Originally posted on khandor's sports blog  |  Last updated 12/24/11

The most important story you will read about on-line today is courtesy of Dave Zirin:

1968 Olympian Lee Evans has a brain tumor and no health insurance

Lee Evans needs our help. The Olympic Gold Medalist and political activist, who exploded all records in the 400 meters at the 1968 Olympics, has been hospitalized with an aggressive brain tumor. The prognosis for the 63-year-old Evans is not good. As his fellow 1968 Olympic activist John Carlos said in an email, “All of our teammates want to go out and say some prayers. All there is left to do is pray.”

But the situation is made far worse by the fact that Lee Evans, after four decades teaching and coaching at schools ranging from the University of South Alabama to Nigeria, doesn’t have health insurance. This has meant, according to Lee’s sister, Rosemary, that he has been terribly mistreated during his hospitalization. Rosemary said to me, “I heard his doctor in the hall and I heard him say he wished [Lee] had been transferred somewhere else because he didn’t have insurance…. Lee is in intense pain. Not even morphine is helping. He hasn’t eaten in several days, yet there was no IV in his arm when I first went into his room. He’s lying in his filth and nothing is happening. If family members aren’t vigilant… If we aren’t vigilant, I don’t know what would happen.”

Thanks to this pressure and vigilance, the basic conditions of Lee Evans’s room has improved in the last 12 hours. But the fact that his care is even a question constitutes a national disgrace. Lee Evans, in addition to his 1968 Olympic gold medals in the 400 and 1600-meter relays, is a central part of athletic and American history. A founding member of OPHR, the Olympic Project for Human Rights, Lee Evans helped turned the sports world on its head by attempting to organize a boycott by African-American athletes of the ’68 Olympics to protest racism and oppression both at home and abroad. They wanted South Africa and Rhodesia disinvited from the games. They wanted the Hitler-sympathizer Avery Brundage removed as head of the International Olympic Committee. They wanted Muhammad Ali’s title, stripped for his opposition to the war in Vietnam, restored. They wanted more African American coaches hired. They pledged to boycott, protest, and raise hell if their demands were not met.

This protest was punctuated with Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s famous raised fist salute after finishing first and third in the 200 meters. As for Evans, he famously wore a black beret, in a nod to the Black Panthers, on the medal stand. Recently, Evans has been working to build a school on 13 acres of land he purchased in Liberia. He has even been trying to sell his gold medals to raise money for this dream saying, “I don’t need the medals,” he said. “I need money to build the school.” Evans’s wife, Princess, is a Liberian refugee and his dream was to build the school and name it after her.

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