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Is Sport an Area of Neighborhood Social Life Where Performance Counts and Race or Ethnicity Is Irrelevant?

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Topic: Structured Inequality: Neighborhood Sport and Race/Ethnicity

Research Question: Is sport an area of neighborhood social life where performance counts and race or ethnicity is irrelevant?

Neighborhoods in the United States are often segregated by race and have racial tensions. However, sport provides some opportunity for integration. Based on my reading for this assignment here is what seemed to be important points. Home neighborhoods matter more than sport in some instances, regardless of talent. Race and sport have become almost completely integrated. Lastly, specific neighborhoods are sought out differently by sport resulting in a very considerable difference in incline and decline in race.

“Sporting Dreams Die on the Rez” by, Daniel Eitzen is about Native Americans and Native American sports on Indian reservations. He argues each year Native American communities have a crop of very talented athletes. Many of them never leave their reservations and go on to compete in collegiate basketball even though they could based on their talents. Or others just don’t stay in college. Some of them lasting as few as a couple of days before they leave their schools to go home. Sport for them is part of neighborhood social life where race and ethnicity is relevant. It doesn’t matter their athletic talent. The likeness of neighborhood social life counts the most for Native Americans.

Eitzen says these athletes prefer to play in informal reservation athletic leagues where they can get prestige and money. That is about as far as they go and care about. He attributes this to a fear of failure that Native Americans have. I wish that this article was more nuance because there are many different types of Native Americans and they don’t all share a common culture. I wish he had been more specific geographically than he is here. However, with what has been said, sport isn’t the number one priority for Native Americans. Home race and ethnicity is very relevant. Sport for Native Americans is more attractive in their own neighborhoods where performance isn’t the number one issue.

“Perspectives on Neighborhood and Community: A Review of the Literature” by, Robert Chaskin discusses four aspects of neighborhoods. The first aspect is the problem of neighborhood delineation. Differentiated sub areas of the city are recognized and recognizable (Chaskin 1997). The sub areas of Indian reservations are most definitely recognizable to Native American athletes. They feel the most comfortable living on their home reservation and therefore don’t go, or care about leaving. This is true even if they have professional athletic talent. The neighborhood delineation Native Americans possess has been defined by the individual athletic behaviors these athletes take part in. They feel most comfortable participating in athletics on their home reservations.

George Sage’s piece titled, “Racial Inequality and Sport” provides a very thorough history of the role African Americans played in professional sports. The pattern that we see is a pattern over a long period of time of increasing access of sporting opportunities for African American athletes. Opportunities were often granted grudgingly and had to be fought for, but nevertheless, those struggles have been successful struggles certainly at the level of the right to participate. The remaining barriers in the participation area have been broken. An example of such barriers is with the black quarterback. There are a lot of black quarterbacks in the NFL now and it is something people take for granted. There weren’t any prior to 1970. The very good football players who came out of predominantly black colleges, like Grambling and other southern black schools who were recruited into the NFL, always had their positions switched once they entered the league. They became defensive backs or wide receivers, never allowed to play quarterback. The reason why they were excluded is that quarterback was considered to be a leadership position, a position where you had to have intelligent people who where able to make wise decisions in rapid fire, very stressful situations. Black people were stereotyped as not having those kinds of characteristics. However, that started to change very slowly early in the 1970s and we now know those stereotypes, like stereotypes in general, are baseless and there is no reason why black people can’t play the quarterback position.

Then we have the case of the marginal black athlete. Once

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