cover image 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. Beacon, $26.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-8070-2699-1

In this timely book, Bryant, senior writer for ESPN Magazine, astutely explains how sports serves “as a barometer of blacks’ standing in the larger culture,” with some black athletes facing harsh criticism for their support of equal rights. He cites Paul Robeson, who was the first Rutgers All-American star to play in what would become the NFL in 1921, and whose labor union campaigning got him blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Bryant then turns to baseball trailblazer Jackie Robinson, who, Bryant argues, as a political moderate undercut the public’s resistance to his playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers; meanwhile, Muhammad Ali was suspended during his prime for his opposition to the draft. Outspoken athletes such as Olympian track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos and hoops legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar courted controversy as they railed against injustice during the civil rights era. Bryant discusses how the apolitical views of O.J. Simpson and Tiger Woods kept them out of public scrutiny, while quarterback Colin Kaepernick got blackballed from professional football for kneeling during the national anthem. “Through the great unifier of sports,” writes Bryant, “with the black players kneeling, the white players standing, the police heroes to one, center of protest to others, America would discover explosively and definitively just how severe its fractures truly were.” This indispensable book expertly chronicles a fractured nation dealing with black players who no longer want to (as Fox News host Laura Ingraham told LeBron James) “shut up and dribble.” [em](May) [/em]