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Sports and the Racial Divide

Sports and the Racial Divide: African American and Latino Experience in an Era of Change

Edited by Michael E. Lomax
Foreword by Kenneth L. Shropshire
Ron Briley
Michael Ezra
Sarah K. Fields
Billy Hawkins
Jorge Iber
Kurt Edward Kemper
Michael E. Lomax
Samuel O. Regalado
Richard Santillan
Maureen Smith
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Sports and the Racial Divide
    Book Description:

    With essays by Ron Briley, Michael Ezra, Sarah K. Fields, Billy Hawkins, Jorge Iber, Kurt Kemper, Michael E. Lomax, Samuel O. Regalado, Richard Santillan, and Maureen Smith

    This anthology explores the intersection of race, ethnicity, and sports and analyzes the forces that shaped the African American and Latino sports experience in post-World War II America. Contributors reveal that sports often reinforced dominant ideas about race and racial supremacy but that at other times sports became a platform for addressing racial and social injustices.

    The African American sports experience represented the continuation of the ideas of Black Nationalism--racial solidarity, black empowerment, and a determination to fight against white racism. Three of the essayists discuss the protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. In football, baseball, basketball, boxing, and track and field, African American athletes moved toward a position of group strength, establishing their own values and simultaneously rejecting the cultural norms of whites. Among Latinos, athletic achievement inspired community celebrations and became a way to express pride in ethnic and religious heritages as well as a diversion from the work week. Sports was a means by which leadership and survival tactics were developed and used in the political arena and in the fight for justice.

    Michael E. Lomax is associate professor of health and sport studies at the University of Iowa and the author ofBlack Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1860-1901: Operating by Any Means Necessary. Kenneth L. Shropshire is David W. Hauck Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and director of the school's Sports Business initiative.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-046-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. IX-XII)
    Kenneth L. Shropshire

    There has been a long trail of scholars attempting to sift through issues related to race and sports. Virtually all scholars who study race and sport agree that this millennium begins with marked progress. We have witnessed the first African American athletic director hired at the University of Georgia and the first African American head football coach hired at Mississippi State and the Southeastern Conference, a moment with an African American as head of the United States Olympic Committee, a Latino with majority ownership of a Major League Baseball franchise and an African American with majority ownership of a National...

  4. Introduction. The African American and Latino Athlete in Post–World War II America: A Historical Review
    (pp. XIII-2)
    Michael E. Lomax

    In 1960, the Houston Oilers of the newly formed American Football League (AFL) instituted a “block seating” policy for the team’s home games at Jeppenson Stadium. African American patrons could sit only in folding chairs in an area from the goal line to the east stands. In response to these restrictions,Houston Informersports editor Lloyd Wells encouraged black Houstonians to boycott Oilers’ home games and worked with local and national civil rights organizations to establish picket lines at the stadium. The boycott failed.¹

    A proposed August 1961 boycott of a National Football League (NFL) exhibition game in Norfolk, Virginia,...

  5. 1 New Orleans, New Football League, and New Attitudes: The American Football League All-Star Game Boycott, January 1965
    (pp. 3-22)
    Maureen Smith

    Within the tattered pages of a January 1965 issue ofSports Illustrated, an article written by San Diego Chargers All-Pro tackle Ron Mix described an event that has previously been overlooked by both sport and civil rights historians.¹ No African American athlete had ever been reported to be involved in a Freedom Ride or any civil protests.² Reading through Mix’s two-page account of a historic and successful boycott by a group of all-star African American football players, one is struck by the political consciousness of the black athletes, evident in their comments. Art Powell of the Denver Broncos stated, “We...

  6. 2 Battles for Control over Muhammad Ali’s Career and Image
    (pp. 23-54)
    Michael Ezra

    On January 12, 1966, Muhammad Ali called a press conference to announce the formation of a new corporation that would promote his fights. The organization was named Main Bout, Incorporated, and its biggest stockholders were prominently positioned within the Nation of Islam. Since the company controlled the ancillary rights to Ali’s title bouts, it would reap most of their revenues, which would come from closed-circuit television broadcasts. Ali envisioned that Main Bout would become the foundation of a larger economic organization designed to create employment and wealth for blacks.

    Main Bout’s creation, which threatened to shake up professional boxing’s power...

  7. 3 Bedazzle Them with Brilliance, Bamboozle Them with Bull: Harry Edwards, Black Power, and the Revolt of the Black Athlete Revisited
    (pp. 55-89)
    Michael E. Lomax

    On October 7, 1967, a group of African American athletes and Black Power activists, led by Harry Edwards, formed the Olympic Committee for Human Rights (OCHR). The formation of the OCHR was in response to an informal survey Edwards conducted to assess the attitudes of world-class athletes regarding the problems black athletes faced specifically and issues affecting the black community in general. A specific objective of the OCHR was to organize a boycott of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, Mexico. This organizational effort, called the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), was based on the supposition that African...

  8. 4 The Black Panther Party and the Revolt of the Black Athlete: Sport and Revolutionary Consciousness
    (pp. 90-104)
    Ron Briley

    In the wake of 9-11, American sport, whether at the amateur or professional level, wrapped itself in the flag, using the arena of sport to support American military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. This use of sport in the service of empire reflects increasing corporate control over the arena of spectator athletics, encouraging consumption and employing sport in service of the conservative ideology of the American consensus. This ideological construct suggests the athletic playing field is a metaphor for an American meritocracy in which issues of race, gender, and class play no role. Well-paid professional athletes, with some notable exceptions...

  9. 5 Dark Spirits: The Emergence of Cultural Nationalism on the Sidelines and on Campus
    (pp. 105-125)
    Kurt Edward Kemper

    In early October 1972, the hapless Oregon Ducks football team visited the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to play the host UCLA Bruins. The Bruins sported the number-one rushing team in the nation and en route to setting the NCAA single-season rushing record they demolished the Ducks 65-20. Strangely enough, however, portions of the student section stood throughout the game with their backs turned to the field of play and at other times they booed. What generated such animosity from the student section was not a display of poor sportsmanship towards the Ducks or frustration over the lopsided score that night....

  10. 6 Title IX and African American Female Athletes
    (pp. 126-145)
    Sarah K. Fields

    On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX, a law stating that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”¹ At the time, the law seemed to be about opening opportunities for women and girls in the classroom, and almost no one anticipated the impact that Title IX would have on athletics. Title IX, by force of cultural rather than legal will, did change the gender of school- and...

  11. 7 Mexican Baseball Teams in the Midwest, 1916–1965: The Politics of Cultural Survival and Civil Rights
    (pp. 146-165)
    Richard Santillan

    Sports have been a major presence in Mexican Americans’ lives since the early twentieth century. This has been true of Mexican Americans in the Midwest, where sports such as baseball took on a special significance.¹ More than merely games for boys and girls, the teams and contests involved nearly the entire community, and often had political and cultural objectives. Like the fiestas celebrating Cinco de Mayo and September 16, sports are a thread that unites the community.

    Sometimes, a thousand people, representing dozens of small Mexican communities, would gather to watch baseball games in the years prior to World War...

  12. 8 Roberto Clemente: Images, Identity, and Legacy
    (pp. 166-177)
    Samuel O. Regalado

    Roberto Clemente did not come to the United States mainland with the purpose of pioneering change. He came to pursue his dream of success in the major leagues. Driven by his competitive spirit, when he left Puerto Rico in 1953, he carried with him the credentials for baseball greatness: a keen batting eye, sprinter’s speed, defensive quickness, and a powerful throwing arm. Moreover, his athletic skills were augmented by his tremendous self-confidence. Through the course of his career, his achievements on the field led to well-earned notoriety as being one of the most talented players both of his generation and...

  13. 9 The Pigskin Pulpito: A Brief Overview of the Experiences of Mexican American High School Football Coaches in Texas
    (pp. 178-195)
    Jorge Iber

    On the evening of October 18, 1991, the Duval County town of Benavides provided one of its former head football coaches with the highest honor that can be granted to a Texas field general, naming the community’s gridiron stadium in his honor. The tribute was well deserved for between the years 1940 and 1955, Coach Everardo Carlos (E. C.) Lerma guided the hometown Eagles to an impressive—even by Texas standards—run of success. The 1942, 1947, 1950, and 1952 squads won district championships. The 1948, 1949, and 1951 clubs earned bidistrict titles and the 1943 and 1949 contingents finished...

  14. Conclusion. A Contested Terrain: The Sporting Experiences of African American and Latino Athletes in Post–World War II America
    (pp. 196-208)
    Billy Hawkins

    Racial issues in sport appear to be moving at the speed of light. Tremendous cosmetic changes have been made within the past thirty years. For example, there are more people of color occupying leadership positions in sport, on and off the field. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has diversified ownership with Robert L. Johnson becoming the first African American majority owner of a professional basketball franchise. There are more black quarterbacks leading teams at predominantly white National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I institutions and in the National Football League (NFL). This is a monumental transition in the sport of...

  15. Contributors
    (pp. 209-212)
  16. Index
    (pp. 213-220)