• Serena Williams celebrates winning the first set against Garbine Muguruza (AAP)Source: AAP
Serena Williams has become the first ever black woman to be named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year. But why has the journey for inclusion of black people in sports taken so long?
Luke Briscoe

15 Dec 2015 - 11:06 AM  UPDATED 15 Dec 2015 - 12:22 PM

Serena Williams has made history as the third ever solo female athlete, and first ever black woman to be named the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year since the award's inception in 1954. 

Serena's success highlights the rise of black sporting stars over many years towards greater inclusion of black people in sports.

But to get there, she has surely encountered a great deal of racism along the way. The journey for black athletes collectively has been a long one, with resistance and setbacks.

At local stadiums in Australia, our own Indigenous sporting stars have endured racism and exclusion in sport. AFL star Adam Goodes knows too well the types of racial hatred that Aboriginal people face on and off the field.

In a candid interview with NITV AWAKEN's Stan Grant, Adam Goodes spoke emotionally about the type of exclusion black people face in Australia even today: "Just when I thought I was part of society I had been singled out again".

So why has the journey for inclusion of black people in sports taken so long? And how far have we really come? Why are we still seeing racism in sports in 2015?     

‘Stay motivated, believe in yourself and don’t let the world define who you are. You have got to define who you are yourself’.

In an interview Daily Mail interview with America Hip Hop Star Ice Cube sympathises with Adam Goodes and tells him to ‘Stay motivated, believe in yourself and don’t let the world define who you are. You have got to define who you are yourself’.

Inequality and social exclusion in sports dates back as far as 776 BC Greece.

The word penestae refers to the ancient Greek word, meaning slaves. In ancient Greek society penestae, prisoners and women were excluded from participating in the Olympic Games. More than two and a half thousand years later, we have of course seen much progressin people’s rights. But the fact still remains that exclusion in sports still exists.

In I936, Nazi-run Germany hosted the Olympics. It was the Games that would see German Olympian Lutz Long standing alongside black American athlete Jesse Owens, becoming one of the defining and iconic moments in history and helping to change people's views of black people.

"Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace"

Jesse Owens reportedly said, "Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace."

It was reported that Adolf Hitler was so humiliated by Lutz Long shaking hands with Jesse Owens that he stormed out of the stadium. A few years after Adolf Hitler would wage war on the world.

"You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment," Owens said.

Jewish born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein’s fight against racism is little known. But a famous quote of his lives on: "Racism is a white man's disease."

It is hard to think that three decades later, black people were still being excluded and ostracised within the Olympics. 

It is hard to think those three decades and black people were still being excluded and ostracised by within the Olympics.

It was the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City that saw two United States athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, do the 'black power salute' from the victory dais after the 200 meters final. They were supported by Australian athlete and silver medal winner Peter Norman. This was a dark time in Australia's history when it came to racial equality, with the White Australia Policy active. The Federal Government persecuted Peter Norman for making a stand against racism.

The documentary titled Salute screens on NITV. It looks at the role played by this white Australian silver medal-winner and what price these athletes paid for standing up for their beliefs.

Today, six decades since Jesse Owens took a stand against the Nazi regime, black sports men and women are the stars and some of the highest paid and respected figures in society.

Yet the struggle for equality and freedom for black people in sports continues. Even though black sports stars are on the rise in athletics, the NFL, the NBL and baseball, certain sports such as tennis, cricket and rugby union—all of which have their foundations embedded in English history—are not as diverse and inclusive.

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If you have been following tennis for the last thirty years then you would understand that it is a game for rich white men.

You very rarely see a black athlete competing at Wimbledon. But in in the early 2000s two black powerhouse sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, began changing the game to embrace diversity.