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The early years
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 Joe Lapchick when, as the Coach of the New York Knicks, he signed Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, the first African-American player signed in the NBA in 1950. His earliest memory as a five-year-old was seeing an image of his father swinging from a tree across the street from his house where people were picketing against the inclusion of a black athlete in a "white" team.
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. Lapchick was physically attacked in his college office in February 1978 just as it looked like the Davis Cup was going to be cancelled. He was attacked by men who proceeded to carve the N-word into his stomach. 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 and is now Director Emeritus. In 1993, Lapchick co-founded the Mentors in Violence Prevention program.
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 32 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."
Lapchick helped create the 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 engaged by the NBA in 2014 to help construct the case for why continued ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers by Donald Sterling was determined to the NBA after his racist remarks became public.
Lapchick is active in work against human trafficking and has added Shut-Out Trafficking to the NCAS's effort to combat human trafficking with week-long programs on NCAS campuses. Since 2014-15 there have been week-long programs on 28 NCAS campuses connecting with more than 54,570 participants. The program is partnered with the US Fund for UNICEF and the USOC Athletes Advisory Council and is funded by the Fetzer Institute.
Lapchick was an Associate Professor of Political Science at Virginia Wesleyan College from 1970-1978 and a Senior Liaison Officer at the United Nations between 1978-1984. He then served as director at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society for 17 years.
Lapchick accepted the endowed chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida's College of Business Administration in 2001. In 2009 it was named the #1 MBA program in the nation for volunteer service. In 2015, Sport Business International named DeVos as one of the top three graduate sport business programs in the United States as well as one of the top five graduate sport business management programs internationally. During his time at DeVos, Lapchick was named as "One of the 100 Most Powerful People in Sport".
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 Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC) published by TIDES.
In December 2006, Lapchick, his wife Anne, daughter Emily, and a group of DeVos students formed the Hope for Stanley Foundation (HFS), which has worked to help rebuild in New Orleans HFS has also worked with tornado victims in Tuscaloosa, AL, in New York with the victims of Hurricane Sandy, and in Baton Rouge, LA with victims of the flooding that impacted the community in August 2016.
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 presented the award to Lapchick on behalf of Rev. Jackson.
As a writer
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.
- Richard Lapchick, Biography, (http://www.ncasports.org/about/staff-bios/bio-richard-lapchick.shtml) accessed November 12, 2009.
- Richard Lapchick, Smashing Barriers, (Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 2001), 103-4.
- Richard Lapchick, Smashing Barriers, (Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 2001), 3-5.
- Center for the Study of Sport in Society, About Us, (http://www.northeastern.edu/sportinsociety/about/index.html) accessed November 12, 2009.
- Lapchick, Richard (November 30, 2011). "Violence against women needs action". ESPN.com. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, Who We Are and What We Do, (http://www.tidesport.org/) accessed November 12, 2009.
- Gabriel, Jon (July 8, 2009). "Richard Lapchick Receives Lifetime Achievement Award". UCF Today. Archived from the original on July 10, 2009. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
- Richard Lapchick, 100 Trailblazers: Great Women Athletes Who Opened Doors for Future Generations, (Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology, 2009), Preface.