Race, Power & American Sports
Featuring Dave Zirin
Please Note: This film was previously advertised as The Crisis in Whiteness
. The title has changed.
Cultural historian Dave Zirin, whose influential blog and bestselling books have offered searing insights into the politics of American sports, examines the myriad ways sports culture has worked both to reproduce and challenge the wider culture's dominant ideas about race and racial difference. Interviewed by Communication scholar Sut Jhally, whose own work has sought to clarify the relationship between popular culture and racial attitudes, Zirin's analysis ranges from the emergence of professional sports in the 1800s to today's commercial media sports spectacles to show how athletes of color have posed a direct threat to traditional notions of whiteness, white male authority, and American ideals of masculinity. The film is richly illustrated throughout with archival and contemporary sports footage.
A vital companion piece to MEF's bestselling films Not Just a Game
and Tim Wise: On White Privilege
Sections: Sports as a National Language | Sports, Race & History | Boxing & the Crisis of Whiteness | Jesse Owens & the Myth of the Aryan Supremacy | Jackie Robinson & the Breaking of the Color Barrier | Muhammed Ali & the Challenge to White Supremacy | Fantasy Leagues, Race & Control | The Ascension of the Black Quarterback | Black Female Athletes | The Rise of Latinos in Baseball | Jeremy Lin & the Challenge to Stereotypes
About Dave Zirin
Dave Zirin is the bestselling author of five books, the sports editor of The Nation
magazine, and the host of Sirius XM Satellite's popular weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio
. His blog The Edge of Sports
is read each week by thousands of people across the country. He is also a columnist for SLAM Magazine
, The Progressive
, and Sports Illustrated
online, and his writing has appeared in numerous other publications, including the Los Angeles Times
, the Washington Post
, the New York Daily News
, and the San Francisco Chronicle
. Zirin has also brought his blend of sports and politics to multiple television programs, including ESPN's Outside the Lines
, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann
, MSNBC's Morning Joe
, MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show
, and Democracy Now
with Amy Goodman. His most recent book, in collaboration with Dr. John Carlos, is The John Carlos Story
. In 2010, Zirin published Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love
. Shock Doctrine
author Naomi Klein called Bad Sports
"an original and scathing look at how America works." Zirin is also the author of A People's History of Sports in the United States
, part of Howard Zinn's People's History Series
. In addition he has written Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports
, with a foreword by Chuck D. Sports Illustrated
wrote that Terrordome
is "a provocative, sometimes chilling, look at sports and society right now." His first book, What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States
, has entered its third printing.
Praise for Dave Zirin
"With Zirin no topic is sacred, no argument is ever evaded, no search for real truth is ever suppressed."
- Kevin Powell | Author of Someday We'll All Be Free
"Dave Zirin shows us not only that sports can be a window through which we can examine the complex workings of race and class in this twisted, commercialized culture, but that it can also be a site of resistance."
- Peter Rachleff | Author of Hard-Pressed in the Heartland
"Dave Zirin is the thinking man's sports fan and the sports fan's thinking man."
- Mickey Z. | Author of The Seven Deadly Spins
Produced by the Media Education Foundation
Praise for the Film
"Race, Power & American Sports
is powerful and the perfect media tool for any class that focuses on critical race theory in American sport. This documentary film, providing narration from Dave Zirin, focuses on important historical events and balances that with a poignant view of the cultural politics of Linsanity. The film touches on race, ethnicity, culture, stereotyping, discrimination, segregation, and political resistance."
- Gary Sailes | Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Indiana University - Bloomington
"Race, Power & American Sports
is insightful, incisive, and brave. It's a must-see. Dave Zirin is brilliant in tracing the complex intersection of race and sports in this country over the course of more than a century."
- N. Jeremi Duru | Professor of Law at American University
"Full of excellent and instructive historical footage, Dave Zirin provides a detailed overview of the history and current state of race, sport and power in American society that will be useful for teachers and students, coaches, athletes and the wider public seeking to understand the place of sport in our society and culture."
- John Nauright, Ph.D. | Professor of Sport and Recreation Studies and Professor of History | Co-Director of The Center for the Study of Sport and Leisure in Society | George Mason University
"Candid, provocative, and important. In Race, Power, and American Sports
, cultural historian Dave Zirin and communication scholar Sut Jhally offer viewers an expansive and nuanced tour of the intersections between race, politics, and sport in America from the 19th century through the present. Regardless of how you arrive at the topic, whether you are a sport fan, a student of sport, and/or someone who is committed to understanding race in America, this is a DVD well worth watching and talking about."
- Ellen J. Staurowsky, Ed.D. | Professor of Sport Management at Drexel University
"Race, Power, and American Sports
is an important film, unlike any other currently available. It provides an urgently needed counter-point to prevailing understandings of sport and society, offering viewers powerful tools to challenge media coverage, commercial images, and staged spectacles. Indeed, in a moment in which sport has become a common language to talk about human possibilities, social arrangements, and American uniqueness, Race, Power, and American Sports
introduces a novel vocabulary to describe and deconstruct its social significance. Dave Zirin, in dialogue with Sut Jhally, interrogate the deeply entangled histories of racism and sport in the United States, offer a critical reassessment of renowned athletes -- from Jack Johnson and Jesse Owens to Jackie Robinson and Muhammed Ali -- that emphasizes the not only the complex social contexts in which they played, but the ways in which political, economic, and social factors have shaped how we remember them. Pushing back against the depoliticized narratives common to the sport-media-industrial complex Zirin highlights the linkages of play and power, athletics and ideology, and sport and struggle. While hopeful and engaged, this film is neither na´ve nor hagiography. It has a deep appreciation for sport but not at the expense of its disturbing force. Race, Power, and American Sports
should be watched by anyone concerned with racial politics, social structure, or U.S. history, even those who think they do not have an interest in or affinity for sport. An excellent opening or addition to broader conversations about race and racism, cultural politics, and collective memory no less than in depth meditations on sport in American life. Highly recommended as a resource to develop critical literacy that embodies the best elements of MEF critical engagements."
- Dr. Richard King | Professor of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University