For over fifty years, Dr. Harry Edwards, who has a PhD in sociology from Cornell University, has been a counselor for athletes in the area of human rights, social justice and activism in athletics. In 1967, while a professor at San Jose State, he founded the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). Several demands of the OPHR were the reinstatement of Muhammad Ali’s world heavyweight boxing title and the removal of South Africa and Rhodesia from the Olympic games in protest of apartheid. John Carlos and Tommie Smith, athletes from San Jose State and part of the OPHR, raised their fists in the Black Power salute in protest against racial injustices when they received medals on the Olympic stand in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico; “the most widely recognized protest in sports history”. Carlos and Smith were stripped of their medals and denounced as anti-American. Nearly fifty years later, in 2005, San Jose recognized Carlos and Smith for their actions at the Olympics with a 23-foot statue in their pose in Mexico City.
Edwards also suffered from the fall out. He was denied tenure at the University of California. He was profiled by the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover beginning in 1967 and later learned the FBI had more than 3000 pages on him and the OPHR. Edwards was labeled “anti-American, a revolutionary” and a danger to the state.
Today, Edwards is a consultant for the 49’ers as well as the Golden State Warriors. His relationship with the 49’ers began in the 80’s. He continues today to be a mentor for athletes, including Colin Kaepernick, and to be a voice for social justice.