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Dallas Cowboys players coaches and owner protesting on September 24

After building for over a year, the National Football League in America is being swept up in a wave of peaceful protests, as players, coaches, and in some cases, owners, are finding ways to silently protest what they believe to be an insensitivity to the issues of race, sparked by comments made in September by the President of the United States.

Referring to an athlete who gets on one knee during the playing of the American national anthem, the President said that such an athlete “disrespects our flag,” and is a “a son of a bitch” who should be fired.

When asked on September 25 at a press conference if the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) would support similar protests in at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, USOC CEO, Scott Blackmun, answered in a way that symbolizes the challenge of protesting at the Olympics.

I think the athletes that you see protesting are protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t. We fully support the right of our athletes and everybody else to express themselves. The Olympic Games themselves, there is a prohibition on all forms of demonstrations, political or otherwise. And that applies no matter what side of the issue you’re taking, no matter where you’re from. … But we certainly recognize the importance of athletes being able to express themselves.

Scott Blackmun

Blackmun’s words are sympathetic regarding an athlete’s right to express views that are deeply personal and important to them. But he does say that the Olympics prohibits “all forms of demonstrations, political or otherwise.” In other words, we respect your right to protest peacefully. But you need to respect the IOC or a National Olympic committee’s right to kick you out if you do so.

In 1968, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who famously stood with gloved hands raised in fists on the medal podium after their gold and bronze medal victories in the 200 meter finals, were consequently forced to leave the Olympic venue.

In 1972, Americans Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett, protested in their own way by standing nonchalantly on the medal stand while the American anthem was playing. Their perceived disrespect resulted in their suspension from further participation at the Munich Olympics, and subsequently in the US team failing to field a 4×400 relay team, an event they were favored in.

Collett explained in 1992 his actions in 1972 in a way that likely reflects the feelings of many athletes who are linking arms, removing themselves from the field or kneeling during the playing of the American national anthem:

I love America. I just don’t think it’s lived up to its promise. I’m not anti-American at all. To suggest otherwise is to not understand the struggles of blacks in America at the time.

Indianapolis Colts protesting
Indianapolis Colts protesting on September 24
Bob Hayes cowboys
Bob Hayes, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver

It was September 19, 1965 at the Cotton Bowl in Texas. The Dallas Cowboys opened up their season at home against the 1964 title game runners up, The New York Giants. Over 59,000 fans came out to watch their ‘boys, and it also happened to be the debut of the two Tokyo Olympians, and arguably two of the fastest men in the world: Cowboy receiver Bob Hayes, the 100-meter gold medalist and Giant defensive back Henry Carr, the 200-meter gold medalist.

As Hayes told the story in his autobiography, Run, Bullet, Run, the Cowboy were up 24-2 on the Giants. The Cowboys had the ball, second and 4 from the Giants 45 (in other words, 45 yards from the end zone and a touchdown). Dallas quarterback, Don Meredith, tossed a somewhat wobbly ball into the right flat that Hayes caught. He waited for his blockers, spied an opening, and headed for the goal line.

Carr and his teammate Jim Patton had a bead on Hayes and converged on the Bullet at the 25 yard line, “but when they reached that point, I was already 5 yards past them. “I’ve never seen this in the NFL, where defensive backs judge the angle and then get there and are lost, “Dallas head coach Tom Landry said.

Remarking on the same play, Cowboys’ personnel director Gil Brandt said something similar – “The guy changed pro football.”

Bob Hayes and Don Meredith
Bob Hayes and Don Meredith

“He was the fastest human being around. That makes an impact,” said elite American sprint coach and former Cowboys receiver John Smith. “We called him ‘Speedo.’ He just ran by people. I felt sorry for them. He was just a genetically superior human being.”

As they say, speed kills. According to this video, #2 Bob Hayes Top Ten Fastest Players (in the NFL), Hayes was revolutionary. His speed stretched the field like no one had done before. Man to man was the de rigeur defense, but coaches had to develop new zone schemes to contain the Bullet.

According to Dallas quarterback, Roger Staubach, who played with Hayes in the latter half of the Bullet’s career, ” He got these guys from man-to-man, they played a lot more zone, and I think he was kind of a game changer.” Remember, this was the age when defenders could do almost anything they wanted to a wide receiver short of armed robbery. So to create space, Hayes made the quick screen a thing of beauty.

Watch his highlights in this video:

Over 11 seasons and 132 games, the double gold medalist and running back from Florida A&M, caught 371 passes, 71 for touchdowns, and in the 1970 and 1971 seasons, averaged 26.1 and 24 yards per catch respectively.

“He wasn’t just a guy with great speed, he had very good hands, and I wish I could have played with him longer,” Staubach said. “I don’t know of any other world class sprinter who can take that speed and transform it into football. Because speed is really, really a great asset, but there’s still more to it, and Bob had that world class speed and he played enough football where he knew how to run routes.”

PS: You may be wondering, as many on the video did, why Hayes was #2, and not #1, here is the NFL’s answer.

Uetake at his Induction Ceremony
Yojiro Uetake Obata at his induction ceremony to the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame

He chats with me with a casual ease, talking about his life growing up in his home town of Oura, Gunma, while overlooking the training of high school wrestlers. Suddenly, his eyes sharpen, he shouts out words of encouragement, and then returns to the reminiscing.

Yojiro Uetake Obata, bantamweight freestyle gold medalist at the 1964 and 1968 Olympics, has returned to his hometown to coach at Tatebayashi High School in Gunma. This is where he tried to find his way with judo, but was believed to be too light to compete against competitors of all weights. Wrestling, which divides competitors into weight classes, allowed Uetake to find his life sport. Before long, Uetake was a national high school wrestling champion. Little did he know that wrestling would take him to a far off land called Stillwater.

While teenage Uetake was dreaming of going to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the commissioner of the Japanese Wrestling Federation, Ichiro Hatta, was working on fulfilling a promise to Myron Roderick, American Olympian at the 1956 Melbourne Games and in the 1960s, and head coach of the Oklahoma State University wrestling team that would dominate NCAA wrestling in the United States throughout the remainder of the 20th century. After sending a strong Japanese wrestler to the United States in order to compete for Roderick at OSU, the wrestler went to Brigham Young University instead after being heavily recruited. According to the OSU sports magazine, Posse, “It made Mr. Hatta mad and he told Myron not to worry, that he would send him a better wrestler; that’s when Yojiro showed up.”

Yojiro, or Yojo, as the Americans called him did not really want to move to the US. After all, he couldn’t speak English at all. But at least Stillwater, Oklahoma had the small town feel he was familiar with in Gunma – people were friendly. And he liked the food – particular hamburger steaks and gravy, fried chicken and ice cream!

Fortunately, Uetake know how to control his weight so he could compete for the Oklahoma State University Cowboys. And compete he did, like no other Cowboy in its hallowed history. Yojiro Uetake never lost a match, winning three straight individual Big 8 and NCAA wrestling championships from 1963-1965, going an incredible 58 – 0 in collegiate competition. In between, he also picked up a gold medal for Japan at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

OSU star Yojiro Uetake
Yojiro Uetake with his NCAA winning haul.

What was the secret to his success?

Uetake had a great relationship with his coach, Myron Roderick. “He was a very strong wrestler,” Uetake told me. “He was passionate, strong in fundamentals and technique, and I really liked his focus on getting take downs. ‘Take ’em down and let ’em go’, he would say about how to get two points quickly.” The admiration was mutual. Roderick’s wife Jo Ann was quoted as saying, “Myron always said that Yojiro had natural talent, and was by far the best wrestler he ever saw or coached.”

Uetake also had a great relationship with the OSU football team, taking health and physical education courses with them, including future Dallas Cowboy star fullback, Walt Garrison. “He was one of the greatest athletes I ever saw,” Garrison said in this article. And apparently Garrison and his teammates saw a lot of Uetake because the coach not only allowed him in the practices, he allowed him to practice with them. Uetake credits football training, like running inside ropes, hitting tackling dummies in quick succession, moving side to side, fast-paced push-ups and sit-ups. “Tackling from a squat is great for wrestling as we are in the same stance, where we need to be ready to attack, hit, and get back and get ready again,” Uetake told me.

Living in America had a profound effect on Uetake. Not only was he coached by Roderick, and taken under the wing of the OSU football team, he learned how to build his own style of training. At the time, the NCAA did not allow coaches to train their wrestlers during the summer season. Instead, Uetake had to work to supplement his meager funds. “I would go to the Delta and Grand Junction in the Colorado mountains, which was like a desert. I worked on building irrigation pipes. And to keep in shape, I’d come up with ways to train.” Uetake told me that he would have to lift very heavy hay, but he’d do it in a way to work on specific muscles. He also maintained his feel for combat by actually tackling trees.

If he was in Japan, Uetake Obata told me he would be wrestling all the time, and following the directions of his coach. And he would never have developed his own way of training, and never really learn how to best take advantage of their own body and physical gifts. “I did this myself,” he said. “Roderick taught me how to focus, but I learned a lot on my own.”

Obata with the Tatebayashi HS wrestling team
Uetake Obata with the Tatebayashi HS wrestling team

On Monday, August 3, 2015, Yojiro “Yojo” Uetake Obata was finally inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. As he said in his acceptance speech, nothing gives him more pride. “I have always loved Oklahoma. Every time I come back to Oklahoma I look