Former World No. 4 James Blake wrote about his remarkable comeback from personal and career setbacks in his first book “Breaking Back”. Now Blake, who currently works as a tennis commentator and serves as Chairperson for the USTA Foundation has just released his second book “Ways of Grace: Stories of Activism, Adversity, and How Sports Can Bring Us Together”.
Inspired by the great Arthur Ashe and his own book “Days of Grace”, Blake along with his co-writer Carol Taylor explore the many stories of professional athletes who chose to be advocates – sometimes at the cost of their own careers. Ultimately though, the book reveals how professional athletes have a unique opportunity to champion causes they believe in while sports itself has the ability to unite people together.
#WaysofGrace by @JRBlake reminds us all of the power of sports https://t.co/VzoMies2L9 @Venuseswilliams pic.twitter.com/umSR6INlEU
— harperbooks (@harperbooks) June 26, 2017
Per the publisher, “In ‘Ways of Grace’ he reflects on his experiences and explores those of other sports stars and public figures who have not only overcome adversity, but have used them to unite rather than divide.”
Blake opens the book by recounting his own extreme mistreatment in 2015 by the New York Police Department when several undercover officers mistook the former ATP pro for a wanted suspect while he stood outside his hotel waiting for transport to the US Open. That incident became national news and created even more focus on the issue of police treatment of minorities in the United States.
Blake recently revealed he has come to an agreement with the NYPD. In exchange for not suing the city, a legal fellowship will be created in his name that will help with the city’s police oversight agency.
Throughout the book, Blake recounts athletes who took a stand for causes they believed in or have used their massive fame and popularity to help those in their own communities.
These range from Australian sprinter Peter Norman who won the silver medal in the 200 meters at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics. Norman stood in solidarity with Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal stand – an action that cost Norman dearly after the Games ended. The book also focuses on Novak Djokovic, former World No. 1 in the world, who survived bombings as a child in his native Serbia during the Balkan Wars, and now works with UNICEF to help rebuild lives there.
Perhaps the book’s best highlights are Blake’s own interviews with several well-known athletes turned activists including tennis pioneers Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.
Both women share personal insights into current topics impacting the country, including the proposed travel ban ordered by President Trump at the start of his administration. While King in her comments remains hopeful, Navratilova feels less so as she sees many rights, that took so long to achieve, now under threat once again.
The book can definitely serve as an introduction for those seeking to know more about the history of athlete activists and also a source of inspiration for those who want to start advocating for causes important to them. As Billie Jean King advises in the book – “Everyone has to do it their own way. You just do the best way you can.”
(More information can be found here. Special Thanks to HarperCollins for providing a review copy)