Citizen Ashe

I get on a tennis court almost every day and remind myself about how fortunate I am. Arthur Ashe won tennis championships at a time when the sport had no diversity. Similarly, I recall my dad working at IBM when there were no Asian-Americans or immigrants who looked like him. He got his first promotion from an African-American female boss who herself was blazing a trail in a homogeneous company. Nonetheless, I’m grateful to that company for giving me a college scholarship and a summer internship.

The tables have turned since the 1980s and 1990s. Today, the tech industry is driven by immigrants and those of South Asian origin. I can’t imagine playing a mainly singles sport when no one wanted you to make it during Ashe’s 1970s heyday. Neither can I imagine working in a tech office with few women and hardly any minorities during my father’s heyday.

Citizen Ashe shows how Ashe deftly handled such matters long before Richard Williams and his superstar daughters revolutionized tennis in a more disruptive way.

Today, American sports leagues —-the NBA, the NFL, and MLB comprise over 80%, 70%, and 50% minorities, respectively, with a growing presence of international stars. The management and ownership class looks nearly identical to what it looked like in the 1990s. Judging by recent trends, Asian-Americans and other minorities are joining the ownership class and will continue to change the demographics even if they don’t play these sports.

In a world convulsing today as it did during Arthur Ashe’s career, winning matters less. Helping matters more. The stakes are high for an athlete: winning with class and inspiring an audience struggling for purpose. Arthur Ashe never quit, even amidst race riots and a terrible socio-economic situation in the 1970s. His story deserves more attention. Like Ashe, everyone can find a hero within — to fix issues much closer to one’s reality. This unheralded movie is great for families and educating children.