Race and athletics in the twenty-first century
The haunting of our integrated sports world by deeply rooted racial preoccupations was brought home to me once again several years ago by a young black woman enrolled in my course on ‘Race and Medicine in AfricanAmerican Life’ at the University of Texas. As we discussed stereotypes of black athletic aptitude, she described the indignation she had felt when her boyfriend, a massive lineman on the university’s football team, had returned from the physical tests and interviews that are administered each year to the most promising college players by the National Football League (NFL) at its scouting combine event. This procedure had reminded both her and the athlete of the slave markets of the antebellum South, and her anger was still evident as she recounted her friend’s ordeal to her classmates. Years later, in another classroom, I was present when a black former University of Texas football player described college football as a form of slavery.