SI Vault
Robert Creamer
January 30, 1956
In the event that you are trying to pinpoint in your mind the things you should remember about Avery Brundage, the strong-faced gentleman pictured on the opposite page, he is the black villain who, in his 24-year reign as president of the U.S. Olympic Association, threw Swimmer Eleanor Holm off the 1936 U.S. Olympic team in midocean for sipping champagne, who cold-heartedly took a new automobile away from the pretty Canadian figure skater, Barbara Ann Scott, who ruthlessly declared Jesse Owens a professional, who peremptorily suspended Babe Didrikson, who publicly chastised Charley Paddock, who refused to allow European countries to reimburse their athletes for the regular salaries they lost when they were away from their jobs competing at the Olympic Games. You may have heard him described as Slavery Avery, a man with a discus where his heart should be, or as a man who looks comfortable in a high, stiff collar, or as a man wearing a slightly stuffed shirt.
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January 30, 1956

The Embattled World Of Avery Brundage

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In triumph Brundage lifted both hands high, like a man conducting a symphony.

"And there's the difference! Right there. As soon as you take money for playing a sport, it isn't a sport, it's work. Sport is fun, recreation, a pastime, an amusement. As soon as there is pay connected with it, it's work. It's a job. I suspect that if a professional baseball player discovered one day that he could make more money by going back home and laying bricks for a living, he'd go back home and lay bricks.

"I've got nothing against professional sport. It has a legitimate place in our social and economic structure. It's fun to watch. But I think it's significant that the professionals know that it's good business to keep the amateur spirit in their sports. Oh, I know about the Black Sox scandal and all that. But that's nothing. Bankers abscond occasionally, but that doesn't mean you should abolish banking. No, I have nothing against professional sport. Except that I want it clearly understood for what it is: a business, not a sport.

"That's what has happened to college football. They've ruined a fine sport by turning it into a business. Think of all the schools who have had to drop football because they couldn't afford it. It's a business."

He glared across his desk.

"A wonderful sport, but it's been turned into a chess game played by coaches. If I had my way I'd send all the coaches to Timbuktu on the day of the game. Let the boys play on their own. That's what sport is all about."

Brundage's face was gloomy.

"That is one of the saddest chapters in the history of sport, this misuse of sport for commercial purposes in the United States. The fault lies with the schools; the educators. In the early days educators were brought up in a cloistered, old-fashioned, medieval, semi-religious atmosphere in which physical activity was considered frivolous. Well, when sport caught the imagination of the student, the educators naturally frowned on it. Most of them still do."

He spun back and forth in his chair, restless and angry.

" Robert Hutchins, when he was president of the University of Chicago, said that whenever he felt the urge to exercise he lay down until it went away. Well, there you are. That's an illustration of the contempt for sports felt in certain highbrow circles."

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