Richard Lapchick

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Richard E. Lapchick, son of Joe Lapchick, the original Celtic center who became a coach for St. John's and the New York Knicks, is often referred to as the "social conscience of sport". Lapchick received his nickname because of his work with race relations and his ability to use sport to combat racial, gender and social inequities in society, both in the United States and internationally. He is a human rights activist, pioneer for racial equality, internationally recognized expert on sports issues, scholar and author.[1]

The early years[edit]

Lapchick’s life passion was sparked in Germany at the age of 14 while touring the Nazi internment camps of Dachau. Coincidentally, he was in Europe during the 1960 Summer Olympic Games and discovered the tremendous impact sport has to cross all lines, color, creed and religion. Thus, his dream to use sport as a vehicle for social change was born. It reinforced his early experiences witnessing public hostility toward his father when, as the Coach of the New York Knicks, he signed Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, the NBA’s first African-American player in 1950.[2] His earliest memory as a five year old was seeing his father's image swinging from a tree across the street from his house with people picketing under the tree.

Activist work[edit]

In the 1970s, Lapchick started fighting apartheid and led the boycott of the South African participation in international sport events, the Davis Cup in particular.[3] Lapchick was physically attacked in his college office in February of 1978 just as it looked like the Davis Cup was going to be cancelled. Lapchick worked for the United Nations from 1978-1984. His New York City apartment was ransacked in 1981 while he was leading a protest of a South African rugby team scheduled to play in the United States. His activism led to a personal invitation from Nelson Mandela upon his presidential inauguration in 1994 after anti-apartheid movements were successful.

Lapchick founded the Center for the Study of Sport in Society (CSSS) in 1984 at Northeastern University. He served as Director for 17 years and is now the Director Emeritus. The Center has attracted national attention to its pioneering efforts to ensure the education of athletes from junior high school through the professional ranks. The Center's Project TEAMWORK was called "America's most successful violence prevention program" by public opinion analyst Lou Harris. It won the Peter F. Drucker Foundation Award as the nation's most innovative non-profit program and was named by the Clinton administration as a model for violence prevention.[4] In 1993, Lapchick co-founded the Mentors in Violence Prevention program, a gender violence prevention and education program which has been utilized by the U.S. military, professional and college athletes.[5]

One year after the Center’s inception, Lapchick wanted to take its mission national and established the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS). For 28 years, the NCAS has been "creating a better society by focusing on educational attainment and using the power and appeal of sport to positively affect social change." It is a group of over 280 colleges and universities that created the first of its kind degree completion and community service programs. To date, 31,855 athletes have returned to NCAS member schools. Over 14,900 have graduated. Nationally, the NCAS athletes have worked with more than 19.1 million students in the school outreach and community service program, which focuses on teaching youth how to improve race relations, develop conflict resolution skills, prevent gender violence and avoid drug and alcohol abuse. They have collectively donated more than 20.8 million hours of service while member colleges have donated more than $320 million in tuition assistance.[6]

He helped create National Student-Athlete Day in 1988 which to date has recognized more than 2.6 million high school students for being citizen-scholar-student-athletes.

Lapchick was recruited by the NBA in 2014 to help deal with the fallout from Donald Sterling's racist remarks.

Academic career[edit]

Lapchick was announced as the endowed chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida's College of Business Administration in 2001. The DeVos Sport Business Management Program at UCF is a landmark program that focuses on the business skills necessary for graduates to conduct a successful career in the rapidly changing and dynamic sports industry. In following with Lapchick’s tradition of human rights activism, the curriculum includes courses with an emphasis on diversity, community service and philanthropy, sport and social issues and ethics in addition to UCF’s strong business curriculum. The DeVos Program has been named one of the nation’s top five programs by the Wall Street Journal, the Sports Business Journal and ESPN The Magazine.[7] In 2009 it was named the #1 MBA program in the nation for volunteer service.

While at the University of Central Florida, he remains President of the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS) and has established The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) which serves as a comprehensive resource for issues related to gender and race in amateur, collegiate and professional sports. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed Racial and Gender Report Card which tracks the hiring practices of professional and college sport which is published by The Institute which also publishes annual studies on student-athlete graduation rates and racial attitudes in sports. The Institute also monitors some of the critical ethical issues in college and professional sport, including the potential for the exploitation of student-athletes, gambling, performance-enhancing drugs and violence in sport.[8]

In December of 2006, Lapchick, his wife and daughter and a group of DeVos students formed the Hope for Stanley Foundation (HFS) which is organizing groups of student-athletes and sports management students to go to New Orleans to work in the reconstruction efforts in the devastated Ninth Ward. As of the summer of 2013, Hope for Stanley members have spent 38 weeks in the city in a partnership with the NOLA City Council. Lapchick was named an honorary citizen by the New Orleans City Council in October 2007. HFS has also worked with Tornado victims in Tuscaloosa, AL in New York with the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Awards and accolades[edit]

Lapchick’s extensive list of honors and awards cover several decades. In 2006, Lapchick was named both the Central Florida Public Citizen of the Year and the Florida Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers. Lapchick has been the recipient of numerous humanitarian awards and was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame of the Commonwealth Nations in 1999 in the category of Humanitarian along with Arthur Ashe and Nelson Mandela and received the Ralph Bunche International Peace Award. He joined the greats of Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe and Wilma Rudolph in the CSSS Hall of Fame in 2004.[9] He was also inducted into the Central Florida Sports Hall of Fame and the Multi-Ethnic Hall of Fame.

In 2008, he was given the NASCAR Diversity Award for leadership in advancing people of color in the motorsports industry. In 2009, the Rainbow/ PUSH Coalition and Rev. Jesse Jackson honored him for “lifetime achievement in working for civil rights.” Lifelong friend Kareem Abdul Jabbar requested to present the award to Lapchick on behalf of Rev. Jackson.[10]

In 2012, Lapchick was honored by the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida at its annual Dinner of Tribute.  He also received the Champions Award from the Alliance of Women’s Coaches, the only male to receive the award in 2012. The Black Coaches Association presented Lapchick with their Distinguished Service Award which is only the 2nd time they have presented this award in 28 years. Lapchick received the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award at the 2012 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies. 

In August of 2013, he received the Pioneer Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. 

He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in American Education, Who's Who in Finance and Industry, and Who's Who in American Business. Lapchick was named one of the 100 Most Powerful People in Sports for six years, one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America, one of the 20 Most Influential People in College Sport and one of the 20 Most Influential People in Sport in Florida. 

Lapchick was one of 200 guests personally invited by Nelson Mandela to his inauguration after leading the American sports boycott of South Africa from 1975 until the end of Apartheid.

Education and publications[edit]

Lapchick received a B.A. from St. John's University in 1967. In 1993, he was named as the outstanding alumnus at the University of Denver where he got his Ph.D. in international race relations in 1973. He has since earned eight honorary degrees.[11]

Lapchick is a prolific writer and is currently working on his 17th book. His literary works include: 100 Trailblazers: Great Women Athletes Who Opened Doors for Future Generations; 100 Pioneers: African-Americans Who Broke Color Barriers in Sport; 100 Heroes: People in Sports Who Make This a Better World; New Game Plan for College Sport; Smashing Barriers: Race and Sport in the New Millennium; Never Before, Never Again: The Stirring Autobiography of Eddie Robinson, the Winningest Coach in the History of College Football; Sport in Society: Equal Opportunity or Business as Usual?; Five Minutes to Midnight: Race and Sport in the 1990s; Rules of the Game: Ethics in College Sport; On the Mark: Putting the Student Back in Student-athlete; Fractured Focus: Sport as a Reflection of Society; Broken Promises: Racism in American Sports; Oppression and Resistance: The Struggle of Women in Southern Africa; Politics of Race and International Sport: The Case of South Africa.[12]

Lapchick is a regular columnist for and The Sports Business Journal. He has written more than 500 articles and given almost 2,850 public speeches.[13] He has spoken in the United States Congress, at the United Nations and in the European Parliament. 

He is considered among the nation's experts on sport and social issues. Lapchick has appeared numerous times on Good Morning America, Face The Nation, The Today Show, ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, the CBS Evening News, CNN and ESPN as well as numerous other news broadcasts. 


  1. ^ Richard Lapchick, Biography, ( accessed November 12, 2009.
  2. ^ Richard Lapchick, Smashing Barriers, (Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 2001), 103-4.
  3. ^ Richard Lapchick, Smashing Barriers, (Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 2001), 3-5.
  4. ^ Center for the Study of Sport in Society, About Us, ( accessed November 12, 2009.
  5. ^ Lapchick, Richard (November 30, 2011). "Violence against women needs action". Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ Richard Lapchick, Biography, ( accessed November 12, 2009.
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, Who We Are and What We Do, ( accessed November 12, 2009.
  9. ^ Richard Lapchick, Biography, ( accessed November 12, 2009.
  10. ^ Jon Gabriel, “Richard Lapchick Receives Lifetime Achievement Award,” University of Central Florida Today, July 8, 2009 (
  11. ^ Richard Lapchick, Biography, ( accessed November 12, 2009.
  12. ^ Richard Lapchick, 100 Trailblazers: Great Women Athletes Who Opened Doors for Future Generations, (Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology, 2009), Preface.
  13. ^ Richard Lapchick, Biography, ( accessed November 12, 2009.