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ESPN's latest 30 for 30, Arthur and Johnnie, Is About Brotherhood And Sacrifice

Johnnie Ashe lacked his brother Arthur's tennis skill and world acclaim, but shared the same unselfishness and courage. 

By J.R. Gamble August 28, 2013, 04:38 PM EST


The expression, “It takes a village to raise a child” firmly applies to the life of Arthur Ashe. Ashe was a man whose athletic prowess broke barriers in the exclusive game of pro tennis in the ‘60s. He later used the same courage as a social advocate and role model for the gay community and people suffering from HIV at a time when societal views on both issues were rampant with ignorance, prejudice and malice.

ESPN’s next 30 for 30 Short film, Arthur and Johnnie , directed by Tate Donovan (Damages, OC), debuted on, offering today a first person account by Arthur’s brother, Johnnie Ashe, about how his own unselfishness was a vital contributor to Arthur eventually becoming the first African-American to win the US Open in 1968.

When a person is able to transcend the norm and become a historically significant figure through some life accomplishment, a closer look into their journey often reveals a list of people who have made personal sacrifices on their behalf.

When the younger Johnnie, returned home from his first tour in Vietnam with the Marines, Arthur was a West Point lieutenant and swiftly becoming a rising star in the tennis world. With Arthur suddenly in danger of being sent to Vietnam—only one brother was allowed to be in combat at the same time—Johnnie volunteered to be sent back to war in his brother’s place so that Arthur could continue his transcending tennis career. This story within the story is an interesting nugget that can’t be ignored when revisiting the world-changing accomplishments of Arthur Ashe, one of American history’s heroes.


J.R. Gamble writes for The Shadow League. He's been covering pro sports as a radio host and journalist since 1996. He's written for The Raleigh News & Observer, Newsday and SLAM Magazine. He has co-hosted Sportsrap Radio with A Tribe Called Quest legend Phife Dawg. Follow him @fanalyst1 & find him on Facebook.

View more from J.R. Gamble, a site dedicated to presenting journalistically sound sports coverage with a cultural perspective that insightfully informs sports fans worldwide. Founded and developed by media entrepreneur Keith Clinkscales, TSL is owned by Shadow League Digital a multi-platform content creation company.