Track legend Edwin Moses talks NFL, social justice and Super Bowl pick

Track and field legend Edwin Moses, left, talks to Morehouse College students and others after a panel discussion at the college on Jan. 24, 2019. ERIC STIRGUS / ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM

Track and field legend Edwin Moses, left, talks to Morehouse College students and others after a panel discussion at the college on Jan. 24, 2019. ERIC STIRGUS / ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM

Blink and you’d miss him. That’s how fast Edwin Moses could run the 400 meter hurdles.

His 122 consecutive wins, between 1977 and 1987, are a record.

So when the two-time Olympic gold medalist track and field legend appeared at a panel discussion Thursday at his alma mater, Morehouse College, to talk about race, social activism and sports, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter was eager to catch him for a few minutes to talk about those topics and more.

The discussion is part of a two-day symposium at the Atlanta University Center on race, media and sports in conjunction with next week’s Super Bowl.

Here are some excerpts from our Q&A with him:

Q: Why did you participate in this discussion?

A: With the Super Bowl and the emphasis on sports, all of the current events that the students are talking about with the social justice and the world of sports and how it’s changed from what I learned and what I saw when I was growing up, it’s completely different now.

Q: What do sports leagues need to do, particularly the National Football League, to be better engaged with athletes on social justice issues? A: I think the point was really missed about what was happening to black men in the streets with police violence and brutality. I think as time goes on, people are going to see that was an opportunity to really do the right thing but when the issue was wrapped up in patriotism and the flag, a divisive issue, it was a disservice not only to black men who are very subjected to violence but to the whole country in general in terms of recognizing what's really going on and acknowledging the violence not only on people of color but poor people wherever they are.

Q: There was a question during the discussion about what responsibility do athletes have and (panelist Nzinga Shaw, Atlanta Hawks chief diversity officer) said it’s an opportunity and I saw you nod your head...

A: It is an opportunity. It isn’t for everyone. I’m a very private person. I never thought in my lifetime I would be involved in the World Anti-Doping Agency as an executive committee member or trying to make sure the Russian Olympic Committee or the (International Olympic Committee) do the right thing to make sure Olympians aren’t cheating around the world. I never thought I would be the key person representing the United States on these issues but I am.

Q: For athletes trying to find their voice on these types of issues, particularly black athletes or NFL players, what advice would you give them?

A: There’s a couple of different levels of decision. There’s an emotional decision and there’s a political level and there’s a level of personal sacrifice in how much you are willing to sacrifice and in today’s world, how much are you willing to damage your brand.

FILE--Edwin Moses clears the first hurdle in the Men's 400-meter on his way to winning the event and a place on the U.S. Olympic Team during the U.S. Track and Field Trials in Los Angeles in this June 19, 1984 photo. Moses was voted 66th of the top 100 athletes of the century by a selected panel assembled by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)


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Q: There was an interesting question from a student about what can we do?

A: I think the greater opportunity is off the field and look at the billions of dollars that are transacted. The salaries are a small part of the pot. The C suites, that’s where all of the deals are being made. That’s the new frontier. ...No one wants hand outs but there’s a lot of businessmen and businesswomen out there, not just African-Americans, but people of color throughout the world who deserve to get a cut of that.

Q: You talked about how so many pro football players used to come from (historically black colleges and universities). What can be done for HBCU players to get them greater exposure on television?

A: I’ve thought about that, but I can’t see it without being able to attract the best athletes and you need the facilities to do it and being in a conference in which you’re playing against those teams so you can get the revenues from TV streams. ... Can you imagine if it was 35 or 40 years ago? All of these campuses would look completely different.

Q: Who’s going to win? Patriots or Rams?

A: Rams. I’ve lived out in L.A. I like the Rams.