RACE RELATIONS | Local leaders speak out on racism in sports history

By KENNEDY WILLIAMS, News Reporter

MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS 3) — Local leaders continue to discuss ways to bring change to racial issues in society.

McDonough County NAACP President Byron Oden-Shabazz said current movements surrounding racism starts with athletes.

“I think athletes have always given meaning and purpose to movements,” Oden-Shabazz said. 

It has been 52 years since America watched the 1968 Olympics Medal Ceremony in disbelief as two black athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fist in salute of black power while the Star-Spangled Banner played. 

In Smith’s words, the gesture was a “cry for freedom.”

Today, athletes are still fighting for America to live up to its creed. 

Western Illinois University Assistant to Diversity and Inclusion, Sterling Saddler, credits WIU Interim President Dr. Martin Abraham for bringing issues of race to the forefront. 

“He has done a wonderful job to actually put racism out front to the community,” Saddler said. 

Oden-Shabazz is focused on a way to bring about change. 

“We have to change the conversation with the people in power,” Oden-Shabazz said. “Stop being afraid.”

Saddler said WIU is also working to change the narrative about racial issues on campus. 

“We are working with the mayor’s office and the chief of police, in reference to issues centered around race,” Saddler said.