Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


What Happened to the White Athlete?


History Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


In 1998 Sports Illustrated published a controversial, yet important article, What Happened to the White Athlete. In his piece the author tried to make sense of the lack of white athletes in major sports, and what other avenues young white kids were taking instead of playing basketball and football. While not the topic of the article, the title also could explain the lack of white athletes in sports historiography. This is not to say that books about white men dont exist, they do, rather it is a suggestion that books about great white athletes like Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle, do not talk about these athletes as white men. As scholars such as Michael Kimmel and Matthew Frye Jacobson, and David Roediger, have been studying the historical reality of whiteness for the past thirty years, whiteness, or studying white athletes as white, has failed to trickle down to sports. As a sports historian and a professor who teachers sports, I find this reality both fascinating and troubling. On the one hand, my research that looks at black and white fighters travels into new ground, but on the other hand, I am left with limited material to teach and often make my own conclusions. As part of a panel entitled Raceball: Shifting Currents in the Historiography of Sports, a panel made up of leading scholars in the first of sports history, I will present about the importance of rewriting about the white athlete (especially those great icons from the past,) share my scholarship about white boxers, discuss the new direction scholars can take to enrich the field, and also how I use whiteness in sports in teaching a sports history class and a US survey course.

Conference Name

Organization of American Historians

Conference Location

San Francisco, CA

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