City of Cambridge

Mayor Simmons to Host Members of the Famed “Syracuse 8” in Cambridge

CAMBRIDGE – On Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 6 pm in City Hall, Mayor E. Denise Simmons will be hosting Alif Muhammad, Greg Allen, and John Lobon for a discussion about sports, civil rights, and confronting institutionalized discrimination. These three individuals were members of the “Syracuse 8,” a group college athletes who, in the late 1960s, put their college and future professional careers on the line by speaking out against a system of racial discrimination on the Syracuse University football team. These young men put their conscience ahead of their careers and chose to take a courageous stand against racism, discrimination, and unfairness. In subsequent decades, that stand would be celebrated by civil rights activists, by Syracuse University, and most recently it has been told in-depth in a book titled Leveling the Playing Field: The Story of the Syracuse 8, by David Marc.

Mr. Marc’s book tells the story of the eight African American members of the 1969-70 Syracuse University football team who, having recognized discrepancies in how they and their white teammates were being treated, petitioned their team for access to the same academic tutoring that their white teammates were offered, better medical care for all team members, starting assignments based upon merit rather than race, and a concerted effort to racially integrate the coaching staff (which had been all white since 1898). These eight athletes boycotted the spring 1970 practice to protest for these principles, and seven of them were ultimately dismissed from the team. The team included Alif Muhammad, formerly Al Newton, who grew up in Cambridge and later became an Administrator in the Cambridge Public School District. This experience was a milestone in a lifelong commitment to social justice and change embarked upon by eight young men who merely sought to play football, but ended up confronting endemic racism and, in the process, changing their university forever.

The event will include a reading of excerpts from Levelling the Playing Field, a sustained discussion of the experiences of the Syracuse 8, and a segment for questions and answers. The evening is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact V. Muna Kangsen by email at, or by phone at 617.349.4313.

Last Updated: 3/24/2017

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