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Although Lang does make some concession to the importance of race as constructing difference, and, crucially in reducing the fear of a queer reading of the film, it is in my opinion that this is a lethargic reading of the text. Race is a crucial presence in the film, particularly considering Jerry Maguire within a genre of sports movies. As discussed earlier, the positioning of race within the sports world is a constantly fluctuating and contradictory force despite the fact sport is widely considered as a meritocracy.


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If you have a certain level of skill or ability then you can succeed, no matter what the colour of your skin. Traditionally this was not the case, but nearly sixty years on from Jackie Robinson integrating professional sports with the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, there are over 15, professional black athletes in the United States. The numbers relating to these athletes in their individual fields makes for startling reading. The reality of these figures is that they hide a shocking truth. Whilst black athletes may have revolutionised sports from a performance standpoint, the industry as a whole is far from colour blind and black people are denied access to the key power base.

By choosing to set Jerry Maguire in this world, the film also buys into an idea of seeming success for the black male athlete alongside the reality of power structures based along racial lines. As in Any Given Sunday the black athlete is defined in solely performance terms. By using the successful black athlete as a character, the film effectively normalizes race. The success of the Rod Tidwell character is assumed, thus negating any need to put forward a black perspective in narrative terms.

In the same way that the high numbers of professional black athletes masks an inherently racist industry, the use of that industry in Jerry Maguire covers up its own focus on race.

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By using this type of athlete within its narrative, Jerry Maguire reduces further discussion on the issue of race. The idea of an aggressive black athlete has cemented itself in the American psyche, and its place in the film allows viewers to recognise the type.

New Jack Jocks

Moreover, as we have seen the very concept of New Jack Jocks has negative connotations, making it a problematic image within the film. Simultaneously this assumes that black culture is preoccupied with style, again set against a white belief in substance. It is a small step toward the racist belief that white people are intellectually superior whilst blacks possess superior physical skills. In general sporting terms, Boyd suggests that;. Perhaps the best example of this complicated relation to style are The Detroit Pistons basketball teams of the late s and early s who were emblematic of a style rooted in black culture.

Their playing style echoed gangster rap in its nod to working class back life and the associated hardships. However, this style was threatening to the NBA, both in its connotations of racial violence and negative effect on crowd numbers.

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Whilst the Pistons were winning in a traditional sense, they were losing in terms of the expectations of those in power. As Boyd asserts;. The s and s were littered with classic success narratives of pulling oneself upward within society. The common feature of all these films is that they are concerned with white protagonists who, echoing Bodnar, have a chance of upward socio economic mobility. In Hoop Dreams and Rebound , two basketball films featuring working class black male protagonists, I argue that this opportunity is missing, or severely limited.

Ultimately, however, the film displays the limits placed on black male success and advancement once the overt opportunity of NBA success fails.

New Jack Jocks: Rebels, Race, And The American Athlete

Both Gates and Agee are committed to basketball precisely because of these limits. The screening of black athletes in this way is a direct extension of institutionalised racism and stereotypes which are perpetuated to re-enforce the status quo. As long as the hierarchical inequity persists in terms of ownership, corporate sponsorship, television contracts, underprivileged black males will be oppressed by a system many believe to be their sole chance of liberation.

As Pete Axthelm has addressed in The City Game the concept of talented young athletes falling victim to the pressures and temptations of ghetto life is not limited to Manigault. Furthermore, as the film documents, ultimate redemption for Manigault once the perils of addiction were overcome was still through basketball as organiser of playground tournaments. If the experiences of black men in Rebound and Hoop Dreams are to be believed then the limits of success are set within professional sports.

The term was recognized as specifically black and male, and although being relevant to discussions of class, only within a racial context. Both the original cinematic representation and its transference into wider society were rooted in generalisations of race.


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Films such as Any Given Sunday and Hoop Dreams, whilst pleading a racial indifference, used the black male athlete to perpetuate myths of race, particularly focussing on ideas of black sporting prowess, aggressive masculinity and the limits of black male progress and success. These are characters of our national imagination, athletes who symbolize our complex relationships with professional sports. In this book, author Larry Platt takes us on his own unique tour through American sports. Culled from a decade of writing about our games and the people who play them, Platt offers exclusive profiles of the athletes we love - and love to hate.

Here is McEnroe, still haunted by his incendiary artistic temperament at middle age; here is Magic Johnson, striving to enact his "Black Plan" to save inner-cities; here is Sprewell, speeding along in his turbo-charged sports car, perplexed by just how he came to be considered a villain in our daily sports narrative.

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In these and other profiles, Platt shows that sport, more than any other nationwide pastime, is the way we come to understand - and alter - race relations, gender, and, most profoundly, how we communicate with each other in ways often ignored by social commentators. You won't be able to look at our athletes or our society the same after you've read Platt. Writers of sitcoms and soap operas could use New Jack Jocks as a source of great content.

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New edition. Language: English. View cookies policy. Zoom Zoom. Availability Usually despatched within 2 weeks. With Free Saver Delivery. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Share. Description Reviews More Details. In this erudite and captivating book, bestselling author Larry Platt takes us on a tour through American sports.