Monday, June 1, 2009

Writing History: The influence of journalism on sports and society

by Jennifer Schiller

What we know about sports and sport history is a product of the media. How we perceive modern sports is a product of the media. But in addition, how we view history as a whole has a lot to do with sports journalism. In fact, the modernization of communication, including the telegraph, the steam press, the Kodak-Eastman camera, and a revolution in the newspaper industry led to the boom in interest in American sports (Schultz, 2009a).

Sports too have helped the journalism industry by increasing readership and listenership. The 1921 Jack Dempsey-Georges Carpentier is thought to have started the radio revolution (Lever and Wheeler, 1993). And the Joe Louis-Max Schmelling rematch reached 58% of all homes with a radio. A 1927 Dempsey fight at Soldier Field drew 40,000,000 radio listeners.

Though early on boxing reaped the most benefits from radio, baseball quickly began to catch on. The Chicago Cubs were the first team to use radio during the regular season but by 1934 Ford Motor Company sponsored the World Series for $100,000.
Television, once again, revolutionized the relationship between sports, society, and the media. Sports were the perfect fit for TV, and TV the perfect medium for sports. As of 1978, television contracts began to generate more revenue for NFL teams than gate receipts. Money is one of the biggest factors pushing broadcast sports journalism. Television contracts drive many sports organizations with lucrative sums and help to promote games and generate attendance through greater exposure (Lever and Wheeler, 1993).

However, the media has not just influenced the popularity of sport (and vice versa), but has also helped create the dialectical relationship between sport and society that exists today (Schultz, 2009b). The stance of journalists during key points in sporting history has led to both sporting and societal changes.

One such journalist was Shirley Povich, a sportswriter for the Washington Post for over 75 years, and arguably one of the most influential journalists of the decade. Povich covered almost every sport imaginable and was a vocal proponent of integration and racial equality. Along with Sam Lacy, a sports writer for the Baltimore Afro-American, Povich fought for the integration of baseball. The two also spared with long-time Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall over integrating the Redskins, the last team in the NFL to integrate (Smith, 1987).

Povich wasn't perfect, and rarely discussed women's sports despite writing through and after Title IX, but he did set the stage for improved race relations in baseball and helped fight for integration in football in the nation's capital. Without journalists such as Lacy and Povich pushing for change on the field, the Civil Rights movement may not have had the effect or success it did.

This is not however, a uniquely American concept. Sports journalism is a global phenomenon and the effects of sports journalism on both sport and society have wide-reaching effects both here and abroad. Journalist Franklin Foer demonstrates the global effect of sports and sports coverage in the non-fiction work, "How Soccer Explains the World". Foer discusses the social implications of soccer worldwide and in many cases uses media coverage to illustrate his point.

Sports and journalism need each other, always have and always will. They feed off each other and influence the society we live in. Philip Graham, the former Washington Post publisher once said, journalists "write the first draft of history." Sports journalists, like all journalists, write history, just in a more unique way. After all, it's not just sports fans who know the name Jackie Robinson, or wept at Lou Gehrig's speech, nor was it just sports fans who understood the implications of the Louis-Schmelling fight or the "Miracle on Ice." And it is not only sports fans who see the significance in breaking the color barrier, persevering through hardship and disease, and fighting racism, prejudice and communism. But without journalists and the media we may never heard those calls, or been witness to those moments in history, and we certainly wouldn't be sitting in this class discussing them.

With an ever-changing journalism world it remains to be seen the consequences on sport and society. However, it is clear that as long as sports and the media exist there will remain an important dialectical relationship between the two leading us to learn more about box scores, the world, and most importantly ourselves.

Works Cited

Lever, J., & Wheeler, S. (1993). Mass media and the experience of sport. Communication Research. 20, 125-143.

Schultz, J. (2009a). Sport and the Emergence of Modern America. Lecture presented in
KNES493. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

Schultz, J. (2009b). What is sport history? Lecture presented in KNES493. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

Smith, T. (1987).Civil rights on the gridiron: The Kennedy Administration and the desegregation of the Washington Redskins. Journal of Sport History. 14, 189-108.

Recommended Readings

Wenner, L. A. (1989). Media, sports, and society. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Povich, L., Povich, M., Povich, D., & Solomon, G. (Eds.). (2005). All those mornings... At the Post. New York, NY: PublicAffairs.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is Beckham an Exception to American Exceptionalism? by Neil Basumallik

According to Nielsen Media Research, a combined total of 1.5 billion viewers watched the 2002 FIFA World Cup and in 2006 the France vs. Italy World Cup final match was the most watched televised sporting event of the year (Tatham, 2002). Soccer’s popularity is unparalleled by any other sport in most parts of the world yet in the U.S., a country where soccer is the most popular recreational sport for boys and girls, professional soccer’s popularity has not permeated into American culture. England’s celebrity “footballer” David Beckham’s arrival to the LA Galaxy has failed to catalyze the growth American professional soccer exposing soccer’s lack of popularity as a result of enduring American ideals.

Debuting for Manchester United F.C. at age seventeen, David Beckham has established himself as one of soccer’s modern stars transcending normal expectations and rising to the heights of soccer legend and international celebrity. After stints as England Team Captain and Real Madrid midfielder, Beckham tried his luck with a $250 million dollar five year contract with the MLS’ L.A. Galaxy. Upon the announcement of Beckham’s acquisition Galaxy president, Alexi Lalas, proclaimed that Beckham will, “revolutionize Major League Soccer economically and from the football point of view”(quoted in Wicks, 2007). After an optimistic start with record attendance and jersey sales recent MLS television ratings have shown that the MLS has averaged less viewers in 2008 on ESPN2 than it did before Beckham’s introduction in 2006 (Mickle, 2009). Despite the introduction of Beckham coupled with new MLS franchises less people are tuning in to watch MLS soccer when compared to the pre-Beckham era. Is the inability to revamp the MLS due to Beckham’s lack of appeal, skill or status, or is there an underlying factor woven into the fibers to American history preventing professional soccer’s growth?

One cannot place the blame for the state of professional U.S. soccer on any single organization or person; instead one must understand the role of American exceptionalism in the formation of American sporting culture. Rooted in the “notion that the U.S. was created differently, developed differently” and thus must be “understood differently,” American exceptionalism highlights America’s choice of “freedom over tyranny” compared to the rise of communism and monarchy in Europe (Schultz, 2009). Unlike soccer, an English invention, football, baseball, and basketball were all invented in America helping construct American sporting identity, an identity that has lasted centuries. Thus, with the abundance of original American sports supporting the young nation’s individualistic ideology, there was no need for integrating an English sport into American culture. “In short, all major American professional sports that defined the dominant sports culture in the United States in the course of the twentieth century exhibited a much more unimpeded capitalist style and ethic than their European counterparts, particularly in the world of soccer” (Markovits & Hellerman, 2001).

After decades of development America rose to become an international superpower yet, “long residuals,” ideas that outlast “time and contest,” even through periods of change, maintain the essence of American exceptionalism, reinforcing the past’s affect on the present (Schultz, 2009). From the “soccer mom” to travel team tryouts, soccer has maintained its popularity within the youth athletic culture but the same cannot be said for American professional soccer. After the youth leagues, soccer is often seen as sport played by “hyphenated Americans” often “identified as a multi-accentual ethnic and hence defensively non-American, urban pastime”(Andrews, 2006). The crux of this idea highlights the fact that soccer is a non-American entity and therefore not a unique American tradition separating the U.S. from the rest of the world, a key aspect of American exceptionalism.

From Beijiing to Berlin, David Beckham’s presence mystifies millions. Yet when Beckham arrives in LA “Becks and Posh” become a pop culture phenomenon while the MLS struggles to gain viewers. After bringing Pele to America and hosting the 1994 FIFA World Cup, America has tried various efforts to bring the “worlds game” to a level rivaling that of the NFL and NBA, but lasting sentiments of exceptionalism prevail. It hasn’t taken Beckham very long to realize that one person cannot change professional soccer in America and maybe he has given up, after all this past Friday he extended his loan to A.C. Milan.

Works Cited

(2007). [Image of photograph-David Beckham & Reggie Bush].
Seattle, Washington;Getty Images. Retrieved March 7, 2009, from

Andrews , D. L. (2006). Sport-Commerce-Culture: Essays on Sport in
Late Capitalist America
(Vol. 11, p. 82). New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

Markovits, A. S., & Hellerman, S. L. (2001). Offside (p. 48). Princeton:
Princeton University Press. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from Google Scholar.

Mickle, T. (2009). The Role of Consumption Culture in Children’s Moral
Development: The Case of David Beckham [Electronic version].
Street & Smith's Sports
Business Journal, 7. from Google Scholar.

Schultz, J. (2009). Sport in the “New World” Module II: The long residuals of history & Invention of sporting traditions.Lecture presented in KNES293. University of Maryland,
College Park, MD

Tatham, M. (2002). Nearly 1.5 Billion TV Viewers Watch 2002 World Cup [Electronic version]. Nielsen Media Research.

Wicks, P. G. (2007). The Role of Consumption Culture in Children’s Moral Development: The Case of David Beckham . Thesis, University of Exeter, Exeter. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from Google Scholar.

Scholarly Source Recommendations

Markovits, A. S., & Hellerman, S. L. (2001). Offside. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Wangerin, D. (n.d.). Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America's
Forgotten Game
. Temple University Press.

Popular Source Recommendations

Beckham's Away Win. (2007, January 12). The Economist. Retrieved
March 8, 2009, from CFID=44736513&CFTOKEN=29287424&source=login_payBarrier

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maybe It’s Time to Legalize Steroid Use

Maybe It’s Time to Legalize Steroid Use
By Katie Kundrat

There are many obvious reasons why steroids use is illegal in sports. However, one may wonder as to why not legalize steroid use in sports? Athletes every day are constantly battling the issue of steroids. Whether they are using steroids illegally, or wrongly accused of using them, the issue is ever present. Many argue that steroids should be allowed in sports, solving the tornado of problems surrounding it. However, steroid use goes against the theory of hard work and talent leading to success in athletics.

There are many athletes who are accused of using steroids although they were not intentionally cheating. “Elite athletes have been barred from the Olympics, forced to relinquish medals, titles or prize money and confronted with potentially career ending suspensions after testing positive for a banned substance at such low concentrations it could have no detectable effect on performance” (Hiltzik, para. 2, 2006). Innocent people are often found guilty due to protein drinks, inhalers, antibiotics, and many other every day substances. My high school swim coach, Rachael Burke, was a competitive swimmer at the UVA. She tested positive for steroids while participating in a voluntary drug test her freshman year. She claims that it was from drinking a fruit smoothie the night before that may have contained traces of an energy “boost.” Rachael Burke was banned from competition for two years, ruining her athletic career. Burke claimed in an interview that people came up to her saying "I wonder if that's why you were so good when you were eight years old," (Hiltzik, para. 25, 2006). People sarcastically accused Burke of using steroids when she was young to make her into the amazing swimmer she was. However, these athletes suffer the same consequences as those who intentionally cheat and are often forced to give up their sports career. “The USDA [United States Anti-Doping Agency] has never lost a case” (Shipley, para. 12, 2004). It is impossible for innocent athletes to fight their case and win against the USDA.

There are many athletes out there who use steroids and have not been caught. They have an advantage over those athletes who abide by the rules or are too scared to attempt illegal actions. By allowing everyone to have access to steroids and use them, it creates a fair and level playing field for all athletes. Every athlete would be able to use enhancements if they wish. Athletes are taking huge risks by secretly taking steroids and often do not know their consequences. Many athletes out there are taking unknown and unregulated substances and have damaged their bodies as a result. If steroids were allowed it would create a safer environment for athletes. Steroids could be regulated and more information could be readily available about each drug and its side effects. Doctors would be able to recommend enhancers instead of an athlete having to sneak around and harm themselves.

Fans like to see records shattered, and the impossible made possible. According to Jost (2001), “Fans revel in the enhanced power, speed or endurance that steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs help make possible” (p.617). Even with accusations flying around Bonds, thousands turned out to watch him chase down Hank Aaron’s home run record. Viewers around the world still tune into the Olympics even though athletes are constantly being accused of taking steroids. The fans love to see the unbelievable accomplishments that athletes can accomplish (with the help of steroids or not). It brings more excitement to the game. Fans may doubt an athlete’s ability, due to steroids, but will still be excited when the record is broken. “Modern technology allows the general public to learn about athlete-celebrities personalities and feats” (Schultz 2009a). With the amount of media given to sport these days, steroid use will always be an ever growing issue. An athlete’s feats are always exciting even if they are using steroids at the time.

The value at stake in this issue is the value and definition of sports. Steroid use goes against the theory of hard work and talent enabling one to succeed at athletics. We have defined the term "sport" as "all forms of physical activity which aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being" (Schultz 2009b). Steroid use places less emphasis on the physical activity on sport and involves pharmaceutical advantages and improving physical fitness through artificial means rather than hard work. While legalizing steroid use may make the sport fairer, safer and exciting, the history of sports and underlining theory of working hard to make a name for one's self could be changed forever. History will be rewritten to indicate whether an athlete used steroids during their performance or not. Socially, the underlying question debates if society would be ready to trade in success stories of hard work and devotion for a new breed of performance enhanced athletes.


Hiltzik, Michael A. (2006, December 10). Athletes' Unbeatable Foe. Los Angeles Times.

Jost, Kenneth. (2001). Sports and Drugs. The CQ Researcher, 615-631.

Schultz, J. (2009a). Topic 7: Sport’s “Golden Age”. Lecture presented in KNES293. University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Schultz, J. (2009b). Topic 1: Thinking About Sport History. Lecture presented in KNES293. University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Shipley, Amy. (2004, November 4). Caught Cheating, or Was She Cheated? The Washington Post, pp D1.

Recommended Readings

Bahrke, Michael S. & Yesalis, Charles. (2002). Performance Enhancing Substances in Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Longman, Jere. (2007, July 29). The Defeaning Roar of the Shrug. The New York Times, pp WK1.

Shipley, Amy. (2004, November 4). Caught Cheating, or Was She Cheated? The Washington Post, pp D1.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Racial Stacking in Football: Where are all the African American Quarterbacks?

By Cory Kutcher

When looking at your favorite football team on a Sunday, you may notice a startling trend if you look carefully. Racial stacking is a phenomena in which there is an “overrepresentation or underrepresentation of certain races in particular positions.” (Woodward, pg. 357, 2004) In football, racial stacking is most prevalent at the quarterback, wide receiver and running back position; so that begs the question of why is there an over representation of one race at certain positions.

Although there are many examples of racial stacking in many different sports, the quarterback position is one of the best examples. In 2003, the ratio of white quarterbacks to black quarterbacks was 80% to 20%, and 90% of all starting wide receivers, cornerbacks, and tailbacks are African American. (Woodward, pg. 4, 2004) In a study done in 1970 by Loy and McElvogue, it was found that white players were more likely to play “central” positions and African Americans were more likely to play “peripheral” positions. (Woodward, p 358,) “Central” positions are positions that require decision making and interaction, and “peripheral” positions require less intellect, decision making, and more reaction.

In addition to this there is clearly a discrepancy in the lack of African American’s playing quarterback versus the overall population of African Americans in the N.F.L. According to the N.F.L’s website 67% of the league is composed of African Americans versus 20% of quarterbacks who are African American. There are many factors that contribute to this disproportionate ratio, and several are due to societal racism. The first being something we covered in lecture, is the idea of African Americans as the “natural athlete” and whites as achieving through hard work and intelligence. (Schultz, pg. 109, 2009) As offenses and defenses have gotten more complex, NFL teams have felt they needed not only a great athlete but an intelligent person at the quarterback position. As a result they have instituted a test called the Wonderlic Personnel Test, which is a generic aptitude test that was instituted in 1970, and is still used today to evaluate quarterbacks. (Chung, pg. 11) Teams expect a score in the mid 20’s which has historically been hard for African American quarterbacks to reach, which would often lower their prospects in the NFL or totally removed from consideration because teams just didn’t think they had the necessary intellect. (Chung, pg. 12) Yet the Wonderlic according to many people is culturally biased thus leading to lower scores for African Americans, and set up to give Whites a better score and thus a better chance to succeed on the test and higher draft status. (Chung, pg. 12) The effect of this test affects many athletes who were of comparable skill that were forced either to switch position or entirely retire from the game. (Chung, pg. 12)

“Scientific Racism” is another term discussed in lecture that is highly relatable in trying to explain the phenomena of racial stacking. Scientific Racism is using Anthropometric data and giving it social meanings. (Schultz, pg. 110) The African American quarterbacks because they scored lower on the Wonderlic assessment test were said to be intellectually inferior and thus justifying them as the “natural athlete” who should be using only their athleticism rather than their mind to make smart plays and decision making skills. Black athletes were put at “reactive” positions, or positions that were thought of as less “cerebral” or “less central” to their team’s victory. (Chung, pg. 9) Whites on the other hand were put in thinking positions such as quarterback, center, and inside linebacker.

The biggest problem with this finding is that it illustrates that there is still a lot of racism in modern day society and we can see that by looking at sport. It has negatively affected the careers of many African American athletes who have been devalued at these “thinking” positions, or forced to change positions, or even to give up football entirely. This shows that even now in the present time, racism and remnants of our past still impact many people’s day to day lives. The dialectic relationship between sport and society says that sport and society are interrelated and equally impact each other and are impacted by each other. (Schultz, pg. 29) Using the dialectical relationship, we can look at what positions people play and clearly see that societal racism is still very much a factor in many people’s lives, and in turn shows that by examining sport, we can observe larger societal trends and problems that lie beneath the surface.

Works Cited

Woodward, J.R. (2004).Professional Football Scouts: An Investigation of Racial Stacking. Sociology of Sport Journal. 21, 356-375.

Chung, J (2004. November, 29). Racial Discrimination and African-American Quarterbacks in the National Football League, 1968-1999. from

Schultz, J. (2009). History of Sport in America. Lecture Presented in KNES293. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

Recommended Readings

Bigler, M (2008). “An Amazing Specimen”: NFL Draft Experts’ Evaluations of Black Quarterbacks . Journal of African American Studies, 12, from

Dufur, M (2009).Race and the NFL Draft: Views from the Auction Block . Qualitative Sociology. 32, 53-73.

George, T N.F.L. CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS;For Reggie White, Racism Is Hardest Foe . (1996). The New York Times,

Racist depictions of American Indians in sport

Racist depictions of American Indians in sport

By: Sara Cooper

The long residuals of American Indian history can still be seen in today’s society, especially in athletics. Many professional and college sports teams use American Indian names, images and symbols. Some examples include the Florida State Seminoles, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and the University of Illinois Illini. The fierce, tough nature of American Indians is the reason athletic teams want to associate themselves with such images. Those practices that tie the present to the past, like the erotic appeal of athletic performance, make athletes want to be fierce and perform well, and fans want to associate with teams that are aggressive, powerful and ferocious (Shultz, 2009). In a politically-correct society, there are many who believe that it is inappropriate for these teams to continue to use American Indian names, images and symbols. For instance, the term “redskin” is an offensive slang term that refers to the slaughter of American Indians in the past. Knowing this, one would think that a team would dissociate itself from such a term, not embrace it. There are several American Indian groups that protest the Washington football team for using an offensive term as its name.

The invention of national tradition can also be seen in this situation (Shultz, 2009). Because American Indians were the first to live in the United States, their history will always be a part of our national tradition. Their symbols, rituals, costumes and language are well-known in society, but are often depicted in stereotypical ways. At Florida State, an American Indian mascot rides a horse across the football field before games and throws a burning stake into the ground. At the University of Illinois, an Indian mascot jumps and dances around during halftime performances. Many American Indians find both mascots to be offensive because of the stereotypical face paint and clothing that he wears. In addition, fans are often seen doing the “tomahawk chop” at Florida State, another offensive symbol. However, Florida State is able to continue with its name because the Seminole Tribe of Florida said it is OK (Associated Press, 2005). Therefore, the NCAA allows the school to keep its name and Chief Osceola as its mascot.

Finally, the issue with the Kansas City Chiefs is the appearance of mascot Chief Wahoo. His red skin, cheesy grin and feather at the back of the head is a stereotype of the way American Indians are viewed in mainstream society (King, 2008).

In conclusion, racist depictions of American Indians in sport continue today. At the collegiate level, the Florida State Seminoles and University of Illinois Illini receive criticism for using Indian names and symbols. At the pro level, the Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs receive the same criticism. The names, images and symbols used by each of these teams are seen as “hostile” and “abusive” (King, 2008). Although the teams feel that they are representing American Indians in a strong way, most American Indians are offended by what they see. Each of the teams mentioned is a testament to offensiveness, even Florida State. Although the NCAA has said it is OK for Florida State to keep its name and mascot, does the Seminole Tribe of Florida have the right to make that decision for every Seminole Indian? I do not think so. Therefore, all racist depictions of American Indians should be removed from sport.


Associated Press. (2005). FSU authorize court action in mascot ban if needed. Retrieved April 23, 2009 from

King, R. (2008). Teaching intolerance: Anti-Indian imagery, racial politics and anti-racist pedagogy. Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies, 30(5), 420-436.

Schultz, J. (2009). Sport in the “New World”. The History of Sport in America. Lecture presented in KNES293. University of Maryland, College park, MD.

Recommended Reading:

Banks, D. (2000), Tribal names and mascots in sports. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 17(1), 5-8.

Burgas, G. (2009). Where Native America meets pop culture. Retrieved from

Giago, T. & Lyman, K. (2009). American Indians are not mascots. Retrieved from

Staurowsky, E. (2004). On the legal and social fictions that sustain American Indians sport imagery. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 28(1), 11-29.

Wolburg, J. The demise of Native American mascots: It’s time to do the right thing. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 23(1), 4-5.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bob Dylan Song Accurate Depiction of Racism against American Boxer?

Bob Dylan Song Accurate Depiction of Racism against American Boxer?
Alicia Keefe

When thinking about political and protest music, Bob Dylan’s name comes to mind. One of his most prominent protest songs, “Hurricane”, is the story of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Carter, an African American professional boxer, is best known for being convicted for the alleged murder of three people in Patterson New Jersey on June 17, 1966. The arrest of Carter, despite the lack of substantial evidence linking him to the crimes, sparked dissent-claiming racism being the reason for his arrest. Since Carter was a sporting celebrity, his arrest became a controversial examination of the treatment of African Americans in social and political America.

In 1961, Carter became a professional boxer, after developing an interest in the sport while serving time both in the army and in jail for aggravated assault (Hirsch, 2000). His intimating boxing style helped Carter to gain a reputation as being an unrelenting menace. While Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” aggrandizes Carter’s boxing career stating “but one time he could-a been, the champion of the world”, Carter’s career was not quite as accomplished. Carter won twenty of twenty-four fights, thirteen of them from knockouts, before losing the one title fight he fought in, in a 15-round decision to middleweight champion Joey Giardello in 1964 (Hirsch, 2000).

On June 17, 1966 early in the morning, two men and a woman were killed at the Lafayette Grill in Patterson New Jersey. The police arrested Carter and his friend John Artis, after pulling them over for driving a car similar to descriptions of the get-away car given by witnesses of the murder. On August 10, 1966, an all white jury convicted both men to three consecutive life sentences for the murders, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking them to the crime scene (Hirsch, 2000).

Being a flourishing professional boxer with a history of past violence, many people viewed Carter as a rebel not willing to succumb to the white establishment (Wice, 2000). The desire to convict and ensure Carter would stay in prison for life stemmed from the fear that he was an abrasive, violent person, capable of being the catalyst for a race riot (Wice, 2000). The anxiety over Carter’s potential ability to start a race riot had its foundation in an incident years earlier when Carter had made public threats to the police force saying he would shoot them if they continued to abuse blacks, along with his reputation of being a merciless boxer (Hirsch, 2000).

Carter has become a poster child for racial injustice and a prime example of the long residuals of racial tensions still found in American society. While things had improved slightly from the nadir of American race relations during the reconstruction era because of the emerging Civil Rights Movement, minorities in America were still victims to racial inequality. In the case of Rubin Carter, the prosecutor’s prime witnesses against Carter have openly admitted that the police pressured them into giving false testimonies against Carter and Artis; and that the authorities frequently used racial slurs, such as calling them “animals”, when referring to both men (Hirsch, 2000). It is during this time that the legal system is not just reflecting social or scientific ideas about race; it is also producing and reproducing them, as seen with the seemingly wrongful conviction of Carter (Pascoe, 1996). Further criticism upon the Carter conviction rests upon the notion that during their trials, the juries consisted solely of white men and women, further exemplifying the racism tensions. Because of Carter’s sporting career, his conviction and the proceedings became a part of the public eye thus bring more light to the racial injustices.

With public support from people like Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan, Carter and Artis appealed their conviction two times, each time found guilty. It was not until 1985 that a United States District Court judge ruled that both men had not received a fair trial, under the basis that the prosecution had used “racism rather than reason” and “concealment rather than disclosure”, having not revealed the entirety of the evidence (Wice, 2000). The white society of Patterson New Jersey viewed Rubin Carter as a threat to established social environment, afraid a disturbance he may cause through violence or his rising professional athlete status. Whether or not Rubin Carter and John Artis actually did commit the murder at Lafayette Grill may never be resolved, it is clear what Bob Dylan believes happened. For Dylan Rubin Carter will always be “The man the authorities came to blame, for somethin' that he never done”.

Works Cited

Dylan, B. & Levy, J. (1976). Hurricane (Part II). On Desire [CD]. New York: Columbia Records. (1975).

Flatter, R. (2007). Hurricane found peace at storm’s center. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from ESPN Classic Web site:

Hirsch, J.S. (2000) Hurricane: The miraculous journey of Rubin Carter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Pascoe. (1996). Miscegenation law, court cases, and ideologies of `race' in twentieth-century America. Journal of American History, 83, 44-69.

Wice, P.B. (2000). Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and the American justice system. New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nike a Leader in Marketing of Sports Products

By: Michael Corbin
Spring 2009

The purpose of this blog is to analyze the effect that Nike Corporation has had and continues to have on the marketing of sports products. The contemporary era of sports can be characterized as one undergoing an intensified process of cultural, social, political and technological changes. The emergence of Nike Corporation has mirrored the sky-rocketing popularity of sports, athletes and personal athletic activities and achievements in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. Nike has fueled a great deal of this popularity by employing famous and well known “athlete-celebrities” (Schultz, 2009) to endorse Nike products through mass media in the form of television and radio as well as through “popular magazines and newspapers” (Schultz, 2009). Additionally, by becoming a bonafide cultural icon, the Nike “swoosh”, as the corporate symbol, has become one of the most well-recognized product emblems in contemporary society, trailing perhaps only the Coca-Cola and McDonald’s trademarks in name recognition.

Nike’s marketing techniques have been and continue to be aimed at selling both an image, through symbolic form, and a product, through endorsements. Nike CEO, Phil Knight, acknowledges that the “rise of consumer culture” (Schultz, 2009) and advertising have driven the athletic footwear industry. In the “mass-media driven culture of consumption” (Schultz, 2009), the meanings produced by cultural and social messages, through the projection of symbols and images attached to certain products, is what drives consumption (Katz, 1994). Nike has pushed the commercialization of sport to new heights through its “Nike culture” (Goldman & Papson, 1998). Nike clearly recognizes and plays upon consumer values by displaying its symbols and slogans, which provide consumers with a certain status and sense of identity (Katz, 1994).

The real value of the Nike shoe is the “swoosh” that is present on the side of each shoe. The “swoosh” is a symbol that has come to stand for athletic excellence and achievement and a spirit of determination (Goldman & Papson, 1998). It has become a form of social and cultural currency that draws its value from factors such as shoe style and celebrity-athlete endorsements, including those by Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Serena Williams. No corporation has put as much creative energy and resources into the marketing of celebrity-athletes as Nike (Goldman & Papson, 1998). For example, by placing the “swoosh” in the same advertising frame as Michael Jordan, Nike has been able to draw upon the value and meaning of Michael Jordan as a star basketball player. The meaning of “Air Jordan” is equivalent to the meaning of “Air Nike” (Goldman & Papson, 1998). The “swoosh” is so popular that visitors to remote and impoverished regions of the world report finding people there sewing imitations of the “swoosh” onto their shirts and caps (Goldman & Papson, 1998). Through its symbol, Nike’s principle business activity is now the design, development and marketing of high quality footwear and apparel.

In this newly emerging era of global production, sports advertising, through a system of symbols and icons, has made the “rise of consumer culture” (Schultz, 2009) through sports a central component of our economy. According to Phil Knight, sports is the central, unifying culture of the United States and “the stuff of romance and dreams. Sports is like rock n roll,” Knight says. “Both are dominant cultural forces, both speak an international language, and both are all about emotions” (Willigan, 1992).

Through their endorsement of Nike products, “athlete-celebrities” (Schultz, 2009), quite often become corporate assets. In this sense, they represent the Nike Corporation itself and its business practices. One such practice involves outsourcing the actual production of its shoes. In so doing, Nike depends upon the existence of poor Asian nations where there is a surplus of workers in need of work and wages. In this regard, Nike has become the focus of media scrutiny because of questions about the treatment of these poor workers (Egan, 1998). The critics of Nike’s human rights point to Nike’s exploitation of this sweatshop labor, which can be compared to and contrasted with the human rights’ violations that are commonplace in China today. Nike has relentlessly dismissed allegations against it for its use of unfair and unjust labor practices, despite strong evidence to the contrary (Egan, 1998). This issue is of important political significance and has played a role in the impression that people have of the Nike sports giant.

Today, the proliferation of Nike’s “swoosh” symbol and the promotion of its maxim “Just do it” has helped to propel Nike into a big money business, with a current profit margin over 9% and a projected growth of $23 billion by 2011 (Goldman & Papson, 1998). Nike has leveraged the power of the “swoosh” by making it the centerpiece of its Niketown “chain stores” (Schultz, 2009), the most visible and grandiose of which opened in Manhattan in 1996 (Goldman & Papson, 1998). Nike’s “Just do it” motivational slogan provides people with the belief that if they are willing to put forth the effort, without regard to any physical or social limitations, they can perform at their very best in personal athletic activities. Nike has thus found a way to harness society’s worship of “athlete-celebrities” (Schultz, 2009) and obsession with status symbols into one of America’s greatest commercial success stories of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries.

Nike technology can only be found in genuine Nike shoes. Nike has made the consuming public aware of this fact through its advertising and marketing techniques and through the endorsement of its technology by “athlete-celebrities” (Schultz, 2009). As a result, Nike has become the leader in innovative shoe technologies. It borrowed the air cushion technology used in its running shoes to mass produce air cushioned basketball shoes through the use of “assembly line technology” (Schultz, 2009). Since basketball shoes are all about performance, this technology easily fits under the Nike umbrella. Michael Jordan, perhaps the most famous celebrity-athlete ever, wore the shoes despite being threatened with fines by the NBA, and sales took off. Since then, Nike has created many new categories of athletic shoes under the Nike brand, from cross-training and water sports to outdoor and walking shoes.

Nike’s role in sports history has thus been exemplified by its well recognized and popular “swoosh” symbol and its “Just do it” logo, as well as through successful endorsements by “athlete-celebrities” (Schultz, 2009). As a result of these strategies, Nike has been able to rely upon the “rise of consumer culture” (Schultz, 2009) to sell its products and be the leading athletic shoe and apparel company in the world today.


Egan, T. (1998, April). The swoon of the swoosh. New York Times Magazine, 66-70.
Goldman, R. & Papson, S. (1998). Suddenly the swoosh is everywhere. In Nike Culture, pp.1- 23. London:Sage.
Katz, D. (1994). Just Do It: The Nike Spirit in the Corporate World. MA: Adams Median Corporation.
Schultz, J. (2009, Spring). KNES 293: The History of Sport in America, Module IV, Topic 7, pp. 157-158. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.
Willigan, G. E. (1992, July/August). High Performance Marketing: An Interview With Nike’s Phil Knight. Harvard Business Review, 91-101.


Egan, T. (1998, April). The swoon of the swoosh. New York Times Magazine, 66-70.
Krentzman, J. (1997). The Force Behind the Nike Empire. Stanford Magazine, 1-9. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from
Willigan, G. E. (1992, July/August). High Performance Marketing: An Interview With Nike’s Phil Knight. Harvard Business Review, 91-101