in terms of the George Floyd issue and so forth. And I’m very proud of them for that. But we have to focus not so much just on empathizing with the pain of the black community, of the brown community, the pain of women, we’ve got to deal with the problems that generate that pain. And those are in the white community when I see 2 million young black, white, brown, red, yellow, young kids in Pacific Heights in San Francisco, protesting because that may be the site of a major issue or problem that’s generating a pain at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, then I’ll be impressed because that means we’ve turned a corner in terms of our perceptions of the issues, we have to understand. I’m glad to see two million women in the streets of the United States in 2016, following Mr. Trump’s election. But, the reality is that the problem is with men in American society,
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I’ve been much more impressed if I’d seen two million men in the streets, over that situation. And it’s and you can be completely selfish about this, you don’t have to be concerned about, Hey, I’m concerned about black people, I’m concerned, you can be concerned about yourself. I am concerned about women. But I’m more concerned about myself, because I understand that men are not going anywhere, that women don’t go as full and equal, respected, contributing partners, we’re not going to be everything we can be until women can be everything that they ought to be, because the only way that we can keep women on our whole, subjugated, subservient, subsistent, and so forth, is that if we stay right there in that hole with them, which is what we’ve been doing. And so at the end of the day, we can’t be everything that we ought to be as men, until women can be everything that they ought to be. White folks in America can’t be everything that they ought to be until Blacks and Latinos and Asians and so forth can be everything that they can be. That’s what makes America great. And until that realization comes about, and we get away from simply turning out, crisis after crisis, massive demonstrations and protests, after massive demonstration and protest cycle after cycle, atrocity after atrocity, we’re going to continue doing that until we shift focus and understand that at some point, we’ve got to deal with the problem. And when it comes to race and racism, and so forth, that’s a real challenge. It’s like misogyny and and sexism. That’s a real challenge. Because massage and and sexism in the case of men and women is so tied up with masculinity, our definitions of masculinity, men are reluctant to step back and say, You know what, I’m not making a statement about that woman, when I do this, I’m making a resume statement about myself. And I’m better than that men are reluctant to do that. White America is reluctant to give up white supremacy, privilege, power. definitional authority. One of the big arguments that we get into when we sit across the table is definitions of reality. Blacks haven’t had the power of definitional authority over their own life since slavery, since the slave master said, my slaves are happy and the slaves said, we want to be free. Well, we know who won that argument for over 300 years. At the end of the day, there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of changing our focus, shifting our perspectives and our visions. And again, like I said, I’m impressed with all the young people who are out in the street empathizing with the pain brought on by Brianna Taylor’s murder, George Floyd, Jacob Blake shooting, I’m impressed by two million women being in the street in 2016. I would have been more impressed if all of those young people have been in White communities where the problems exist. If all if rather than two million women there have been two million men in the street in 2016, saying we’ve had enough this has to change.
Audrey Cavenecia 23:49
Pete Carroll 23:50
Really? That’s that’s, that’s so true.
Pete Carroll 24:04
Doc, let me ask you a question about something that, that you have been witnessed to iconic, extraordinary once in the lifetime leaders in leadership, and and where we, whether it was Malcolm X, or or it’s so many different people, you know, Martin Luther King, we are the ones that are that stand out. So obviously, and you were there around all of that. What I’m curious about what what do you think about moving forward? Is there still a place in our culture and social setting for iconic leaders of that kind of magnitude? Will we ever see that again? Or is that something that was just, you know, a part of
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the times that that occurred, because it seems like as we move, leadership is going to be really important here and particularly solidifying and bringing people together and where we can really generate the power that’s necessary to make the big change that we like to make What do you think about the leadership moving forward? And is it possible for leaders to emerge of that of that kind of stature?
Harry Edwards 25:09
Leadership is a is a very curious concept. You have specific personalities, charismatic, articulate personalities, who have that unique ability to project the sincerest most deeply felt sentiments of the masses and have (inaudible) forward irrespective of whether there is a specific personality at the head of the parade or not. For example, coming out of the 1960s, where you had a Smith and Carlos and Curt Flood and Bill Russell and Jim Brown and Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King and all of these people who were at the forefront of articulating and that were conducive to advancement. By the mid 1970s are most of that have faded. The Black Power movement had faded Dr. King Malcolm X were both gone, civil rights movement had faded. Even the women’s movement set at once Title Nine was passed in 1972. And the Roe v Wade, it was came about in 1973. That began to fade as if people had had movement fatigue. But, yet in all of those areas, the movement forward the trajectory of developments continued. One of my great heroes of that era 1974 there abouts in 2012 is Julius Erving and Julius said, Hey, you know what, on the floor, I was Doctor Jay, but once I left the court, I’m Julius Erving and I can’t take on the weight of this challenge that has been plaguing this nation for 400 years. I can’t I couldn’t take that on. I did what I could, but he wasn’t somebody who stood up like Arthur Ashe. He wasn’t somebody who stood up, like Smith and Carlos or Bill Russell or Jim Brown. But, he did move the situation forward, along with Magic Johnson, who also wasn’t a militant guy. He wasn’t Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who would boycott the Olympic Games. But they move the situation forward. And in point of fact, as a consequence of Julius Erving as a consequence of Magic Johnson, the next generation of athletes who were more outspoken, but also better positioned in terms of power to be heard. People like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, CP3, they stood on Julius Erving shoulders, because Julius was what opened it up and made basketball and the NBA him and Magic Johnson. And those guys made the NBA, what it ultimately became and made along with people like Michael Jordan made it what it became and positioned that next generation, where they not only have a platform, they have power, so when they went to Orlando, they could go and call up, Mr. Silver and say, Hey, we’re not practicing. And we’re not playing in the game until we deal with this. And and Mr. Silva said, Okay, how do you want to do it? You know, so at the end of the day, the movement can move on, without specific personalities in leadership. And the next generation stands on their shoulders, just as surely as LeBron James stands on the shoulders, not so much a Bill Russell, but of Magic Johnson and Dr. J. So we have to look at leadership, both in terms of specific personalities, and the trajectory of historical developments, the evolution of developments, and looking at this situation we’re in now, where is the Malcolm X? Where is the Dr. King? Where is the Fannie Lou Hamer? You see a lot of different people ina lot of different areas, but the movement itself, like the millions of young people in the street is moving forward. That’s what we have to look at when we think in terms of advancements and the struggle that we’re involved in. We can’t just look at where’s the next Dr. King, that may be a different person. And we probably won’t see’em coming. Just like we didn’t see Dr. King. We didn’t see Malcolm X coming. But when she gets here, we will recognize it.
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Pete Carroll 30:03
Well said well said I, there is a there was a moment in our time doc. You and I have had some really I’ve had some very fortunate interchanges over the years with with you and and I remember we were driving back from Rocklin you know, coming back from the niners camp, we’re going back to the Bay area on the night off and and we were driving in the dark at night, you were driving, I was sitting in the passenger seat, and I’m just firing peppering you with questions and stuff about bad old days or whatever, just trying to learn and grow. And and I asked you a question about you were such an iconic leader and stood so strong in the whole Black Power movement, you were, signified kind of what the image of what it all looked like, at times. In my mind, I thought you were the one. And and I asked you about that, that time? And how, how dangerous a time it was for you personally and for your family and all of that. And how did you handle that? How did you deal with it? And you just talked about that? And I think I think it was, it’s amazing to me, because I saw you at the forefront. And I’ve wondered why why are you not still at the forefront breaking down walls. And I wasn’t I didn’t have the wisdom to know doc at the time that you were doing that. And you had you had found this enormous position in helping the world of sports, a continuation of your past, but in a in a prominent manner, in particular with the 49’ers and with Bill Walsh, and in that that timeframe. And you’ve carried that on for so long, and you’ve been able to continue to, to see the value of sports in the athletes. And just as you just so eloquently expressed that on the shoulders, we you know, we climb and and we continue to do that. Well, now as this as this times are changing, both of us are getting older, you know, we’re trying to we’re trying to still stay present and worthy and all of that. What’s next for you? What, what what’s next? Where do you see your you know, your heart going as we move into these next these crucial coming months and of change and all that could possibly happen? What do you see your your role in all of that?
Harry Edwards 32:24
Well, I’ve always been a teacher, I’ve always felt that teaching is the greatest of all professions. Because, unlike a lawyer or a doctor or dentist or an architect or an engineer who do something for somebody, a teacher inspires people to learn and incites them to think so that they can do for themselves. Those who can do those who have developed those who do teach. So I’ve been committed teacher for my entire life over 60 years, I intend to continue to do that. The only difference between my classrooms at Berkeley and San Jose State. And what I’m doing now is that the social media has made it possible for me to connect with more people over greater distances more consistently than ever before in history. And so I intend to, to continue doing that. The other thing is that we have to understand that change is never risk free. I understood that early on, as a young activists with H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael, and Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaverr, and Angela Davis, and all of those other brave young people, not one of them over the age of 25, when they started out, but who had the faith in this country, the love for this country to believe that we could be everything that we profess to be, and that we had a role, not just a role, but an obligation to make that happen. So my last year’s I hope, as long as I’m intellectually and analytically capable, is to inspire and incite yet another generation to think, to believe in themselves and to keep the faith in terms of what this country could be, not what it is, but what it could be.
Pete Carroll 34:41
You told a story that has I’ve never been the same since I’ve heard it. And I would like you, if you can. The story that you told was about you were commissioned to work with a some group of from the
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government and some kind of a group that was on some kind of a mission and you are part of helping them. You know, I don’t whatever make, you know, make headway. And you made a relationship with with a man that was the head of I think of the government organization. Do you remember that story you told about in that relationship that you had
Harry Edwards 35:17
You mean the relationship that I had with the and still have one of my one of my best friends who was a agent in charge of the San Francisco office of the FBI.
Pete Carroll 35:29
That story has so much to it. Could you just tell how you guys came together? And how that the friendship developed.
Harry Edwards 35:36
A very good friend of mine. And he was the agent in charge of FBI, which was the lead organization and running me all over the country in in the, in the 1960s. In fact, I had wound up, after they put in my Cornell University dissertation, which was the longest dissertation in Cornell University history turned out to be the first integrated textbook in the sociology of sport to start a new sub discipline 1104 pages. And as Diego who had a discreetly purchased copy of The Revolt of The Black Athelete, I sent him a note saying, hey, Jay, if you had just asked me man, I would have sent you an autographed copy, you didn’t (inaudible)
Pete Carroll 36:26
You called him Jay.
Harry Edwards 36:29
By the time they got all that in there, along with lectures from my classes, where they had people sitting in my classes, taking notes and dispatches from the field, I have over 3000 pages in an FBI file. And this office in San Francisco was the lead FBI agency and getting that done. Over time, we, I started to have exchanges of communication about community policing, with police departments in the Bay Area. Important In fact, I was literally working, volunteering at San Bruno county jail to work with inmates there and volunteering with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to try to bring some sanity to community policing in Northern California. And I got to know, the former agent in charge of the San Francisco FBI very well. And over the last 25 or 30 years or so we’ve become, we’ve become very, very, very, very good friends. And one of the things that I found out about it, as a consequence of just making our standing appointment for lunch twice a month, is that he’s a great guy. In point of fact, I found that he wants the same thing for his two granddaughters, as I want for my two grandsons, we just have a discussion about what’s the best way to get to it. The reality is that we can’t shut the door on people.
Pete Carroll 38:20
That story to me Doc meant more to me than almost anything that I’ve ever heard that had to do with with relationships with people from other groups and other backgrounds and difference differences in that once once you invested. No, not once, as you invested yourself in that relationship to get to know
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
the other person and they to get to know you. All of the differences kind of washed away. And there became a oneness in friendship and relationship that, that that is the heart of all relationships, which to me sound like dark like that. That was the answer. That that was the answer, you know, to all relationship issues and concerns. I I’ve never forgotten it anyway. So I just I credit you with helping me see the world in that manner.
Harry Edwards 39:09
The differences didn’t wash away. They became manageable. We could put them on a table and talk about them. The differences didn’t wash away. They’re still there. But let me tell you the kind of guy that he is. In 2018 we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Olympic project for human rights. We have three days of celebration on San Jose State’s campus. On October 18th, two days later, I was on my way to the airport to go to another event that was commemorating the Olympic project for human rights at Arizona State University. While I’m driving down the freeway, somebody who apparently followed me onto the on ramp fired three shots in my car. And you know, I’ve been shot at before I was shot at three times in the in the in the 1960s. And have so many guns pulled in my face by police officers I’ve lost. But when I came back to have the whole situation investigated. After I got back from Arizona, I called up my friend at from the FBI. And so he came over and took a look at it. And I said, he said, Well, I tell you what, let’s get in the car and ride around. I said, Are you sure you want to do that? He said, Absolutely. Let’s just drive around town here for half hour or so. This was important to me, because I had a friend who I was in the Black Panther Party with in the 1960’s who came down when I told him I’ve been shot at. He, he, he came down, he jumped on the on the Bart train and came down and, and and, and caught a uber over to my house and said, Man I’m worried to death about so you know, we sat and talked about it. And he looked at the holes in my car. And I said, Man, I know you got to go. Let me drop you off back over at the Bart train. He said, awe naw… no way. (inaudible) My guy from the FBI said naw let’s get in the car and ride around. (inaudible) Let’s drive around for a half hour or 45 minutes. (inaudile)
Harry Edwards 41:31
I mean, it’s not that the differences are gone, he and I still have some some torturous debates over, over over issues, even told me he told me a couple of weeks ago, he said, You know what, Harry, say you would have made one hell of an FBI agent with your insights and your brains and your ability to articulate and frame up stuff said, Man, that’s what the FBI are about and I told him, I said, Nah, (inaudible) here we go again
Pete Carroll 42:03
Harry Edwards 42:05
He was he was in the he was in the FBI for almost 35 years. So
Audrey Cavenecia 42:10
Harry Edwards 42:11
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
It’s not that the differences disappear. It’s that we face them is like James Baldwin said, we may not be able to resolve everything we face, but nothing can be resolved, that is not faced. And so what what it does is out of respect. And with this individual out of love, we’re able to face our differences. And that’s as much as you can ask for anybody, from anyone under these circumstances.
Pete Carroll 42:46
Audrey Cavenecia 42:47
Pete Carroll 42:47
Doc, you you have always stood for freedom and for for really, for the personal freedom for people in such a way that you’ve, you’ve just stood the test of time. And it’s just an amazing life that you’ve lived and all that you brought and said, that’s fantastic that that you would share with us today. And invisible this, we could talk for hours, and it just doesn’t end. And I appreciate you so much for all that you stood for and all that you mean to us and to myself personally, and not just about my team, but to my young guys that are trying to figure out the world, you are really continue to be a symbol of how a man can grow up and be at his best. So thanks so much for being with us.
Audrey Cavenecia 43:32
Harry Edwards 43:32
Let me tell you one more thing coach that you can go to you guys you can cut this is not. It’s about commitment to the mission. Whether you’re talking about a football season, whether you’re talking about this situation we have in this country, whether you’re talking about being a creditable responsible American, looking out for each other. It’s about commitment to the mission. Somebody asked me what do you mean by that? I said, Well, there’s somebody a reporter, not long ago, asked Michael Jordan, if he thought his team of the 1990s could beat last year’s Lakers team with LeBron James, who won the NBA championship. Michael immediately said, Yeah, absolutely, of course. And so he was so enthusiastic, the reporter says, well, by how many points? He said two, maybe three? He said, all that enthusiasm and you’re saying two to three points. And Michael’s response was, yeah, well, we’re all approaching 60. Now.
Pete Carroll 44:38
Harry Edwards 44:40
That’s committment to the mission
Pete Carroll 44:42
That’s it, right now
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Harry Edwards 44:46
The key to all of this is committment to the mission. We the people in order to form that more perfect a commitment to the mission. Thank you all so much for having me on.
Audrey Cavenecia 44:58
Thank you so much what an honor to meet you.
Pete Carroll 45:01
Love your Doc
Audrey Cavenecia 45:02
Pete Carroll 45:04
Talk to you soon. Thank you.
Harry Edwards 45:05
Pete Carroll 45:06
Audrey Cavenecia 45:08
What a human being?
Pete Carroll 45:09
Isn’t he something Gosh, he’s amazing. He’s always been like, really. I know his clarity in his in his Oh, my goodness is his perspective has just been so strong for so long and never changed. He’s never, he’s always been the same and that and you’re always so impressed with him. Everybody needs to hear from the Doc, you know, and I’m so fortunate because we met him back in the 49er days that I can pick up the phone and throw something by him. And you know, he’s helped me with so many issues and clarify stuff and kick me in the ass when you know, it screwed up and all is a great friend. And man, what a what a what a treasure. He’s just a great treasure.
Audrey Cavenecia 45:50
Completely. I mean, I, I knew I was going to be in Aw, but one thing that was actually surprising to me was his stand for women, not like I didn’t think he wouldn’t have but I mean how eloquently and powerfully that was stated in, in when he said, we’re never going to be the men that we can be if we’re not being right by women. And we’ll never be, you know, White people will never have the power they intend to have and all of that and be right until they’re right by Black people and Brown people. And I mean, it was just everything that he said was just a book. I mean, it was literally he was writing pages as he was talking. It was incredible.
Pete Carroll 46:31
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
We were very,
Audrey Cavenecia 46:32
What a friend
Pete Carroll 46:33
Very fortunate, very fortunate to have have him with us. And, and, you know, the good thing about her, he is well documented. And he has, you know, he has kept track of stuff. Because his his stuff is timeless, you know, his perspective is timeless in his his view of the world. I’m telling you that story that he that he told about the relationship that he built with a White guy that he didn’t know any anything about at all, through a commitment that they made to just get together. And they the way he told it, you know, I mean, it made me understand that this is how all relationships of people from all different backgrounds could find could find a relationship by putting in the time and listening and caring enough to keep coming back until you you’ve you developed the reasons for having relationship because you understand the other person you could feel the other person and you could know the other person. And to me that that’s always been the answer to all of our issues and all of our race relationships. I mean, we that we have to be open and listen and give of ourselves in put in enough time and enough commitment to where you now see the person as a person and that’s all anybody ever wants me right people just want to be seen and be heard, but we got to listen and open our eyes if that’s gonna happen and, and so he was a great, it’s a great symbol for me in my lifetime. And I’m really grateful for Harry for for pointing that out to me. So
Audrey Cavenecia 47:59
Yeah, thanks for sharing, sharing him with us for sure.
Pete Carroll 48:02
Audrey Cavenecia 48:03
Pete Carroll 48:04
That was fun.
Audrey Cavenecia 48:07
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Dr. Harry Edwards is a renowned sociologist and civil rights activist best known for his focus on the vital connections between race, society, and professional sports. Known as a “giant of sports activism,” and “the father of sports sociology,” Dr. Edwards has spent the last half-century advocating for the rights of Black athletes and the need for Black leadership in sports, from the NFL to the Olympics. In 1967, he was a co-founder and lead organizer of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, a movement designed to expose how America used Black athletes to lie to the world (and to itself) about institutional racism.
Meet The Hosts
One of only three coaches to win a Super Bowl and a college football national championship, Pete Carroll is in his 11th year as head coach and executive vice president of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
Audrey Cavenecia is the Chief Content Officer and Co-Producer for Amplify Voices and the co-host alongside Pete Carroll for the Amplify Voices Podcast.