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Joseph N. Cooper

In recent years, there has been increased attention garnered toward activism in sport within the United States. In 2016, Colin Kaepernick’s activist act of taking a knee during the national anthem before National Football League games sparked a nationwide debate on the intersection of sports, race, and politics. Kaepernick’s actions were a part of a long lineage of activism in and through sport. Prior accounts of African American activism in and through sport have been limited in the following eight areas: (1) primarily focused on one type of activism (e.g., symbolic protests/boycotts); (2) a lack of differentiation between activism and borderline activist actions (e.g., agency, pioneering, and advocacy); (3) a lack of emphasis on hybrid resistance; (4) a focus on athletes and teams versus sportspersons (i.e., media, scholars, business leaders, and community members) and institutions (i.e., historically Black colleges and universities, athletic programs, and conferences) more broadly; (5) largely focused on one era of prominent athlete activism in the 1960s; (6) principally excluded and marginalized the importance of women’s role in resistance efforts (e.g., activism for social change); (7) primarily focused on activism at the intercollegiate and professional levels with less attention toward youth and interscholastic levels; and (8) a lack of theoretically driven analyses of the resistance efforts exhibited by African American sportspersons, teams, groups, organizations, and institutions. Instead of exclusively using the term activism, the author uses the broader encompassing term of resistance as the focal framework for this text. Resistance is defined as intentional and/or unintentional actions by individuals, groups, organizations, and/or institutions that challenge oppressive systems and ideological hegemony. Using adaptive race- and ethnicity-centric typologies and interdisciplinary theories, this book offers a critical analysis of African Americans’ intra- and inter-generational resistance actions where, when, why, and how sport has been utilized to express their humanity, preserve their cultural heritages, empower themselves and their communities, project political views, and pursue freedom, equality, and justice.

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From Exploitation Back to Empowerment

Black Male Holistic (Under)Development Through Sport and (Mis)Education

Joseph N. Cooper

Previous critics have documented the damaging effects of the current exploitative sporting and education structures in the United States on Black males and the broader Black community. However, largely missing from scholarly literature and popular discourses on this topic is a comprehensive analysis of the heterogeneity among Black male athletes’ lived experiences and outcomes over their lifespans. From Exploitation Back to Empowerment: Black Male Holistic (Under)Development Through Sport and (Mis)Education by Joseph N. Cooper addresses three major issues: (1) the under theorization of Black male athletes’ socialization processes, (2) the preponderance of deficit-based theories on Black male athletes, and (3) the lack of expansive analyses of Black male athletes from diverse backgrounds. Grounded in empirical research, this text outlines five socialization models of Black male holistic (under)development through sport and (mis)education. The five socialization models include: (a) illusion of singular success model (ISSM), (b) elite athlete lottery model (EALM), (c) transition recovery model (TRM), (d) purposeful participation for expansive personal growth model (P2EPGM), and (e) holistic empowerment model (HEM). Using ecological, race-based, gender-based, psychological, and athletic-based theories, each of the proposed models incorporates critical sociological insights whereby multi-level system factors (sub, chrono, macro, exo, meso, and micro) along with various intersecting identities and additional background characteristics are taken into account. In addition, historical, sociocultural, political, and economic conditions are examined in relation to their influence on Black males’ socialization in and through sport and (mis)education. This nuanced analysis allows for the development of a systematic blueprint for Black male athletes’ holistic development and more importantly collective racial and cultural uplift.