Robby Robinson opens up about his past experiences of racism during his time as a pro bodybuilder.
Robby Robinson is an icon in the sport of bodybuilding with an interesting roller coaster ride of a career. While he never won a Mr. Olympia proper – he later returned to the IFBB after a period of being banned and won the MR. Olympia Masters competition. Now long since retired, Robinson sat down with us for a long video conversation where he opened up about his experience with racism in pro bodybuilding. In our latest GI Exclusive interview, Robby Robinson shares all on his experience being a black pro bodybuilder.
While speaking with Robby Robinson during our video interview, we asked him about his journey towards becoming a pro bodybuilder. But the conversation quickly pivoted – as Robinson makes mention of being at a disadvantage as a black bodybuilder in the sport. Specifically, Robinson alleges that he never received a Weider contract specifically because he was black.
While Robby Robinson remained quiet during his prime years as a pro bodybuilder – he has now grown confident enough to speak out about his personal experiences with racism in pro bodybuilding. Now that he’s retired – he has much less to lose in regards to his career.
Robby Robinson showcasing a still stellar physique after all these years (above).
Robby Robinson goes on to detail specific moments where he was treated with racism in the sport. He alleges that Joe Weider specifically told him he woudn’t give Robinson a contract because he was black. He also goes on to detail that his girlfriend at the time worked for the Weiders – and experienced racist remarks by her supervisors during her time there.
Robby Robinson admits that shortly afterwards many black bodybuilders rose up in the ranks, received Weider contracts, and became Mr. Olympia champions. Robinson acknowledges something changed after his experiences – but still stands by what he personally experienced and can’t speak for others.
When we followed up for Robby to go into more detail about specifics, he continued:
“You know, when I competed my paychecks were always short. I really didn’t understand it at first… myself and Rich Gaspari were always – Rich Gaspari got his ten thousand every time. Because we were on this IFBB tour, being on that tour we get paid every so often. My paycheck for six thousand dollars for second place, his was ten thousand dollars for second place. He got his ten thousand every time. Mine came up short several times. I couldn’t say nothing to the person who was running it, who was Wayne Demilia at this point. I couldn’t say too much to him. I just had to eat it. I was a quiet person. I stayed to myself. I didn’t want to bring all these things up. But I encountered a lot of racism in that business.”
The conversation then moved onto the bigger conversation about racism in the United States and the protests that have been sparking after the death of George Floyd. Lee Haney had recently spoke to us about the protests from his perspective as both a black man and a former cop. Robby Robinson states that things aren’t really that different today compared to his past experiences.
Though he was optimistic to see so many white individuals involved with the protests. He understands that young people are angry and can’t stay quiet anymore. Robby Robinson seems to have been pretty angry too during his life – but found ways to quietly persevere and push towards success.
You can watch Robby Robinson’s full comments in our latest GI Exclusive interview segment above.