Introduced in 2011, the Anita DeFrantz Award for Advancing Diversity in Rowing is presented by USRowing annually to recognize leaders in diversity and inclusion and is named in honor of Anita DeFrantz, a 1976 Olympic bronze medalist and a longtime international leader and advocate for access to sport. Oakland Strokes now stands alongside Row New York (2011), Row LA (2012) and the Chicago Training Center (2013) as the fourth club to receive such recognition for demonstrating leadership through outreach.
Anita DeFrantz, whose high school did not offer team sports for girls, began to make history in 1976 at the Montreal Olympics by rowing in the U.S. women’s eight, the first time women rowers were allowed to compete, and by serving as captain of the U.S. rowing team while she was on academic scholarship as an undergraduate at Connecticut College. Continuing to row in preparation for the 1980 Olympics, DeFrantz, by then an attorney at law, who practiced at the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia after having earned a J.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1977, led the effort to overturn the United States’ boycott of the Moscow Games due to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. DeFrantz filed suit against the Carter Administration based upon her conviction that it was the athlete’s choice to compete and no one could force an athlete to go or not go to the Olympics - she believed the Olympics were pure of political confrontations between countries and that a boycott represented the exact opposite of the Olympic ideology. She lost the lawsuit but received the Olympic Order in bronze for her effort. She was later appointed vice president of the Organizing Committee of the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1984 and helped persuade 43 African nations not to boycott the LA Games after South African runner Zola Budd was allowed to compete for Great Britain.
In 1986, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) conferred on DeFrantz, then a ten- year member of the United States Olympic Committee, a lifetime membership, a term set to expire in 2032. She became the fifth woman seated on the IOC and is both the first African-American and the first American woman to serve on the committee. As a member of the IOC, DeFrantz was instrumental in adding women’s soccer and softball as medal sports in time for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and has worked to shape the Olympic experience so that it promotes pure and clean sports. She became the first female vice-president of the IOC Executive Board in 1997 while serving on the IOC Executive Board (1992-2001) and accepted another appointment during the125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina; her activities include serving as chair of the Commission on Women and Sports (1995-2014). In 1987 DeFrantz assumed responsibility as president of LA84, a foundation formed to manage and administer the $94 million surplus that was Southern California’s share from the 1984 LA Olympic Games. LA84 has awarded well over $200 million in grants to youth sports organizations, and manages and operates a sports resource center and a world-class sports library. Since 1993, Anita DeFrantz has been the vice-president of Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron (FISA), the international governing body for rowing.
USRowing is a nonprofit membership organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the national governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States. USRowing selects, trains and manages the teams that represent the U.S. in international competition including the world championships, Pan American Games and Olympics. More than 75,000 individuals and 1,200 organizations strong, USRowing serves and promotes the sport on all levels of competition. USRowing membership reflects the spectrum of American rowers – juniors, collegians, masters and those who row for recreation, competition or fitness.