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

Cultural Re-branding of the NBA Throughout History

Cultural Re-branding of the NBA Throughout History
By: Kalani Dantley

Throughout the history of sport, one of the most disputed arguments has been what the exact relationship between sport and contemporary society is. While some argue that sport is a “mirror of society,” the reality is that sport is a “product and producer” of society. Instead of viewing sport as a one-way relationship between entities, sports need to be recognized to society as a two-way reinforcing relationship between entities (Schultz, 2009). The NBA has been argued to be the most representatively American of the major sporting leagues, mainly due to the fact that its existence is closely linked to the comprehensive forces that shape contemporary American society. When thinking of the NBA, I believe it is essential to examine the importance of contextual sport criticism in order to look at the history of the NBA as a cultural practice, rather than just thinking of the NBA as a place of personal achievement and entertainment (Schultz, 2009).

Many do not know the history of the NBA and the major improvements it has made compared to when the league was first established. The NBA was perceived negatively and looked at as being too regional, too black, and drug-infested. This goes hand-in-hand with the “image crisis” that occurred due to the high percentage of African American players and the pre-determined views that society had historically been introduced to. Because of these cultural issues, the NBA struggled economically and also politically within its beginning years until Commissioner David Stern made a complete turn-around with the league, picking it up and placing it back on its feet. After dealing with the cultural, economic, and political mishaps that the NBA has witnessed over the past 60 years, it is now an organized, oriented, and experienced entity, which leads to how the national league plays such a big role in not just sport, but in contemporary American society as a whole. Sport has proven to be a culture industry, in that it represents a moneymaking site for the aggregation of capital by manufacturing practices and pleasures for crowds and audiences.

In my opinion, culture plays the biggest role in contemporary society, and also with the NBA. Since 1951 the NBA has evolved so much culturally, and most of this started to occur with the hiring of commissioner David Stern. When the NBA was first established, majority of the teams struggled in making profit and the attendance levels were declining more and more by the year. Throughout time, the NBA culture has struggled with stereotypes attributed to the image crisis of African Americans and their supposed linkage with drugs. The problem with the NBA was that culturally the players were looked at as “selfish, lazy, lacking motivation, irresponsible, and overpaid” (Hughes, 2004). The media tried to use the illusion of drug abuse as evidence of the pathological abandonment of the African American men who prevailed the NBA and the American nation as a whole. David Stern dealt with this by understanding contemporary society as a culture. Stern used these cultural logics, utilizing capitalism, in order to blossom the NBA into the establishment that it is now and “the NBA has re-branded itself as both an institution of racial uplift and an entrepreneur of racial flair, a move that, in practice, has involved the NBA in a somewhat conflicted double role of discipliner and promoter of the race” (Hughes, 2004).

In conclusion, the NBA envisioned the race problem as one imported from outside its own boundaries so that it could be effectively managed. Many people do not always know the details of sport in history and it is important to realize the struggle that African American athletes underwent in the beginning years of the NBA. Lastly, when thinking of the NBA, it is essential to examine the importance of contextual sport criticism in order to critically analyze the history of the NBA as a cultural practice, rather than just thinking of the NBA as a place of personal achievement and entertainment.

Works Cited

Hughes, G. (2004). Managing black guys: Representation, corporate culture, and the
NBA. Sociology of Sport Journal, 21(2), 163-184.
Schultz, J. (2009). The History of Sports in America. University of Maryland, College
Park, MD.

Recommended Readings

Carter, R. (2004). Racial issues front and center in most Black Pro basketball. New York
Amsterdam News. 95(13). 10-32.

Maddox, Jr., Alton H. (2004). Field Blacks ineligible for NBA privileges. New York
Amsterdam News. 95(50). p. 12

An almost impossible dream. (1977, March 30). The Washington Post, p. A20.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And the Vote goes to…Men’s Sports!

An analysis of the popularity differences between Men’s and Women’s Sports

By: Julie Silvestri

Women in sport are a common image in modern society; Men in sport were always a common image in society - How can a country known for its freedom and equality explain such a phenomenon? The reputation and recognition of women’s sports has the potential to deeply affect communities outside the sports world, and not always in a positive way. Although women’s and men’s sports have been outlined to be equal, women continue to be less recognized when it comes to the popular vote.

With the passing of Title IX in 1972, women began to be awarded their equality. It “outlawed gender discrimination in any school sports and any other federally funded education program” (Gregory, 2007, 49). Title IX acted as a foundation for women to enter the sporting arena. It increased the number of women playing and the number of collegiate athletic scholarships awarded (Vest, 2007). Colleges equalized their athletics by adding women’s sports, and some had to additionally cut men’s sports to compensate and comply with the new law. The reduction of men’s collegiate sports to accommodate women made an impression that “men’s programs must be cut to obtain gender equality” (McClung, 25). With the added negativity, women were subjected to more obstacles in the struggle for the right to compete. Title IX allowed women everywhere to feel entitled to equality. With more role models to aspire to, women were opened up to a whole new world where it was almost acceptable for them to be as physical as their male counterparts.

Prior to the passing of Title IX, some women had their way with sports in the roaring 1920’s. The 1920’s in America signified an era of change, hope, and a strive for equality. The 1920’s followed World War 1 as America flourished with a sense of community, identity and consumption. The numbers of community recreation centers rose and Americans had more leisure time to spend participating in and watching sports and buying sport products to support the new obsession (Schultz, 2009). The women athletes were compared to the ‘flappers’ of the 1920’s with their similar physique, “independence and willful, adventurous spirit” (Cahn, 36). Women in sport became heroes for all American women. Gertrude Ederle challenged male athleticism as she swam the English Channel, two hours faster than any male predecessor (Cahn, 1994). Suzanne Lenglen, a European tennis star, created a new feminine style for women athletes as she brought fashion into the game (Cahn, 1994). Helen Wills went on a six-year winning streak in American tennis (Cahn, 1994). These women became athlete-celebrities as they were celebrated for their successes (Schultz, 2009). Ederle, Langlen and Wills were outstanding sports stars, who achieved success with both masculine and feminine characteristics (Cahn, 1994). They represented a new set of standards for women - to be different than the stereotypical housewife.

With the outstanding female achievement in sports, it’s difficult to understand the view some have of women in sport today. Here at the University of Maryland, the inequality between men and women’s sports is prominent. Many sports on campus have both men’s and women’s team, including basketball, soccer and lacrosse. Each is reported on daily in The Diamondback, but rarely with equal representation. Take women’s and men’s basketball for example. We know sports are found on the back pages of The Diamondback. Throughout basketball season it’s guaranteed to find Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne, plus other starting players on the Men’s team, featured with a large picture and articles about their performances. The women, however, only received attention once the men were knocked out of the NCAA tournament – a little unfair. Recently, the top two players from the women’s team, Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman, were drafted second and third in the WNBA draft – they were awarded the bottom right-hand corner of The Diamondback. I can imagine if a star of the Men’s team had this success, his face would be the front page. Moreover, the news of the draft was hard to come by for other Marylander’s because there’s no evidence it was printed in The Baltimore Sun or The Washington Post. It’s sad to see that here, in our ‘home,’ women still struggle for athletic equality.

Although Title IX and the women athletes from the 1920’s paved the way for future women, there remains a struggle. No big change is evident in modern society as it’s easy to find inequalities in media coverage, fans in attendance and recognition. This issue impacts society and our culture in a negative way. In society, women want to excel academically, at home and physically, however it’s easy to be led down a less physical route when men are the athletic role models. This issue shows our culture continues to value male physicality over women’s and it’s a struggle that will continue to be studied, fought and hopefully, resolved.

Recommended Readings
Basketball's First Ladies of Dunk. (2008, November 28). Wall Street Journal –
Eastern Edition, Retrieved April 21, 2009, from Academic Search Premier Database.

Equality grows over the years. (n.d.). USA Today, Retrieved April 21, 2009, from
Academic Search Premier Database.

TOWARD WNBA BASKETBALL. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 36(3), 347-358. Retrieved April 21, 2009, doi:10.2224/sbp.2008.36.3.347

Mean, L., & Kassing, J. (2008, April). “I Would Just Like to be Known as an
Athlete”: Managing Hegemony, Femininity, and Heterosexuality in Female Sport. Western Journal of Communication, 72(2), 126-144. Retrieved April 21, 2009, doi:10.1080/10570310802038564

Cahn, S. (1994). Grass-roots growth and sexual sensation in the flapper era. In S.
Cahn, Coming on Strong (pp. 31-41; 44-47; 51-54). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gregory, S. (2007, August 27). Uneven Playing Field. Time, 170(9), 49-50.
Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Academic Search Premier Database.

McClung, L., & Spencer, N. (2001, October). Women and Sport in the 1990s:
Reflections on 'Embracing Stars, Ignoring Players.'. Journal of Sport Management, 15(4), 318. Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Academic Search Premier Database.

Schultz, J. (2009). The History of Sport in America, 7: Sport’s “Golden Age” (?).

Lecture presented in KNES293. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

Vest, B., & Masterson, G. (2007, December). Title IX and Its Effect on Sports
Programs in High School and Collegiate Athletics. Coach & Athletic Director, 77(5), 60-62. Retrieved April 20, 2009, from Academic Search Premier Database.

Pro-Athlete or Sex Symbol? : The Portrayal of Women in Sports

By: Sandra Castellón 

There is a very long history of sports in America. It has been around since the beginning of this nation. Something that is evident in sport is its reflection of the values and attitudes society has in that point in time. “Sport is a product and producer of society” (Schultz, 2009a). Each generation goes through some struggle and it is evident through ‘who’ we get to see participate in sport. African Americans struggled to break into sports, and when they finally did break into sports, they had to fight for equal treatment and for respect from society. Then, there was a struggle for women. This struggle still lives on. Yes, it is true that women are now participating in basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, golf, swimming, track & field, and hundreds of other sports, there are also leagues and organizations for women, but is there full equality between men’s sports and women’s sports? Do women get paid the same as men for participating in the same sport? Do women’s sports receive the same amount of attention through the media as men’s sports? Or the same recognition after they have accomplished something so amazing? These are all hot topics of discussion of sports in contemporary society. One of the things that may be interesting to investigate is the portrayal of women athletes through the media.

Gender plays a big role in how an athlete is viewed. Our society has shaped a stereotypical female athlete and a stereotypical male athlete, so when the public becomes witness to something out of the ordinary, it is sometimes ridiculed. This was the biggest challenge for women to overcome in the twentieth century. In order for women to participate in sport, they had to comply to sports reserved for their gender. These “gender appropriate sports” (Schultz, 2009b) for women, limited them to sports that expressed grace and beauty. It was unacceptable to see a woman play rough and tumble sports that required strength because they were then labeled as too ‘manly’ or as ‘lesbian’, but women like Babe Didrikson, Billie Jean King, Gertrude Ederle, and so many others didn’t only prove that they were capable of engaging in these type of sports, they also proved that they could perform as good or even better than men.           

Although there has been a lot of change in our society, some attitudes from long ago of women are still present. For example, the notion that women should always behave ladylike. Image is a big component that can either favor a woman’s career or hurt it. Nowadays, in many sports, women wear tight, exposing outfits, such as in tennis, volleyball, swimming, competitive cheerleading, and gymnastics. Due to this, women can easily become ‘sex symbols’ to the public for their high level of attractiveness. In a journal article by Michael Messner and other colleagues (Messner et al, 2003), an investigation of how the media portrays women was carried out. They found that certain sport TV networks, such as KABC, presented coverage that “tended much more to trivialization of women athletes and sexualized humor and put-downs of women in general” (Messner et al, 2003). Basically, women athletes are exploited because more attention is given to their physical attractiveness rather than their accomplishments in sport.  An example of this: in mid July, after the World Cup Championship in which the U.S. soccer team won, KABC and KCBS constantly went back to the story of how the soccer player Brandi Chastain had stripped off her jersey, revealing her sports bra, after the victory (Messner et al, 2003).  Obviously, sports coverage of women’s sports can be degrading instead of celebratory and respectful of a woman’s accomplishment.                      

I would think that women athletes wouldn’t want their potential of being ‘eye candy’ overshadow the great athlete they are, but apparently I’m mistaken. Some athletes such as Olympic swimmer Jenny Thompson, high jumper Amy Cuff, and 200-meter breaststroke holder, Amanda Beard have posed in either Playboy, Maxim or FHM magazine (Drape, 2004). Can this be called another “Flapper Era” (Cahn, 1994)? Women are breaking away from the traditional athlete façade. Women are taking much riskier actions. But the question is what are the reasons they are doing this for? Amy Cuff confesses she did it for the money, “It’s really hard to make that kind of money in the real world” (Drape, 2004). Some women might do it for more exposure of themselves to the world or simply for the fun of it. Maybe their doing it to send the message that they can do what they please without facing ramifications for it in the society we live in today. Whatever the reason may be, they have exacerbated the media’s view of women as sex symbols. 

Many years ago, the Olympic Committee or any sport organization might have severely punished women athletes for this type of exposure of themselves, so women of today are taking advantage of the freedom they possess to make their own decisions of how they want to be portrayed in the media. Like always, there are different perspectives among people on one subject. In respects to how women portray themselves, some may think that women are doing certain sports a favor by making them more popular through their physicality.  Others might think that women athletes are in fact hurting themselves more than helping themselves when they expose their bodies in provocative magazines. A consequence of such exposure might be that people will first remember a photo of the sports star in a magazine rather than first recognizing them as a pro athlete. Other consequences might be further sexualized humor, trivialization, and more put-downs of women in general, in sport broadcasts of women’s sports. Women have gone too far, to turn back to humiliation and degradation of self.

Recommended Readings:

·      Araton H. (2001, June 28). Women as Athletes: The Pictures Don’t Lie. New York Times, pg.D2.

·      Tuggle C.A., & Owens A. (1999). A Descriptive Analysis of NBC’s Coverage of the Centennial Olympics. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 23, 171-184.


 Works Cited:

·      Cahn, S. (1994). Grass-roots growth and sexual sensation in the flapper era. In S. Cahn, Coming On Strong (pp.31-41). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

·      Drape, J. (2004, August 12). Lots of Skin But Not Much Fuss As Olympians Strike Pinup Pose. New York Times, pg.A1, D7.

·      Messner M. (2003). Silence, Sports Bras and Wrestling Porn: Women in Televised Sports News and Highlights Shows. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol.27, 38-51.

·      Schultz, J. (2009a). The Relationship Between Sport and History. Lecture presented in KNES293. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

·      Schultz, J. (2009b). The 1970’s Quest for Equity In Women’s Sport. Lecture presented in KNES293. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.











NBC’s Olympic Coverage of Women’s Sports:

Skewing the Reality
By Alyssa Faigle

While watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics this past summer, a viewer would assume that the coverage they are seeing on NBC (or one of its sister networks) is an accurate depiction of the events occurring in China. However, further examination of the Olympic games shown on television reveals that the public is being shown the events and stories that the NBC network chooses to air. The network skews the Olympic reality by showing events that appeal to both men and women in primetime in order to gain a wider audience. However, this profit-making technique also highlights the gender biases and preconceived notions about women that are present in our society.

Firstly, NBC has feminized the sports shown in primetime in order to gain the biggest audience possible. By showing the events that would appeal to women in the popular primetime spot on television, NBC has increased their number of viewers. They have obtained women viewers who might not have watched during this time as opposed to if a more masculine sport was shown. In reference to NBC’s coverage of the 1996 Summer Olympic games in Atlanta, Andrews (2006) writes, “NBC manufactured its own Olympic reality centered around events deemed appropriate to female viewers and infused with sentiment intended to resonate with the female psyche…NBC was complicit in unscientifically simulating traditional feminine sensibilities within and through its broadcasts” (Andrews, 2006, page 60). In these particular games, NBC’s primetime Olympic reality was centered around gymnastics and diving – two sports that have been socially constructed to imply femininity and thus, appeal to the female audience. However, coverage of the women’s basketball, soccer, and softball teams were rarely given any air during primetime despite their success (Andrews, 2006, page 61). Since NBC’s coverage of the Olympic games is something that is constructed in order to maximize profit, it could be said that the Olympics shown on television are “fictive”. Although similar to the word “fiction”, “fictive” is something that is made, not made up (Schultz, 2009a). NBC’s primetime Olympic events are fictive since the network skews the reality of the games by showing events that will appeal to both women and men and will make NBC the greatest profit.

Additionally, NBC’s coverage of the Olympic games can also be bias and reinforce our society’s social construction of gender. In one study done at the University of North Texas, researchers looked at NBC’s televised coverage of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. The study argues that even though the biases made in the coverages of men’s and women’s sports has diminished from the Barcelona to the Sydney Olympic Games, there are still preconceived notions about gender in the broadcasts. The researchers noticed that the commentators of the events talk a lot about the physical attributes of the female athletes while they focus on the men’s athleticism (Kolsti, 2004). One of things the researchers noticed about the coverage of female events versus male events was that, “Commentators referred to female athletes by their first names only, instead of by their first and last names or just their last names, approximately 60 percent of the time…which is called the ‘hierarchy of naming’. The use of hierarchy of naming infantilizes women and presumes a lesser status than male athletes” (Kolsti, 2004, paragraph 10). In addition to this study’s other findings, it could be concluded that the gender bias in the televised Olympics is a long residual of the “Crises of White Masculinity” that occurred between the 1880s and 1920s in America. During this time period, sport was seen as a way to fight back feminizing pressures while testing a man’s bravery (Schultz, 2009b). Thus, commentary on a men’s event would include how strong and powerful men are while a reporter would note the physicality and appearance of a female in the same sport. Even though the commentary of the Olympics has become less bias over the years, there is still some hidden partiality between men’s and women’s events that could be caused by the continuity of the “Crises of White Masculinity”.

NBC is a business whose main goal is to make the maximum amount of profit possible by airing the Olympic games. The network’s televised games are fictive since the viewers are only shown the events that the company chooses to air. NBC wants the primetime events to appeal to women so they will gain more viewers, yet there is still sexist reporting in women’s Olympic events. These differing commentaries could be a long residual from when sport was viewed as a way to fight back femininity in men. Although a viewer of the Olympic games might think that the events they are watching on television are true to the happenings in real life, NBC skews the reality of the games in order to make money while consequently reinforcing the gender biases of our society.

Works Cited
Andrews, D. L. (2006). Sport-Commerce-Culture: Essays on Sport in the Late Capitalist America. New York: Peter Lang.

Kolsti, N. (2004, July 15). Gender bias still evident in Olympics coverage, study says. North Texas Daily. Retrieved from

Schultz, J. (2009a). Module I: Theoretical Foundations 1. Lecture presented in KNES498E. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

Schultz, J. (2009b). Module III: Sport & the Emergence of Modern America, 1865-1920. Lecture presented in KNES498E. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

Recommended Readings
Billings, A. C., & Eastman, S. T. (1999). Gender Parity in the Olympics: Hyping Women Athletes, Favoring Men Athletes. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 23. doi:10.1177/0193723599232003

Carter, B. (2008, August 24). On TV, Timing Is Everything at the Olympics. The New York Times. Retrieved from