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

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

Howard Bryant

9.7.2018

Howard Bryant

Howard Bryant is an acclaimed sports journalist who has authored books and is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Bryant appears regularly on other ESPN programming including, Sports Center and Outside the Lines. In addition, Bryant has been the sports correspondent for National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday since 2006. He is a two-time winner of the Casey Award for the Best Baseball Book of the Year awarded by Spitball Magazine.

Bryant's newest book, "The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America and the Politics of Patriotism," is the story of the rise, fall, and fervent return of the athlete-activist. Through deep research and interviews with some of sports' best-known stars--including Kaepernick, David Ortiz, Charles Barkley, and Chris Webber--as well as members of law enforcement and the military, Bruant details the collision of post-9/11 sports in America and the politically engaged post-Ferguson black athlete. 

Bryant's other books include: "The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron," "Juicing the Game: A Groundbreeaking History of Steroid Use in Major League Baseball," "Shout Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston," and "Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams." 

All Clinton School Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or by calling (501) 683-5239.

 

 

Following in the footsteps of Robeson, Ali, Robinson and others, today's Black athletes re-engage with social issues and the meaning of American patriotism.

It used to be that politics and sports were as separate from one another as church and state. The ballfield was an escape from the world's worst problems, top athletes were treated like heroes, and cheering for the home team was as easy and innocent as hot dogs and beer. "No news on the sports page" was a governing principle in newsrooms.

That was then.

Today, sports arenas have been transformed into staging grounds for American patriotism and the hero worship of law enforcement. Teams wear camouflage jerseys to honor those who serve; police officers throw out first pitches; soldiers surprise their families with homecomings at halftime. Sports and politics are decidedly entwined.

Howard Bryant reveals, this has always been more complicated for black athletes, who from the start, were committing a political act simply by being on the field. In fact, among all black employees in twentieth-century America, perhaps no other group had more outsized influence and power than ballplayers. The immense social responsibilities that came with the role is part of the black athletic heritage. It is a heritage built by the influence of the superstardom and radical politics of Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos through the 1960s; undermined by apolitical, corporate-friendly "transcenders of race," O. J. Simpson, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods in the following decades; and reclaimed today by the likes of LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick, and Carmelo Anthony.

All Clinton School Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or by calling (501) 683-5239.