Civil Rights in Sports

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The Express is another movie that depicts minorities breaking the color barrier and integrating into the white dominant sport business. The movie explores civil topics like racism, segregation, and discrimination. The story follows the life of Ernie Davis, the first African American college football player to win the Heisman Award. Gary Fleder, director, wanted to show the obstacles that Ernie overcame in order to pursue his dream of becoming a professional football player. Fleder’s intent to depict the struggle Syracuse’s football player faced changed the historical accuracy of Ernie’s actual experience. Throughout the film, Ernie encountered constant hatred, racism, segregation, and biased refereeing. The biggest inaccuracy of the movie is the fictionalized 1959 game between Syracuse University and West Virginia University. The racially mixed Syracuse’s team had been received by an angry white crowd at West Virginia. They are depicted shouting racial slurs and throwing garbage at the African American players. The problem with this scene is that it did not happen. This matchup during the 1959 season actually took place in the home stadium of Syracuse . Fleder changed the actual events in order to better portray the racism experienced by Davis. He chose the West Virginia school arbitrarily to serve as the film’s composite face of racism. By depicting the white crowd as savage and filled with hatred, the audience gains a clearer understanding of the experiences that minority athletes went through during the Civil Rights Era. Fleder’s point of view and his objective to illustrate racism in sports changed many aspects of the real Ernie Davis story. An example can be seen during the movie’s portrayal of the 1959 Cotton Bowl featurin... ... middle of paper ... ... people. It showed how the greater goal of equality could be attained with hard work, dedication, and the combined workforce of minorities across the country. Actual footage of Martin Luther King and various boycotts (sit-ins) are shown throughout the film. Fleder included these scenes in order to show the struggle that minorities had to face in order to obtain a society where everybody could be treated equally. They serve the purpose of explaining the emotions and experiences that blacks faced during the mid 1900’s. Lastly, when Ernie became the first African American who won the Heisman Award showed how whites began to accept black integration into the realm of sports. After this achievement, minorities across the United States saw the possibility of racial integration. Ernie Davis career fell short when tragedy struck and he died at the age of 23 to Leukemia.

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