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Gary Sailes
Department of Kinesiology

Alyssa Goldman
University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010

IU sport sociologist creates 'Modern Sport and the African American Experience' anthology

July 13, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Modern Sport and the African American Experience, a new anthology by Indiana University sport sociologist Gary Sailes, contains 19 essays about male and female athletes, "trash talking," the glass ceiling and other topics related to how sport and African-American culture intertwine.

"African-American culture has a very special relationship with sports," said Sailes, associate professor in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "For a lot of African-American youth their career is sport."

Sailes, also an adjunct professor in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at IU, teaches a course, "Modern Sport and the Afro American Experience," for which he regularly compiled a reader for his students.

"There was not a single book out there with what I wanted to do so I figured I would have to do my own anthology," Sailes said.

Although Modern Sport and the African American Experience is Sailes' second anthology and seventh book, he admits that he was guilty of not studying black women in sport prior to working on this anthology.

"I have a thick folder about black women athletes and boy, did I learn a lot," Sailes said. "The socialization of the woman athlete intersects and parallels the male athlete, but there is stuff that impacts them and not the male athlete. They deal with the double negative of gender and skin color."

The works in the anthology also analyze the "unique individual that is the black athlete" and how he performs on the court. Sailes said that when a black male athlete plays basketball, "He can't just do a lay-in, but he has to go through the back, through the legs, slam dunk and trash talk."

Sailes explains that black males do this "cool pose" as a means to compensate for the obstacles they face due to race discrimination. "They play tough. They play hard. They play above the rim. They play in your face. They trash talk," Sailes said. "It is nothing more than a cultural response to perceived discrepancies, inadequacies and inequalities that exist in society."

The last chapter of the anthology is "Power, Conflict & Cultural Identity," which discusses the realities of the glass ceiling for African-Americans pursuing sports professions outside of being an athlete, including the professions of coaches and athletic directors.

"The whites who have control don't have the faith and confidence in people of color because of race based beliefs on their part," Sailes said.

Sailes' anthology does not just focus on the black athlete. He explains that white and black athletes do not necessarily play worse or better than one another; they just perform their sports differently.

"According to white scholars, blacks play a more athletic game, they perform differently and their biology is different," Sailes said. "I don't talk about superiority or inferiority, but I do talk about how those types of attitudes lead to barriers."

The essays include compelling arguments, Sailes said, but material is not controversial.

"All I am saying is we are different and here is how, which is nothing more than the core of diversity literature," he said. "I'm not talking about anything that is not mainstreamed. Controversial? That book is in the future."

Sailes can be reached at 812-855-0538 and