- Race in American Sports by James L. Conyers
Issues of race have been central to our understanding of American society and sports. This has been evident with the exclusion of peoples from athletic competition because of their racial makeup to limitations of gender in the athletic realm to the impact of stereotypes. James Conyers, a professor of African American studies, has assembled a collection of interdisciplinary essays through Race in American Sports that examine athletics within intercollegiate and professional sports in the United States. Such themes explored in this edited volume are Native Americans as mascots, the place of historically black colleges and universities, debates around Asians in sports, masculinity and athletic competition, and the impact of racial stereotypes.
One of the work’s contributions is the discussion on the intersectionalities of race, athletics, and gender, an often-neglected aspect of sports scholarship. In “An Ethic of Care: [End Page 410] Black Female College Athletes and Development,” Akilah R. Carter-Francique discusses how black females involved in intercollegiate sports at predominantly white institutions of higher education experience seclusion, do not receive adequate support, and fail to have optimal experiences athletically or academically. She contends programming efforts created by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), like the life-skills development program Challenging Athletes’ Minds for Personal Success (CHAMPS), need to be utilized more on college campuses.
Rita Liberti’s “As Girls See It: Writing Sport on the Margins of the Black Press” examines the writings of Olga Bowers, Iovra King, and Faith Woodson, three black women who wrote for the Baltimore Afro-American in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Through their writings, they provided insight into the lives of black females in the sporting realm. They contributed to the opportunities females were afforded at a time when all aspects of athletics were male-dominated, including sports journalism. This chapter provides scholars and students of history an understanding of how race, class, and gender played a role in American society prior to World War II.
The discussion of race is continued in C. Richard King’s letter “Encountering the Undead: An Open Letter on the Persistent Problem of Native American Mascots.” He addresses the use of indigenous people in America as symbols of sports teams at the professional, collegiate, and secondary school ranks. King asserts the representation of Native Americans as sporting symbols has perpetuated racism in America and injured numerous people within native communities. By the end of his writing, he argues that logic and the presentation of facts will not be enough to end sports manifestation of anti-Indian racism and concludes he is not holding out hope for the end of Native American mascots.
College athletics is explored in Race in American Sports. One of the finest contributions is Earl Smith’s “The Athletic Industrial Complex: Conference Realignment, Race and Title IX.” Taking from sociologist C. Wright Mills and President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s use of the term “military industrial complex,” Smith coins the term “athletic industrial complex” to illustrate the intricate role sports play in the economic framework of the United States in the twenty-first century. According to Smith, the relationship between athletics and education has been greatly impacted as many institutions of higher education have sought financial gain at the cost of student athletes through conference realignment.
The academic experiences of black males in intercollegiate athletics are explored in Gary Sailes and Rebecca Milton Allen’s chapter, “Institutional Barriers and Self-handicapping Behaviors of Black Male Student-Athletes: Catalysts for Underperformance in the Classroom.” The authors provide examples of how institutions of higher education limit the academic progress of African American male collegiate athletes, but also how this particular population restricts its own scholastic success. According to Sailes and Allen, this is done by the placing of athletics over education, a sense of entitlement in the classroom, and the belief that the only way to succeed in society is through a career in professional sports. The authors contend that the “blame game” must end and that athletes, their families...