The case of the New York Athletic Club and its discriminatory membership policies is neither isolated nor unusual. A survey of 20 major cities in the U.S. shows that only one ranking athletic club has Negro members—the Washington (D.C.) AC—and most clubs have only token numbers of Jews. Where the attitude toward Jews is a little more liberal, there is a feeling that they should not "get out of proportion." One mid-western club admits Jews only if they join a Protestant church. In Salt Lake City much Jewish acceptance is based on economics. Clubs have found their Jewish members spend more money on the premises than other members.
The decline of athletic clubs—such as The Olympic Club in San Francisco, which once sponsored sports figures like James J. Corbett and National Tennis Champion Art Larsen—is traceable to racial attitudes. Until last month Olympic's bylaws limited membership to "white male citizens." The club's sponsorship of athletes began to wane after World War II. No Negro and only a few Jews ever competed for Olympic. The Santa Clara Youth Village track team was formed in 1952 as a protest to The Olympic Club's policy, and Olympic gradually dropped track and many other sports. Its wrestlers have been reluctant to compete against armed services' teams that include Negroes. Though the club has now removed all bars to membership, its real test is yet to come, for it has a 2�-year waiting list.
The Los Angeles Athletic Club refuses to give any information about its membership. But it is perhaps significant that it ceased sponsorship of track-and-field teams about the time that the Santa Clara team came into existence in San Francisco and a thoroughly integrated group, the Southern California Striders, was formed in Los Angeles.
In St. Louis the Missouri Athletic Club currently is voting on a proposal to remove the word "white" from the club's bylaws. It appears in at least 10 places in the constitution.
The exclusion of individuals from sports clubs for racial reasons has become more and more obvious. In Detroit, after a recent press conference held at a Detroit club, a Negro TV reporter was ushered out through a back door. The Detroit Yacht Club has stopped handing out complimentary membership cards freely to the press and officials in the city government as these segments of society have become increasingly integrated.
The NYAC, boycotted and under siege, may be getting the headlines, but its policies are hardly unique.
When Jean-Claude Killy posed with his collection of gold medals at Grenoble for Paris Match (page 22)—the photographs are now Exhibit A in the prosecution's case to convict him of professionalism—he was wearing a sheepskin coat acquired from a member of the Polish Olympic team. And last week while Killy's alleged wheeling (a Porsche) and dealing (with magazines and ski-equipment manufacturers) were being scrutinized by the International Ski Federation, authorities in Warsaw were dressing down their own Olympic athletes.
The Poles, who did not win a medal at the Games, had managed, it seems, to take a little gold home anyway by selling their team jackets, which were made of lambskin and handstitched with red-and-green highlander's ornaments. The coats brought $200 apiece in Grenoble. Outraged by this apr�s-ski occupation, Polish officials demanded that legal action be taken against the team for disposing of "state property." The Warsaw daily Zycie Warszawy declared, "Our athletes proved better tradesmen than sportsmen." But the newspaper's readers were evidently delighted by the capitalistic escapade. "In Polish winter resorts we always buy equipment from visiting Western skiers," said one of the many letters to the editor. "It is a pleasure to know that for once someone bought something from us."