Paralympic protest: athlete activism, apartheid South Africa, and the international sport boycott in British para sport, 1979–1981

Cam Mallett, Michelle M. Sikes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In October 1979, the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation (ISMGF) imposed a lifetime ban on Maggy Jones, a medal-winning British Paralympian. Her crime: distributing leaflets about the healthcare disparities in apartheid South Africa. Two years later, Bernard Leach, the British record holder in the freestyle swim, withdrew from the International Stoke Mandeville Games in protest when he learned that South Africa planned to send a team. ISMGF administrators took a softer line towards Leach, however, because the swimmer partnered with the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) to transform his withdrawal into a public relations weapon against Paralympic administrators. In recent years, historians have expanded our knowledge of the external struggle against apartheid, one of the most sustained and significant transnational movements of the twentieth century. This struggle, a notable antecedent of the Black Lives Matter movement, played out in all realms of sport, yet little has been written about campaigns of anti-apartheid solidarity within the Paralympic movement. This study of Paralympic protests and the politics of public critique adds to this literature, centres athlete agency in British disability sport, and offers an important perspective on sport, race, and protest to better understand the Black Lives Matter movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSport in History
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • History

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