The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism

Beacon. May 2018. 312p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780807026991. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780807027004. SPORTS
When San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem, he shined a spotlight on the intersection between sports and politics and the role athletes play as activists. This intersection is perhaps more important for black athletes, according to journalist Bryant (Shut Out). Bryant posits that the activism of Kaepernick and other contemporary black athletes is not a new phenomenon but part of a "heritage" of black activism in sports begun by Jackie Robinson, Tommy Carlos, and Muhammed Ali in the 1960s. The heritage was interrupted by apolitical athletes such as O.J. Simpson, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods who chose protecting their personal brands over taking political stands. Bryant also discusses contemporary activism in light of the role that sporting events have been used to promote patriotism, especially the corporate marriage between sports and military boosterism.
VERDICT A fascinating and complex look at the role of black athletes as political activists. Bryant's analysis of the intersection of professional sports and promoting patriotism (or nationalism, depending on one's point of view) is especially enlightening.
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