Interesting quote from Forty Million Dollar Slaves

I am too busy doing other stuff today (classes start soon!), but I wanted to get this down for future discussion.

Forty Million Dollar Slaves is William Rhoden’s classic on black athletes. In another book, Game Day and God, about football as the south’s civic religion, author Eric Selbo quotes Rhoden:

“The integration of intercollegiate sports n the mid-1970s created an insatiable appetite for black athletes, which in turn triggered a strip-mining of black communities across the United States. Talented young black athletes and their families were wooed and pursued with the promise of scholarships and, often, material gifts…On the conveyor belt, young athletes quickly learn that easy passage through a white-controlled system is contingent upon ‘not rocking the boat,’ not being a ‘troublemaker,’ and making those in power feel comfortable with the athletes’ ‘blackness.'”

Lots to unpack there. I think there are better metaphors than ‘slavery’ for explaining the relationship of college athletes (black and white) to their institutions, as Richard Southall and I have explained. But the notion of ‘domestication’ that Rhoden evokes in the above quote seems especially relevant in light of recent events in Missouri.



  1. I mentioned a comment on one thediss’ piece a while back on race/NBA. I sarcastically asked is the too black for primetime broadcast tv? Now it’s obvious that isn’t the case but football has more white players and the most popular position, quarterback, is white. While blacks can’t afford the games, they are active on social media in regards to the NBA. With the NBA’s history towards the players and towards black culture, its not out of the realm that broadcast tv doesn’t want the “blackness” out as much. It would draw tons of interest from the youth of all ethnicities though.

    1. The NBA has always walked a fine line here and Silver’s very swift reaction to Sterling’s comments is illustrative of that. Its stars are overwhelmingly African American. It doesn’t want to piss them off. But they need to walk a straight and narrow for the sake of the fans and sponsors. They’ve been blessed with an exceptional cohort of highly likeable guys who have essentially had no off-court issues in LBJ, KD, CPIII, Dwight Howard and so on. The NFL is insulated from some of this in part, I think, for the reasons you mentioned, including the fact that many of its key attractions – the QBs – are white.

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