In the light of Ann Coulter’s remarks after the last presidential debate and response by John Franklin Stephens and subsequent backlash by just about anyone with a soul and a brain, I started thinking about some of the bravest and most courageous athletes we have. I’m talking about the athletes who compete in the Special Olympics. If you missed Stephens’ response to Coulter, here is a link to it: http://specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/an-open-letter-to-ann-coulter/. In my opinion, even though she says she wasn’t being insensitive to those with intellectual disabilities, there is still no excuse for her use of the r-word. In fact, her vehement refusal to apologize only makes matters worse. All of this got me thinking about the Special Olympics and the athletes that compete at them.
The Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver (sister of JFK) on the idea of learning what people with intellectual disabilities could do in sports, not what they couldn’t. The first International Special Olympics were held in July 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Roughly, 1000 athletes competed from 26 U.S. states and Canada. 20 years after it was begun, the International Olympic Committee officially endorsed and recognized the Special Olympics. Ever since then the movement has grown at unprecedented rates. It even has had a mainstream movie made about it. The Ringer (2005) from the comedic minds of the Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something about Mary) starring Johnny Knoxville uses comedy (often times crude but not directed towards the athletes) to breakdown destructive stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities. The writers first gained the permission of the Special Olympics to make the film, and then worked with the Special Olympics and family members of Special Olympics athletes throughout production. As I mentioned the comedy can be crude at times however it is never directed towards the athletes and many times is a result of the athletes making fun of Knoxville’s character. The movie truly displays the heart and courage that these athletes display on a regular basis and demands that they be treated with utmost respect.
After reading the history of the Special Olympics and some of the stories about the athletes, it is truly amazing the barriers that they have broken over the past 44 years. In fact it leaves me wondering about what barriers will be brought down next. Could we possibly see a Special Olympian compete at the Olympics in 2016 or 2020? After all, we have seen multiple Paralympians compete in the Olympic Games. The most recent of which was Oscar Pistorius a double below-knee amputee of South Africa, who competed in track events at the London Games. I wish only the best for the future of the Special Olympics and I think that the future is bright for their organization and the athletes that compete in the Games. It’s amazing what they can do. However, after Coulter’s statements this week, it is evident that some people still don’t understand (even if she didn’t mean it the first time) and it is up to us to try to change that.
OK, I’m signing off. I hope everyone has had a great weekend and has a great week to come. Remember, you can do anything you set your mind on, so never give up! Look for new posts starting tomorrow by Those Sports Guys (and I promise I’ll have a post up on time this coming Friday). Have a great week.