Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Things That Should Make the Sports World Go, "Hmmmm?"

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Things That Should Make the Sports World Go, "Hmmmm?"

Article excerpt

Things That Should Make the Sports World Go, "Hmmmm?".

Like former talk-show host Arsenio Hall, Kenneth L. Shropshire, in his excellent book, In Black and White: Race and Sports in America, discusses things that make you go "HMMMMM?" Unlike Hall, Shropshire not only makes you ponder, he offers insightful history and provocative analysis for why the sports world in America is so Black and white. He also provides a decisive course of action for narrowing the racial disparities which permeate that world.

Indeed, Shropshire says his goal in writing the book "was to focus on even-handed methods of addressing a continuing problem that likely will not disappear." But he also makes a concerted effort to explain why change is so important.

He sets up his case quite nicely with an introduction that examines the realities of racism and discrimination in this country, conceding that both are as American as apple pie. Shropshire deftly uses statistics to support his case, but he also establishes three key themes in his analysis of the sports industry.

The first theme focuses on the impact of color-blind policies and the failure of such policies in addressing existing race problems. The second looks at the need to recognize that unconscious racism exists in all America. And his final theme concerns the permanence of that racism in America. Only by understanding those concepts can reform come about, declares Shropshire, who emphasizes them throughout the book.

Take his historical perspective that examines the rise of racism and discrimination in sports from its earliest roots -- from mixing of the races in most athletic events, to Jim Crow segregation; from the breaking of the color barrier by Jackie Robinson, to the "lawn jockey" mentality that manifested itself in the racist comments of Al Campanis, Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder and Marge Schott. According to Shropshire, that history shows that overwhelming change has not taken place and that for Blacks to have a greater role in sports, white people will have to relinquish power.

So, what would be the primary benefits of minority ownership in professional sports? First, there is the social value of diversity. Second, Shropshire writes, there is the "financial value of diversity, in terms of allowing minorities access to a piece of the lucrative sports ownership pie and expanding the individual franchise revenues by attracting more fan support and attendance from minorities and achieving equity in player salaries without regard to race."

Put another way, the author says meaningful sports-franchise ownership by Blacks would symbolize the narrowing of race inequity in the sports world and race issues in America in general. It would negate, to some degree, the last business in which owners bought, sold and traded people. HMMMMM?

Shropshire, who is an associate professor of legal studies at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a practicing sports law attorney, is perhaps at his sharpest when he discusses legal recourse towards achieving the social, cultural and financial benefits of diversity. But he admits that the courts can play only a limited role in mandating diversity in the front offices of sports franchises, conceding that the law has played a limited role in discrimination in the private sector. He therefore advocates the need for voluntary efforts to dismantle racism and discrimination in the sports world, placing that burden on league leaders and on athletes to address change. …

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