Sports and sports scholarships offer minorities a way out

Sports and sports scholarships offer minorities a way out

that sports are a way out of poverty for poor youth of Color is deeply cherished and continually reinforced in films and televison. Yet this is an extremely rare possibility. Consider the following: How many openings on professional teams are actually available? Take basketball as an example. There are 5 positions on a team, with 7 extra players, for a total of 12 players. There are 11 players on a football team. Baseball is played with 9 players. The degree of exceptionality required to make it onto the field for these teams is very high. The possibility of women making it through sports is even more limited, given that their teams do not have the visibility or bring in the kind of wealth that men’s teams do. It is also relevant that for the few who do succeed through sports, their run is limited. The average age of retirement for a football player is 35, and they often suffer from lifelong debilitating injuries.

The people who really get rich from sports are the owners. In 2016, 28 of 30 U.S. men’s professional basketball team owners were White; 31 of 32 men’s pro football team owners were White, 32 of 33 men’s pro baseball team owners were White. Of the 95 people who owned these teams, 4 were White women (New York Times, 2016). Of the 30 National Hockey League owners, only one is not White. While a poor boy from the projects or his small town making it big in sports is a romantic idea reinforced through countless movies, that dream comes true for an extremely rare number of men of Color. It is important to notice how the physical bodies of men of Color are seen as potentially valuable and thus worthy of scholarship supports (in this case in the service of our entertainment) but not their minds. This is a key signifier of class position. The lower your class status, the more your body is seen as exploitable. Think about who decides to go to war and who actually does the fighting, who owns the coal mines and who does the mining, who writes the laws and who is on the street enforcing them. Most of the latter are not the upper class. Manual labor literally means working with your hands. We also have to ask ourselves what it means to see sports as a way out of poverty for young men of Color but not other fields such as law, medicine, or teaching.

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