The Bates Seven, gentleman's agreement - discrimination in sports - opinion

Published date03 November 2021
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
The movie, based on the novel by Laura Hobson, won three Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Holm), Best Director (Elia Kazan), and Best Picture. In the movie, Peck played a journalist pretending to be Jewish who exposes a dislike of Jews in affluent Connecticut and New York City.

Such a gentleman's agreement was used in 1890 by the National Association of Base Ball [sic] Players to prevent African-American players from playing on white baseball teams. That agreement would be upheld until 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

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A gentleman's agreement was exercised in the US against Japanese immigrants at the beginning of the last century. Geopolitical tensions between Japan and the US were growing over Korea, the Philippines and Hawaii, so president Theodore Roosevelt wanted to calm relations between the two nations. Therefore, in 1907 Japan and the US came to a gentleman's agreement: the Japanese government limited the number of Japanese who would be allowed to leave for the US, in exchange for the US government agreeing to protect Japanese immigrants and their families. Being a gentleman's agreement, it was not made public and was never formally ratified.

The gentleman's agreement would then rear its ugly head in other sports besides baseball when it concerned African-Americans. When the National Football League was founded in 1920, African-American football players Bobby Marshall and Fritz Pollard were allowed to play. However, in 1933 the NFL instituted a gentleman's agreement preventing African-Americans from playing.

That agreement held until 1946, when Kenny Washington and Woody Strode signed with the Los Angeles Rams. In fact, Washington and Strode played football at UCLA with Jackie Robinson. Those three backfield players would integrate football and baseball.

In college athletics, gentleman's agreements prevented African-Americans from playing basketball in the Big Ten. Other agreements also extended to other collegiate basketball and football teams, many in the North, such as Harvard, Rutgers and the University of Michigan, whereby colleges and universities from the North would not bring their African-American players to play games in the South. Which leads to the story of the Bates Seven.

IN 1940, the University of Missouri invoked the gentleman's agreement and requested that...

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