An act of American Appeasement

Three-quarters of a century ago, Jesse Owens thought his work at the Summer Olympics was done. He had gone to Berlin and beaten Hitler’s athletes, and everybody else’s, in three events: the 100 meter dash, the long jump, and the 200 meter dash. He had spoiled Hitler’s planned demonstration of Aryan superiority, and had one-upped the man who would soon plunge the world into a long and bloody war. I’m sure that Hitler never forgot about the Berlin Olympics.

Someone else who never forgot, and with good reason, was Marty Glickman. Glickman was a college freshman at the time, and a member of the 4 x 100 meters relay team. The competition was scheduled for August 9, 1936, but on the day before the race, Glickman and another Jewish athlete named Sam Stoller were removed from the team and replaced by Owens and Ralph Metcalfe, two African American runners.

The reason for this was as clear as it was shameful. The Jewish runners were removed to avoid offending Hitler. These two runners missed out on the chance of a lifetime, in order to keep Hitler from being displeased. Marty Glickman was mad, and with good reason. When he returned to the stadium in Berlin in 1985, he had this to say:

“…I began to get so angry. I began to get so mad. It shocked the hell out of me that this thing of 49 years ago could still evoke this anger. I mean I was fucking mad. I was cussing – I was with people, colleagues of mine, and I was cussing. I was really amazed at myself, at this feeling of anger. Not about the German Nazis, that was a given. But anger at (U.S. Olympic officials) Avery Brundage and Dean Cromwell for not allowing an 18-year-old kid to compete in the Olympic Games just because he was Jewish.”

Marty Glickman later became the radio voice of the New York Knicks and the New York Giants for many years. Anyone who has heard “the key” and “the lane” to describe a basketball court has him to thank for those terms. His imprint on the sporting world has been very large, indeed. But what could have been his first brush with sports glory, nearly eight decades ago today, ended in a way that hardly anyone knows about. This is a small attempt at telling this man’s story, as the current version of the Summer Olympics is still unfolding.

Thanks to Josh Wilker at Cardboard Gods for providing me with a link to Glickman’s story

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