Sports and Society R333
October 11, 2014
Essay #2 Black/White Roles The desegregation of sports introduced diversity on the playing fields; however the roles were clearly defined on racial lines. As Coakley tells us, “Even the positions played by blacks and whites fit patterns shaped by racial ideology.” He continues by stating, “Blacks were expected to be faster and more physically gifted playing positions in the outfield in baseball and defensive backs in football. Quarterback and pitching positions usually associated with intelligence and decision-making skills went to whites.” These “stacking” patterns prevented most blacks from playing the positions that “would identify them as good candidates for coaching positions after retirement” (p.308). These patterns are slowly changing.
We now have the opportunity to watch players of both races in positions that were once predetermined by color. Football now has Black quarterbacks leading their teams. Baseball has many Black pitchers. We see young Black athletes on the Olympic Team in sports other than track and field. The Williams sisters have dominated on the tennis courts. And yes the coaching opportunities have also improved. So are we able to deter mine that diversity inclusion has reconstructed the social/political and presented a new racial ideology or pushed the envelope leaving people to questioning the changes in the social and political construction of sports or do we still have a dominant racial ideology which is both system supporting and system challenging? As long as players are discussed in terms of race, there will always be a dominant racial ideology. Jack Johnson, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens and Muhammad Ali are success stories of black athletes who broke the barriers in their respective sports and dominated. Since then we have elevated several Black athletes to “idol” status-Michael Jordan for example. All have one thing in common; they faced controversy, some overcame. But whenever they are discussed, the conversation has contextual overtones of race. The media, the organizations, the fans and many times the players themselves cannot or will not leave race out of the discussion. For instance in the NFL, how many times have you heard someone say Cam Newton is a good black quarterback? Or after interviewing players on the field, folks are still surprised that there are black players who are articulate? While it is safe to say that blatant name calling is over (?) there are labels are used to describe black athletes, even the notion of calling them Black is a label. So much has been written about the Black athlete, and yet when writing about white athletes, they are simply just athletes. When speaking of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Drew Breeze, etc. the words used to describe them are simply-these are the best quarterbacks, not the best white quarterbacks because the underlying assumption is that quarterbacks are meant to be white.
Another example may simply be answered by this personal experience. My son played football for Warren Central High School and Marian University. Once in college, he was required to take an anatomy class. Campus rumors indicated the difficulty of the class material. The class was filled with many students and females were in the majority since the class was also a requirement for majoring in nursing. In the first week, the professor told the class to choose study partners for upcoming exams. My son tried to join several groups but was told their groups were filled. The first exam came and went and confirmed the rumors of the difficulty of the material. The following class session, the graded tests were returned and the professor announced that the median test grade was 81. The high was 98 and the low was 64. The nursing students were stunned when they received their tests. One girl (white) turns to my son and said, “Wow, I only got 78 on the exam, you must really be upset about your grade!”