Dreams and Deception

Sports Lure, Racism, and Young Black Males' Struggles in Sports and Education

by Isabel Ann Dwornik (Author)
©2017 Textbook XXII, 230 Pages


This book helps young black males, educators, policy makers, parents, and all other interested parties to understand the importance of education alongside athletic pursuits. In the world today, many young black males view athletic participation as the way to secure a successful future. Yet for the majority of them, dreams of playing professional sports rarely pan out. Many end up returning to a life of poverty as a result of the sports lure which deceives them and entices them to focus exclusively on athletic talent at the expense of their education. This book presents a social historical and critical deconstruction introducing readers to this sports lure, revealing what makes it so powerful in the lives of these youths. As Isabel Ann Dwornik documents, centuries-worth of racism in the United States is at the core of this phenomenon, which has affected the academic identity development of black male youths and has discouraged them from taking full advantage of their schooling.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Author’s Note on Terminology
  • Introducing Sports Lure
  • Research Background
  • What We Can Do to Control Sports Lure
  • Presenting the Layout of the Chapters
  • Chapter 1: Garnering Awareness of Sports Lure
  • A Look Back
  • When Stereotypes Lead to Preconceptions
  • What Was Then … The Here and Now?
  • Moving Forward
  • Sports Lure: National Context
  • Honing in on the Problem
  • Recruitment Matters and Exploitation
  • Playing the Odds
  • Money Matters
  • Falling off the Sports Ladder
  • Chapter 2: The Dynamics of Sports Lure: A Quest for Young Black Souls—Case Examples
  • The Exploiters of Young Urban Poor Black Males
  • William Gates and Arthur Agee—The Stars of Hoop Dreams
  • Rodney Parker—Scouting for Great Players
  • Educational Exploitation and the Deception of Sports Lure
  • Kevin Ross—College Sports Without Even a First-Grade Reading Level
  • Fred Butler—College Sports and a Second-Grade Reading Level
  • Delfon Curlpepper and the Detroit Street Kids
  • Curtis Jones—An American Sports Tragedy
  • The Corporate Railroading of Top Urban Prospects
  • Johnson, Shipp, Thomas, and Marbury—The Coney Island Four Take It to the Hoop
  • Win at All Costs—From Injury to Insult
  • James “Boobie” Miles—Play, Win, Pop. Play Again Until You Drop
  • To Be or Not to Be—The Latest Casualties of Sports Lure
  • Kendall Marshall and Jon Allen—and the Robbing of the Cradle
  • Chapter 3: The Odds Are Against Them: The Ins and Outs of Sports Lure
  • Trends in Graduation Rates for Black Male Student Athletes
  • 1960 to 2000
  • 2000 to Present
  • Poverty and Low Graduation Rates
  • Exploitation and Low Graduation Rates of Black Male Athletes in Higher Education
  • Recruitment, Admission Requirements, and Maintaining Eligibility
  • The Stigma of Being a Black Male Student Athlete in Higher Education
  • Negative Preconceptions
  • The Ins and Outs of Exploitation
  • Chapter 4: The Empowerments of Sports Lure
  • Urban Poverty, Education, and Sports Dreams
  • Capitalism, Class, and the Structure of Dominance
  • Capitalism and Hegemony in American Schooling
  • Targeting Blacks: Ogbu on Caste and Racism
  • Chapter 5: Slavery, Race, and Racism
  • Examining the Nature of Racism Through Colonial Slavery and Race
  • Slavery in Ancient Civilizations
  • Comparing Governmental Systems of Slavery
  • The Establishment of Colonial Slavery
  • Colonial Slavery and the Inception of Race
  • Perceptions of Dark-Skinned People in Ancient Societies
  • Dalal’s Theory of “Color-Coding” and the Inception of Race
  • Race as a Social Construction in the Perpetuation of Racism
  • Racist Attitudes Carry Into the New World
  • Pinpointing the Inception of Racism
  • Chapter 6: Modern Forms of Racism in the United States
  • Ethnocentrism
  • Biogenetic Determinism
  • Discrimination
  • Discrimination Against Blacks in Education
  • The South Instills Prejudice Against Blacks in the North
  • Discrimination in Employment, Housing, and Health Care
  • Poverty and Discrimination in the American Justice System
  • Chapter 7: Repercussive Racism
  • The Collective Memories of Lynching
  • White Privilege
  • Motivation for Racial Oppression
  • Repercussive Racism
  • Chapter 8: Racism and Identity in Black American Male Sports History
  • The Development of Sports Competition in the Greek City-States
  • The Development of Sports Competition in Colonial America
  • The Development of Sports Competition in the Industrial Age
  • “Rugged Individualism”
  • Schooling and the Goodness of Sports
  • The Development of Sports in the Age of Industrialization
  • Sports for Black Americans for Goodness Sake!
  • The Goodness of Sports—a Mechanism of Racism
  • The Oppression of Black Male Athletes in the History of American Sports
  • Chapter 9: The Shaping of Black Male Identity
  • Theories of Identity Development
  • Marcia’s Identity Foreclosure
  • Jean Phinney’s Three-Stage Model of Ethnic Identity Formation
  • Social Enculturation and Identity Foreclosure
  • Arrested Development: Social Enculturation Begins at Home
  • Social Enculturation and School Achievement
  • Hate Groups, Institutional Racism, and Social Research
  • Black Americans’ Internalizations of Media Portrayals
  • W. E. B. Du Bois’s Notion of Double Consciousness
  • Chapter 10: “We Are Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made on”
  • Eurocentric Schooling and Black Male Identity Development
  • Coping Strategies to Arrest Identity Foreclosure
  • The Inclusive Nature of Sports for Black Male Athletes
  • The Decision to Pursue Sports Over Education
  • Chapter 11: Education and the Call to Action
  • Aftermath
  • References
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


The idea for this book originated under the tutelage of many exceptional educators at the State University of New York at Binghamton: Professor Lawrence C. Stedman guided me through the original writing of the manuscript and Professor Joseph DeVitis helped me to convert it into a book. I am also grateful to Dean Kenneth Teitelbaum, Dean Linda Irwin-DeVitis, Professor E. Wayne Ross, and Professor Sue Crowley, who inspired me to write about this educational issue.

Additional thanks goes out to series editors Joseph DeVitis and Linda Irwin-DeVitis for taking an interest in my work, former managing director Chris Myers, senior vice president Dr. Farideh Koohi-Kamali, director of production Bernadette Shade, and all of the outstanding professionals at Peter Lang Publishing for their expert amenities and for making my experience as a first-time author so enjoyable.

A warm thank you to my dear friends Ellen Boesenberg and Mohamed Aly whose insights have enriched my thinking and whose support enabled me to complete this book, and to Tom Williams whose friendship and camaraderie in Christ inspired me to keep the Spirit alive throughout this endeavor.

None of this would have been possible without the help of the SUNY Binghamton student athletes who brought this topic to my attention, nurtured its growth, and inspired me to study and write about it. I hope you are all doing well and that life has been good to you. ← ix | x →

I am grateful to all of my wonderful family members who have provided me with love and support beyond measure. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to my father, Fortune (Frank) Zucco, for passing on to me his love for historical inquiry; my mother, Florence Tedeschi Zucco, whose belief in the importance of my work encouraged me to bring this issue to the forefront; my husband, Ron, for his wealth of knowledge about sports and information technology, his attention to detail, and for all of his support during the writing of this book; and my children, Daniel and Elizabeth, for your technological know-how, for making parenting easy, and for turning out to be such terrific people. I am so proud of you. You are my blessings.

Most importantly, I thank my loving Lord for granting my heart’s desire to share my thoughts and ideas via the written word and for miraculously seeing me through this mission all the way to the end. Apart from the Lord, I am nothing.

| xi →


In 2003, while an adjunct lecturer at the State University of New York at Binghamton, three black male students entered my “Politics of Education” class, sat together in the back of the room, and forever changed my life. Curiously, I asked them if they played basketball for the university. The tallest, most conspicuous student put his finger to his lips and whispered, “Shhh! We’re just regular students.” I wondered why he reacted the way he did.

Later on, I learned that he was from a middle-class, suburban, Midwestern high school, while the other two, from large urban cities at opposite ends of the country, were recruited from the same Midwestern junior college. They were in the middle of the basketball season when my course began, and despite the simultaneous demands of athletics and schooling, these Division I student athletes had nearly perfect attendance, kept me apprised of game conflicts and illnesses, always had their homework done, participated in class discussions, and were top students. One day after class, they explained to me that the reason they try to keep their athletic identities hidden is to avert differential treatment by faculty and student peers, since the anxiety it produces is wholly stressful and emotionally draining. Athletics, on the other hand, provides them with a sense of belonging, which draws them emotionally into sports and away from academics. ← xi | xii →

It disturbed me to hear that the stigma involved in athletic identity interfered with their enjoyment in learning and their desire to reap the benefits of their college educations. It made me wonder to what extend other black student athletes experienced this. I decided to look further into this issue and made it the focus of my dissertation research.

Once the semester was over, I became a participant observer, witnessing first-hand what their lives at school were like. They and many of their teammates welcomed me in this role; and so, I engaged with them in their daily activities for the better part of three-and-a-half years. As our relationship deepened, it became easier for them to confide in me. By clarifying and interpreting their disclosures, I helped them to release angst, get in touch with their feelings, and think more deeply and clearly about their experiences. It was as cathartic for them as it was eye-opening for me. As Said (1975) noted, when empathy is present in interpersonal interactions, this deeper awareness and understanding of a person’s circumstances help to strengthen his self-confidence, thereby, empowering him to feel in control of his life. This process, aligned with my previous roles as adolescent and family therapist and school counselor, made journalizing their disclosures tantamount to breaching confidentiality. I saw it as a form of exploitation and did not want to augment my own career in this way. Therefore, I chose not to reveal any observations or accounts of the group members. Instead, I focused on the dynamics of the phenomenon, which I called sports lure the primary reason why many black male student athletes feel uncomfortable in higher education.

This critical and social historical deconstruction of sports lure has led to my awareness of the forces that empower it and why young black males are susceptible to it. I believe that my book will provide readers with the same awareness and will motivate them to join me in helping young black males of all ages to restore their faith in learning and take complete advantage of their education alongside their athletic pursuits.

| xiii →


Some scholars and political activists might find my choice of terms or word constructions to be racially or politically offensive. This certainly was not my intent, but it warrants explanation. In most instances, when using black rather than Black to refer to the descendants of dark-skinned people in America from geographical locations such as Asia, Africa, the Caribbean (e.g., Haiti, Jamaica, or the West Indies), and the Americas, I followed the lead of prominent black scholars such as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2000), bell hooks (2003), and Cornel West (2001). I use the term African American, for example, when citing Sailes (2000), or the National Urban League (2001), Black and White, when referring to groups such as the Black Panthers and White Supremacists, and Negro in the way in which eminent authors such as W. E. B. Du Bois (1903) and John Hope Franklin (1974) have used in their writing. Although some scholars maintain that certain terms are politically outdated and inappropriate, and argue that removing racial epithets from such classic works as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876) or John Hope Franklin’s (1974) From Slavery to Freedom is the mark of positive social change, I believe that, changing the terminology and discourse of original works in this way makes it appear as though the world is more amiable than it truly is. It is a guise that keeps future generations ignorant about racism. Literature that is ← xiii | xiv → reflective of particular historical periods enables us to examine and evaluate the social evolution and progress of humanity. Hence, I reference it as accurately as possible and illustrate how prior texts have treated racial issues; for example, by using such racially charged terms as the ghetto.

Over half a century ago, the press and even many academics commonly referred to the urban ghettos as slums. Yet, according to Darden (1981), this connotation differs from ghettos of history, which originated in medieval Europe to signify densely populated and segregated Jewish communities. Here, ghetto refers to a small, compact, concentrated area distinguished by cultural groups across a variety of income levels. Once European immigrants gained economic advantages in America, moved to the center of cities or suburban neighborhoods, and left behind financially struggling minority groups such as blacks and Latinos, the state of the ghetto began to change. Poverty and proprietors’ failure to maintain ghetto property led to deterioration, making them synonymous with the slums; therefore, the terms became interchangeable. While the term ghetto is offensive for some people, I use it as other scholars have done, to inform readers that many black Americans, due to racism, live in poverty-stricken residential communities commonly referred to today as ghetto slums. For example, sports sociologist Harry Edwards (1969) maintained that many poverty-stricken black males pursue sports to escape the ghetto; or, as sports writer Duane Noriyuki (1991) stated in his discussion of Delfon Curlpepper, “in the classroom, he was just ‘another stupid jock from the ghetto’” (p. 54).

Though my awareness of others’ discomfort over this use of terms has made it difficult to write at times, I have pushed forward, believing it would increase awareness and sensitivity to the truth. It has never been my intent to demoralize, disrespect, or degrade any ethnic or minority group. My only hope is to incite important and necessary reactions to racism.

| xv →


The Tempest: Act IV, Scene I, 148–158


Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff


XXII, 230
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (December)
American schooling adolescent cultural studies ethnic and cultural studies black studies black male identity struggles racism black male student athletes social history sports and education
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XXII, 230 pp.

Biographical notes

Isabel Ann Dwornik (Author)

Isabel Ann Dwornik, Couper Fellow and EdD graduate from the State University of New York at Binghamton, is an experienced adolescent counselor and university instructor. Her focus is on educational policy issues concerning racism, social justice, and equality in schooling and human development.


Title: Dreams and Deception
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