Commodified and Criminalized New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports

Commodified and Criminalized New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports

Edited by David J. Leonard and C. Richard

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Commodified and Criminalized examines the centrality of sport to discussions of racial ideologies and racist practices in the 21st century. It disputes familiar refrains of racial progress, arguing that athletes sit in a contradictory position masked by the logics of new racism and dominant white racial frames. Contributors discuss athletes ranging from Tiger Woods and Serena Williams to Freddy Adu and Shani Davis.

Through dynamic case studies, Commodified and Criminalized unpacks the conversation between black athletes and colorblind discourse, while challenging the assumptions of contemporary sports culture. The contributors in this provocative collection push the conversation beyond the playing field and beyond the racial landscape of sports culture to explore the connections between sports representations and a broader history of racialized violence.


Introduction: Celebrities, Commodities, and Criminals: African American Athletes and the Racial Politics of Culture
Chapter 1: America’s New Son: Tiger Woods and America’s Multiculturalism
Chapter 2: Sister Act VI: Venus and Serena Williams at Indian Wells: “Sincere Fictions” and White Racism
Chapter 3: Ghettocentrism and the Essentialized Black Male Athlete
Chapter 4: Why Can’t Kobe Pass (the Ball)? Race and the NBA in an Age of Neoliberalism
Chapter 5: One Nation Under a Hoop: Race, Meritocracy, and Messiahs in the NBA
Chapter 6: Much Adu About Nothing? Freddy Adu and Neoliberal Racism in New Millennium America
Chapter 7: Me and Bonnie Blair: Shani Davis, Racial Myths, and the Reiteration of the Facts of Blackness
Chapter 8: The Dennis Rodman of Hockey: Ray Emery and the Policing of Blackness in the Great White North
Chapter 9: Contesting the Closet: Sheryl Swoopes, Racialized Sexuality, and Media Culture
Chapter 10: “Life with no hoop”: Black Pride, State Power
Postscript: American’s Son? Tiger Woods as Commodification and Criminalization

What people are saying

Commodified and Criminalizedis timely and provocative—a direct assault on anti-Black racism in the contemporary moment. In chapters ranging in focus from Tiger Woods to Serena Williams, the collected authors challenge us to rethink the racial politics of sport and the cultural logics of its production, consumption, and representation. It is a must-read for anyone seeking to better understand the complex and contradictory discourses at work in the simultaneous celebration and demonization of Blackness and Black athletes.
Michael D. Giardina, Florida State University

A provocative, insightful and important survey of developments at the interface of diversity, sport and society and a must read for all who would understand the state, trajectory, and implications of human relations in American sports at the onset of the second decade of the 21st century.
Harry Edwards, professor emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

David J. Leonard and C. Richard King have brought together an impressive collection of essays which demonstrate the significant role elite level sport plays in forging racial meaning and social relations. The book’s ten essays—written by leading sport scholars who draw from diverse methodological and theoretical approaches—collectively demonstrate the various ways in which new racism is enacted and challenged in the 21st Century. Analyses of the discourses associated with such visible sport stars as Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Venus and Serena Williams, Shani Davis, and Sheryl Swoopes reveal that far from a bastion of meritocracy, elite level sport is embedded in a commercial logic that simultaneously celebrates and demonizes black sporting bodies. Importantly, Commodified and Criminalized: New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sport is more than another book about sport—it serves as an invaluable resource for those seeking to understand the complex workings of whiteness, power and resistance in contemporary times.
Mary G. McDonald, past president of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport; Miami University

Commodified and Criminalized shows how black athletes’ success becomes evidence of American colorblindness, while their failure is made to remind us of the persistent power of race….The strongest essays in this collection probe the ways that the careers of various athletes are made to serve as evidence for the classic narratives of American ideology.
Left Eye on Books

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