Exactly 22 years ago, the city of Atlanta played host to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. The games turned out to be one of the most memorable in the modern history of the games. From Muhammad Ali lighting the torch at the opening ceremonies to Kerri Strug winning gold for the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team with a legendary vault on a sprained ankle to Michael Johnson winning the 200 and 400 meter races while donning sparkling gold Nike running shoes along with the U.S women’s and men’s basketball teams dominating their way to gold. However, the games were marred by tragedy when on July 27 during a sold out concert at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta, a pipe bomb exploded sprinkling sharp spikes into the crowd of thousands. Two people were killed and hundreds more were injured. The bomb rocked the games and was a direct attack on the values of the Olympics which stand sportsmanship, peace, and equality. Unfortunately, 22 years later, those values are still under attack.
The attack in Centennial Park was perpetrated by Eric Rudolph, a white supremacist and religious fundamentalist who had ties to radical right wing groups. His motives were based on a philosophy of hate, violence, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. In the years since, we are now living in a world where hatred and violence and attacks on various groups of people, particularly those who have historically been oppressed and marginalized are on the rise. On this anniversary of this tragedy, we as social workers including social workers that work in the sports world, must do all that we can to combat the spread of hate, bigotry, and violence in every possible way. Whether it is at the Olympics, LeBron James’ house being vandalized with the n word spray painted, the threats against Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players for their courageous act of civil disobedience, the violent white supremacist attack in Charlottesville, or attacks against our immigrant sisters and brothers, all of us need to do our part to stop this. Let us never forget the memory of what happened in Atlanta 22 years ago and let us all work together to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again and let us never relinquish our values of social justice, peace, service, and integrity. Let us also support other organizations and groups that work to promote these values such as the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, CAIR, ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, The League of United Latin American Citizens, Japanese Citizen’s League, and the Human Rights Campaign. 22 years later, Atlanta Strong.