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Paul Robeson: Remaking a Fallen Hero
Jerry Kirshenbaum
March 27, 1972
After 25 years, public fury is crumbling before historical fact
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March 27, 1972

Paul Robeson: Remaking A Fallen Hero

After 25 years, public fury is crumbling before historical fact

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The Establishment attitudes in sport concerning Robeson's political activity have been predictably slow to change. At least one football publication listed only a 10-man All-America team for 1918 rather than print Robeson's name. The Football Hall of Fame took a similar tack in failing to list him among its 330 immortals. "We take into account citizenship as well as accomplishments on the field," explains Jimmie McDowell, the shrine's executive director. "We want a player's activities after college to bring honor to the game." The remark implies that the Hall of Fame screens and approves the politics of every Red Grange and Sammy Baugh, a premise that is not only questionable but irrelevant. Since reversing its field on Robeson, Rutgers has been plumping forthrightly for his election into the shrine. Les Unger, the school's sports-information director, says pointedly, "We're officially proud of Robeson now." Somehow, it still sounds less wholehearted than an earlier view, one expressed in the Scarlet Letter, the Rutgers yearbook, on the occasion of Robeson's graduation more than a half century ago:

All hats off to Robey, men,
All honor to his name!
On the diamond, court or football field
He's brought old Rutgers fame.

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