“Too Black”: Race in the “Dark Ages” of the National Basketball Association

By Matthew Schneider-Mayerson.

Published by The Sport Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Contracting and possibly folding in the late 1970s, the global success of the NBA in the 1980s and 1990s is often attributed to the charismatic personalities and talents of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. The NBA’s resurgence was actually the result of successful managerial strategies that expunged the historical racial connotations that made white viewers uncomfortable with African Americans -- violence, drug abuse, and union activity (greed) - strategies that dovetailed with Reaganism’s policy of colorblindness. Although the NBA continues to employ a majority of black players, a focus on the ‘dark ages’ of 1976-1979, and the ensuing transformation, illuminates the continuing racial politics between black athletes and white fans.

Keywords: Basketball, Race, 1970s, Reagan

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.223-234. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 614.225KB).

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson

Graduate Student, American Studies, Mnneapolis, MN, USA

My interests are fairly diverse. I have articles under consideration on alternate history novels (a genre of popular fiction) and the connection between peak oil movement (a secular apocalyptic movement of the new millennium) and the American ideology of unlimited economic growth. My dissertation focuses on this subject and a growing awareness of the limits of natural resources and America’s global power. However, this is something of an outlier: my primary interest is in postwar American popular culture and political power, from film to music to popular fiction. In addition, I am an avid lifelong basketball fan, and find myself returning to sports, which I view within the context of race, class, and culture.