December 6, 2013 | WMFE - As people around the globe pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday, one Central Floridian recalls his connection to the South African leader during the height of apartheid. Richard Lapchick helped lead a U.S. anti-apartheid sports boycott of South Africa.
Lapchick says the boycott exerted unique pressure on the sports-obsessed South Africa at a time when oil, trade and currency could be smuggled in.
Mandela later told Lapchick the boycott heartened him during his years in prison because it illustrated the international community's commitment to change.
"I'd never heard a world leader, and I don't think anybody had, talking about love and forgiveness as a basis of government. But that's what Nelson Mandela talked about and in fact operationalized as he ran for and was elected president."
Lapchick now is chairman of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida.
His activism earned him an invitation to Mandela's inauguration. He remembers Mandela as humble, warm and an avid sports fan who was a high-profile boxer before his political work.