In Black and White: Race and Sports in America

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From the days of the Negro Leagues in baseball up to the present when collegiate basketball factories entice and then fail to educate young black men, sports in America have long served as a barometer of the country's racial climate. Just as blacks are generally absent from the upper echelons of corporate America, they are similarly underrepresented from the front offices of the sports industry as well. In this compact volume, Kenneth L. Shropshire confronts prominent racial myths head-on, offering both a descriptive history of—and prescriptive solutions for—the most pressing problems currently plaguing sports.

At present, whites have a 95% ownership stake in professional basketball, baseball, and football teams. And yet, when confronted with programs intended to diversify their front offices, many teams resort to the familiar refrain of merit-based excuses: there simply aren't enough qualified black candidates or they don't know how to network. While more subtle, this approach has the same effect as the racist comments of an Al Campanis or a Marge Schott: it stigmatizes and excludes African-Americans. In the insular world of sports, characterized by a feeder system through which former players often move up to become coaches, managers, executives, and owners, blacks are eminently qualified. For example, after decades of active involvement with their sport, they often bring to the table experiences more relevant to the black players which make up the majority of professional athletes. Given the centrality of sport in American life, it is imperative that the industry be a leader, not a laggard, in the arena of racial equality.

Informed by Frederick Douglass's belief that power concedes nothing without a demand, In Black and White casts its net widely, dissecting claims of colorblindness and reverse racism as self-serving, rhetorical camouflage and scrutinizing professional and collegiate sports, sports agents, and owners alike. No mere critique, however, the volume looks optimistically forward, outlining strategies of interest to all those who have a stake, professional or otherwise, in sports and racial equality.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A prominent sports-law specialist sends down an indictment of racism in sports that is impossible to ignore. Anyone desiring to be informed about race issues and sports should read it."

-Kirkus Review

"A new standard of excellence in writing about sports in America begins with this book. Shropshire has approached his task with unique skill, passion, seriousness, and intelligence."

-Houston A. Baker, Jr.,University of Pennsylvania

"This is not merely a screed on sports' lagging track record in combating racism. Shropshire provides workable solutions for bringing more minorities into the coaching and business ends of athletics."

-USA Today Baseball Weekly

"In Black and White hits harder than Lawrence Taylor. A how-to manual not only for sports but society as well. It should be required reading for every incoming freshman."

-James Lofton,former NFL All Pro, NBC Broadcaster

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Black and White is both a metaphor for the racial divide between athletes and owners in professional sports and an apt description for the author's dry, statistical writing. Whites, not surprisingly, have a 95% ownership stake in the three major professional sportsbaseball, basketball, and footballin which black athletes dominate. So while the industry superficially looks egalitarian, it can actually be a chattel existence. Shropshire, a professor at the Wharton School of Business and author of The Sports Franchise Game, considers the racial makeup of the front office personnel; the climate of the NCAA; and preconceptions about the power and prestige of a white sports agent. Shropshire is informative, factual and even anecdotal, but still awfully bland. Even when he is at his best (discussing racial myths while allowing for his personal experience as a practicing sports law attorney), the flow is entirely disrupted by the overabundance of footnotes (143 in the 25-page second chapter alone). Shropshire clearly believes that athletes by have a duty to be race men and to work for change in an industry that routinely rejects them when they have passed their prime. It's rather optimistic of him to end with the image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics as they "bowed their heads, listened to the U.S. national anthem, and raised black-gloved fists to the sky." But it's hard to imagine self-indulgent narcissists like Dennis Rodman or Deion Sanders standing up for anyone except themselves. Gestures are only so effective. The real question is whether high-priced athletes of today will use their money to buy into the front office. (July)
Practicing sports lawyer Shropshire (legal studies, U. of Pennsylvania) points out the racism still institutionalized in American professional sports, distills the attitudes that allow it to persevere, and recommends strategies for redressing the situation. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Baseball USA Today
This is not merely a screed on sports' lagging track record in combating racism. Shropshire provides workable solutions for bringing more minorities into the coaching and business ends of athletics.
Kirkus Reviews
A prominent sports-law specialist sends down an indictment of racism in sports that is occasionally dense and difficult to read but impossible to ignore.

Noting that 95 percent of all sports team owners are white, while their teams' athletes are for the most part black, Shropshire (Legal Studies/Wharton School, Univ. of Pennsylvania) reveals the many reasons why pro and college sports remain under the control of what is essentially a white old boys' network. These include prevailing racial images and myths, white racism, black apathy, athletes' and owners' self-interest. In addition to identifying the problem, Shropshire proposes several remedies. Some, such as reforming college sports admission policies (by dropping the use of standardized aptitude tests as a means of judging students for admission and eliminating freshman eligibility) seem simple, bordering on the obvious, and they have been raised before, but decision makers have yet to embrace them. Other proposals seem less probable, including the boycott by athletes of some major sports events, the utilization of additional resources to improve America's high schools, and a program to wean society away from the creation and worship of sports heroes: "A white kid tries to become President," Shropshire writes, "and the skills and knowledge he picks up on the way can be used in a thousand different jobs. A black kid tries to become Willie Mays and all the tools he picks up are useless to him if he doesn't become Willie Mays."

Despite the author's conjecturing and frequent overreliance on obscure legal examples, this is a solid, well-argued, and important study. Anyone desiring to be informed about race issues and sports should read it.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814780374
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth L. Shropshire, the author of several books, is Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has written for USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, Emerge Magazine, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Sports, Race, and Scholarship
Introduction: The Realities of Racism and Discrimination in America 1
1 The Roots of Racism and Discrimination in Sports 20
2 Sitting in with the "Good Old Boys": Ownership 36
3 The Front Office and Antidiscrimination Law 62
4 "Fear of a Black Planet": The Front Office 76
5 Color-Blind Propositions: The Collegiate Ranks 103
6 "The White Man's Ice is Colder, His Sugar Sweeter, His Water Wetter, His Medicine Better": Sports Agents 128
7 The Next Millennium 142
Notes 161
Index 205
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