African-Americans have been regarded as the lower caste in society by their white counterparts since they were brought to America via slave ships. African-Americans have been also been ostracized and socially persecuted by their white counterparts in the past (Jim Crow Laws) and even today. However, African-Americans are ‘socially acceptable’ by society for their athletic prowess and achievements in the arena of sports. How can this be?
Our class has been discussing this theme all semester. This is an example of the relationship between race, sports, and society. Sports allows individuals regarded as ‘lesser individuals’ to enter spaces previously occupied by people regarded as ‘the upper echelon’ of society.
This will be the theme of this paper. It will examine why ‘race’ matters when it comes to understanding sports, in particular, and society, in general. In addition, it will examine the world through the prism of race.
How did sports originate? Sports was a way in which individuals could relax and get away from the daily grinds of life in the late 19th and early 20th century. The most popular sports were baseball and boxing. These sports allowed ‘blue-collar’ workers to socialize and have a good time.
As mentioned in the above paragraph, baseball and boxing were the two most popular sports during this era. These were sociable events, which were limited to Whites. Society did not want to allow any African-Americans enter into the sports arena because it would give African-Americans a window of opportunity to enter in to other spaces, and Whites did not want this to happen. Let’s examine these two particular sports.
Baseball, regarded as ‘America’s favorite past time’ has been one of the most influential sports in understanding the relationship between race, sports, and society. It is the sport that brings everyone together and makes you feel like you are part of the game. However, this game would never be the same after October of 1945. The Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson, who became the first ‘noted’ African-American to play professional baseball. This was a historical event. Leaders in the sports society were beginning to understand African-Americans were as good or better in baseball than their white counterparts.
Since they allowed Jackie Robinson to play baseball, he was always in the media, and society was forced to listen to him. He became the voice of African-Americans. Robinson was not just a novelty act for baseball. He was good as a very talented baseball player. He won “Rookie of the Year” honors among other achievements as a professional baseball player.
Boxing is another sport, which helps understand the relationship between race sports, and society. Boxing is a sport that is popular all over the world, but in the United States, it means a lot more. Americans view the heavyweight champion of boxing as a symbol of masculinity in the United States. African_American men were not viewed in the aspect. Until the emergence Joe Louis, every heavyweight champion was white. Society did not want an African-American owning this title. Why would they feel this way? This would change everything, society pondered. It would give African-Americans a chance to be on par with their white counterparts.
Joe Louis was the first African-American to gain notoriety from every caste in society in the boxing profession. However, no boxer was ever influential as the great Muhammad Ali. Ali was a gifted fighter and orator. He was very articulate to the media, and Whites and Blacks adored him. This was very important. Like Robinson, Ali used his public visibility to help his people have a better life in America. He spoke out against the Vietnam War and he was a leader in Civil Rights Movement.
Society responded more to the words of Ali than they did to the late Martin Luther King, Jr. How could this be true? Ali was a man that generated money for people; therefore, they had to listen to him. He was a walking media circus. No African-American has ever demanded the respect of Whites as Ali did. His accomplishments as an athlete allowed him to enter spaces that no other African-American could, and he succeeded!
As mentioned before, boxing and baseball are two sports that help understand the relationship between