SI Vault
August 27, 1956
It is doubtful that fans, officials and participants in U.S. amateur sport have ever been stirred, en masse, to quite the sort of baffled indignation which was set off this month by the publication of the new Olympic amateur oath. Under its terms an Olympic Games competitor must promise to "remain" an amateur, apparently for life. Last week, as officials in Melbourne began sending pledge forms to athletes around the world, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's James Murray, acting as a sort of surrogate for U.S. Olympic athletes, sought out Avery Brundage of Chicago, president and philosopher in chief of the International Olympic Committee, who gallantly took the stand, as follows:
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August 27, 1956

Olympians Put Avery Brundage On The Spot

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A The boys get the trip, too. No, it is not the same thing. But you can say this of college football, and it will shock some people, coming from Avery Brundage. I think college football players should be paid. The present college football situation cheats the player by diverting too much time from his studies and making hard work of a game that should be fun. Any institution which takes advantage of its students' loyalty and exploits them for gate receipts is engaging in a swindle and ought at least to be made to pay the boys. The trouble is—one of the reasons there are all these questions you are asking—that there is no literature on the subject of amateurism in sport. I advocate that every educational institution have courses in amateurism. It would be a better country if they did.

Q But how do you define amateurism? These countries which you say are so strongly for it have no comprehension of the situation in the U.S., do they? If their athletes had the same opportunity to turn their abilities into big money they would probably trample their officials in a rush to get in on it, wouldn't they?

A You must remember that we are not dealing with inconsequential people on the International Olympic Committee. My predecessor in this position was also president of the International Chamber of Commerce. Our member in Denmark is Prince Axel. These are people of substance. They are not children.

Q Perhaps that is the trouble. Perhaps they have ideas on sport which are holdovers from the days when it was the exclusive recreation of an aristocracy which was not only socially elect but also had all the money and security it wanted. Maybe they don't understand the problem of a champion runner who comes from a cotton farm.

A That charge has been leveled at the committee—that there are too many princes and millionaires on it. I don't hold with it. These are intelligent people who understand the problems of the modern world as well as you or I. Half of them are ex-Olympic competitors or champions themselves.

Q Why did you or the committee wait until publication of the I.O.C. deliberations in Paris to let news of the new oath get out?

A A warning was sent out a year ago, and that should have been sufficient. See here, let's assume the new wording was not used at all. Under the rule which has been in effect for 50 years, an amateur who intends to turn professional is not really an amateur and not eligible for the Olympic Games at all. We have not redefined amateurism. The athlete does not now pledge never to turn professional. He says that it is not his present intention. No one knows what he will do five years from now. But I say that the minute a boy becomes an "aspiring" professional he becomes a professional. From the moment he decides to become a pro he is a pro. And he does not belong in the Olympic Games competing with those who are and intend to remain amateurs. It's that simple.

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