“Sport protects the weak and excludes no-one, it frees young people from the snares of apathy and indifference and arouses a healthy sense of competition in them.” – John Paul II
Throughout his papacy, John Paul II was an avid proponent of sports and athletics, he himself having played soccer, hockey, and chess in his youth. The pontiff was even an avid skier, sneaking off to snowy hills whenever his health – and time – permitted. (He quit for good after the 1987 ski season for health reasons.)
John Paul II has been called the “sportsman pope,” and during his papacy was able to “magnificently elevate sport to a level that was never before considered by the Church.”
He considered sports a common denominator, able to unite all of humanity together. He called sports “an opportunity for meeting and dialogue, over and above every barrier of language, race or culture.”
Throughout his papacy, he met with many prominent athletes including meeting the Harlem Globetrotters twice. John Paul II first met the Globetrotters in Saint Peter’s Square on the 1st of October in 1986.
His second meeting came in 2000, when he was presented with an autographed basketball along with his own named & numbered jersey. He was given number 75 in honor of the Globetrotters’ 75th anniversary.
“The prestigious title recognizes an individual of extraordinary character and achievement who has made an everlasting mark on the world.”
Globetrotters owner and chairman Mannie Jackson said at the time: “We bring a message of hope to kids around the world. Meeting the pope puts the message in focus. With all the troubles that we see around the world, it gets more and more challenging to communicate with young people today. Similar to the Pope, the Globetrotters have touched tens of millions of people around the world as moral leaders and champions of human rights.”
When John Paul II was named an honorary Globetrotter in 2000, he was the 7th person at the time to have been named one.