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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.

Joseph N. Cooper is Assistant Professor in Sport Management in the Department of Educational Leadership and Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. His research agenda focuses on the intersection between race, gender, sport, education, and culture with an emphasis on sport involvement as a catalyst for holistic development and cultural empowerment. He is the founding faculty member of Collective Uplift, an organization designed to educate, empower, support, and inspire Black athletes to maximize their full potential as holistic individuals both within and beyond athletic contexts. He has presented his research at various international, national, and regional conferences and published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, edited books, and op-ed contributions. He received the 2009 John E. Billing Outstanding Graduate Research Merit Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Department of Exercise and Sport Science), 2016 Outstanding Early Career Scholar Award from the UConn Neag School of Education, 2016 UConn African American Cultural Center Extraordinaire Faculty Award, and 2016 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Harvey E. Beech Black Alumni Reunion Young Alumni Award, and the 2018 Sociology of Sport Journal Early Career Research Award. He has been cited in media outlets such as New York Times, Le Monde, ESPN, ABC News, and Yahoo.