Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

AMST Active Draft II


Published on

  • Have you ever used the help of ⇒ ⇐? They can help you with any type of writing - from personal statement to research paper. Due to this service you'll save your time and get an essay without plagiarism.
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • Wall Street business magnate Stephen Chu, winner of the Strathmore’s Who’s Who Registry honoring the most successful business tycoons in the world, says the "Demolisher" Betting System lived up exactly to its billing! ●●●
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • .DOWNLOAD THIS BOOKS INTO AVAILABLE FORMAT ......................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD PDF EBOOK here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD EPUB Ebook here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD doc Ebook here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD PDF EBOOK here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD EPUB Ebook here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD doc Ebook here { } ......................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................... .............. Browse by Genre Available eBooks ......................................................................................................................... Art, Biography, Business, Chick Lit, Children's, Christian, Classics, Comics, Contemporary, Cookbooks, Crime, Ebooks, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, History, Horror, Humor And Comedy, Manga, Memoir, Music, Mystery, Non Fiction, Paranormal, Philosophy, Poetry, Psychology, Religion, Romance, Science, Science Fiction, Self Help, Suspense, Spirituality, Sports, Thriller, Travel, Young Adult,
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • .DOWNLOAD THIS BOOKS INTO AVAILABLE FORMAT ......................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD PDF EBOOK here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD EPUB Ebook here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD doc Ebook here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD PDF EBOOK here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD EPUB Ebook here { } ......................................................................................................................... .DOWNLOAD doc Ebook here { } ......................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................... .............. Browse by Genre Available eBooks ......................................................................................................................... Art, Biography, Business, Chick Lit, Children's, Christian, Classics, Comics, Contemporary, Cookbooks, Crime, Ebooks, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, History, Horror, Humor And Comedy, Manga, Memoir, Music, Mystery, Non Fiction, Paranormal, Philosophy, Poetry, Psychology, Religion, Romance, Science, Science Fiction, Self Help, Suspense, Spirituality, Sports, Thriller, Travel, Young Adult,
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • Be the first to like this

AMST Active Draft II

  1. 1. 1 | P a g e H i l l Visible Witness: The Visual Construction of Power & Resistance in the NBA By Andrew Hill April 26, 2013 American Studies Professor Laura Grappo, Supervisor
  2. 2. 2 | P a g e H i l l List of Images 1…. Marion, Indiana, August7, 1930. Thelynchingof Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith 2…. Hank WillisThomas, “Strange Fruit”: The Playoff 3…. Hank WillisThomas, “Strange Fruit”: Hangtime 4…. Hank WillisThomas, “Branded”: ‘Basketball& Chain’ 5…. A King’s Limits: Nike ‘Witness’campaign billboards in Cleveland, OH 6…. Vogue, April2008: LeBron James& Gisele Bundchen/1917World War I: “Destroy the Brute” RecruitmentPoster 7…. “Summer of LeBron”: Free-agency graphic
  3. 3. 3 | P a g e H i l l Andrew Hill American Studies 402 Professor Grappo Spring 2013 Visible Witness: The Visual Construction of Power & Resistance in the NBA The visual culture of the National Basketball Association is as dynamic and dominating as the images it depicts: athletes performing feats of strength and skill to a rhythm all their own. I was five years old when Space Jam was released, with the narratives expressed above acting in my acculturation to U.S. popular culture; this undercurrent of sublimal messages embedded in the NBA’s imagery acts perpetuates the highlight-reel identity and the dehumanization of the athlete. The visual culture has changed since the Michael Jordan-era of the 1990s. In the contemporary game where relative new-comers like LeBron James have taken the spotlight left by the Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and the legends of the past few decades. The NBA, as a cultural institution, produces their players today in a larger market of media and communication. In the images we consume and the language that informs those images and the culture around the Association the athlete is separated from the person; theirs is what I will term a ‘highlight reel identity.’ One constant in the representation of the black male athlete through the NBA is the highlight reel-identity. Black bodies flying over the lines of the hardwood, past the arms of the opposition, then launching into the air- sweat-soaked muscles glistening under the flashing cameras and penetrating arena lights. The highlight reel-identity is the body in motion, and the body as a commodity. The racial imagination feeds off the picturesque,
  4. 4. 4 | P a g e H i l l living- breathing verdict that Black men do this naturally- that their natural place is running the fields and courts to our amusement and amazement. The highlight reel-identity is the character colored in by statistics and the myth of social implication and belonging. This body only exists under the lights of the arena, and is constructed in that way; the athlete is only important as the fetishized object of the dominant ideologies of race in the United States. The Black body is beautiful in its natural aptitude for physicality; there is a great profit in the extraction of its propensity for labor and spectacle, and a notable discomfort when this body thinks outside of these prescriptions. These are the images that are fed constantly through the U.S. media through the mediums of the games, magazines, television and movies. The 1996 film Space Jam1, starring international basketball icon Michael Jordan, is an outstanding example of this discourse of the highlight reel- identity. Space Jam perpetuates the image of the Black body as useless without its natural ‘talent.’ In the film then NBA stars Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Shawn Bradley each have their ‘talent’2 stolen from them by cartoon space aliens from “Moron Mountain”.3 Wielding the stolen talent, the alien group transform into the tall, muscular and athletically sound juggernauts of the “Monstars”.4 Meanwhile, the NBA stars are left shells of themselves, being removed from their respective teams and undergoing physical and psychological tests to discover the root of what is wrong with them. An especially telling moment comes as the film follows Barkley who ventures into an urban basketball 1 Space Jam directed by Joe Pytka (1996; Warner Brothers Family Entertainment) 2 Seemingly a confluence of their coordination, attitude, and composure under the pressure of performance 3 Space Jam (1996) 4 Ibid.
  5. 5. 5 | P a g e H i l l court where a group of young women are initiated in a half-court game amongst themselves. Seeing Barkley standing outside the fence on the edge of the court they welcome his request to play with an awestruck “You’re Charles Barkley!” After getting thoroughly outplayed, one young woman adds insult to injury spiking down Barkley’s sole shot attempt and exclaiming “You’re not Charles Barkley! You’re just a wannabe that looks like him!”5 Like each of his colleagues, Barkley has lost his social value in the loss of his natural talent. Extracted from his core, the shell left of the players is that of the Black body, having no place in the league, their communities, or homes. They are pathologized, even whilst Bogues openly reasons through the fact that there is nothing wrong with them, the film marginalizes their bodies until we find them in the final minutes of the film where we find them playing together in a listless gymnasium. Despite this fate of the marquee players of the period, the NBA’s decision to stop play for the safety of the players is an afterthought. After voicing personal concerns over the potentiality of being similarly affected, the film’s NBA commissioner urges the players to ‘get out there’ and dress in the hallway if necessary. Only after the inconclusivity of the tests on Barkley, Bogues, Bradley, Ewing and Johnson does the commissioner take the stand that ‘until the health and safety of the NBA players can be assured, there will be no more basketball this season.’6 This decision clearly an afterthought in the larger scheme of the plot, but criticizes the dynamic between the player and the league itself. The league places precedent on the athlete, not the men. The men appeal to the commission about their concerns entering into the arena and the 5 Space Jam (1996) 6 Ibid.
  6. 6. 6 | P a g e H i l l potential of suffering the fate of having their talent stolen; the commissioner decides to lockout the players to prevent further losses like that of Barkley, Bogues, Bradley, Ewing and Johnson. Far from semantics, the voices of the men consigned to the NBA are waved off for the continuity of the NBA season despite the unexplained circumstances of the symptoms affecting five of the league’s most notable. It is only when the indefinite loss of these stars has become apparent that the concern for the other players is felt. The value of the athlete is heavily weighted on performance, being the spectacle. Without the propensity for profit in this way, the athlete is worthless. This message is not lost on Shawn Bradley, a former star of the Dallas franchise who repute figured mainly on sheer height- 7’6”. As a white male in a growing predominance of Black men his identity falls too within the highlight identity discourse of the athlete, albeit playing the role of the token minority. The film highlights this sentiment as the difference between Bradley with and without his talent is seemingly the ability to run the floor with his own body. The alien wielding his talent does little more than lose the tip-off, which we would assume he was heavily favored to win (being at least twice as tall as any character or person for the Looney Tunes). The Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective acknowledges this underachievement stating, “Blanko, the Shawn Bradley Monstar, failed to register a single stat throughout the course of the game… Bradley’s ‘talent’ can’t muster even a shot attempt.”7 This performance and the underlying questions of the belonging for white men on the court are all the more evident as NBA legend Larry Bird and Bill Murray openly comment through the film about a new age of NBA basketball. The imagery of the 7 “Compiling The Absurd Box Score For Space Jam” The Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective, March 22, 2011. score-for-space-jam/
  7. 7. 7 | P a g e H i l l true athletes, the true basketball stars, is that off the aggressive, heavily muscled Monstars of Bogues, Ewing, Johnson and Barkley dunking and bullying their way through the competition. The physique of the Black body is further represented as an embodiment of their natural talent. Besides the height- which is truly the only attribute gifted from Shawn Bradley- each Monstar wielding the talent of a Black NBA star developed superfluous muscularity and bulk. Alongside the big hands, big feet and rotund buttocks (à la Pound- the Charles Barkley Monstar)8 the imagery of ‘natural talent’ of the Black athlete plays off of the stereotypes long held against Black persons. Each of these qualities are framed within an essentialized physicality that requires a confinement to the court; the physical dominance of the Monstars is too great to be loosed from the basketball court, where their talents are naturally aligned. Their intellect or skill is negatively commented upon, if ever at all. The talent stolen didn’t require of them to practice or train, nor develop any strategy in approaching the game- even Michael Jordan, in preparing for the game against the Monstars, takes just a single practice to get his rhythm back after a year away from basketball. For Jordan’s colleagues in Barkley, Bogues, Bradley, Ewing, and Johnson, the return of their talent has the immediate effect of returning to form. With their talent they are complete- the ‘natural’ athlete they were born to be. Having no intrinsic value of intellect or social acceptability, these men are forgotten altogether from the plot, their community and from the fanfare they formerly held. Without these qualities- this talent- these Black bodies are relegated to the periphery of society and away from the attention they would otherwise garner as spectacles. 8 Space Jam (1996)
  8. 8. 8 | P a g e H i l l The myth of belonging is best characterized by the ‘othering’ athletes are positioned by. From the NBA, the player is given ‘free agency,’ or the decision to choose for himself what team he offers his services to. Free agency is short-lived as the ownership of a team can freely move ‘contracts’ with other organizations for equal value. Commercial representations of basketball players can also contribute to this culture of displacement, as a commercial depicts a black basketball player as too tall for the camera- the character was depicted without his head.9 Even while the commercial suggested the website was for everyone, it also represented the Black male athlete as not fitting in the picture of ‘everyone.’ These representations are problematic as it perpetually depicts these men as the problem, never the solution. In free agency, the men and their owners are in a battle of interests as the franchise is in constant threat of being taken hostage of by a star player. The advertisement depicts the Black male athlete as occupying a space that they neither fit in nor ‘fit in’ amidst the white families on vacation. We see these patterns laced throughout the representation of the Black male athlete of the NBA. The field of representation has also expanded in the contemporary NBA culture. With social media and commercialization constantly expanding, the opportunities for self- representation have grown. Commercials are a medium that has expanded in the number of athletes who has access to endorsement advertisements. LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, each a superstar in their own right, have participated in the commercial side of entertainment. Most prominently, James and Paul have been featured in spots for State Farm Insurance which have received heavy commercial rotation in the past few years. 9 “ TV Spot, ‘Make Someone Happy’” video, 0:29, com-make-someone-happy
  9. 9. 9 | P a g e H i l l LeBron James has also participated in advertisements for Nike and Samsung. Each commercial presents a different perspective of the man and the athlete. NBA players also have their identity crafted in the visual presentations of their game days. From the time they come on a camera, they are under the NBA’s rules of conduct. Speaking specifically to the dress code installed in 2005, NBA players are expected to fit a certain image in presenting themselves as products of the NBA. Hank Willis Thomas’ art series picks upon the embedded narratives of the highlight- reel identity. In images from both his “Branded” and “Strange Fruit” exhibits, Thomas appropriates these identities into scenes indicative of the power structure perpetuating these themes of a dehumanized Black body, the spectacle and the ‘natural athlete’. Three images from these series stand out in the construction of the highlight-reel identity: one known as “Basketball and Chain”10 from “Branded,” and two others from Thomas’s “Strange Fruit.” “By employing the ubiquitous language of advertising, Hank Willis Thomas is able to talk explicitly about race, class and history in a medium that almost everyone can decode. The artist is particularly interested in the commodification of the African-American male body.11 Each image carries the thematic of basketball- the ball itself figuring into the representation of the images itself. The images feature Black persons- which I will take to be male-bodied persons12- in various positions of elevation from the ground. Each body displays some manifestation of physicality: the jumping, the muscularity, and the 10 Thomas, Hank Willis. Basketball and Chain, 2003. 30”x20.” Terminartors. 11 Thomas, Hank Willis. Jack Shainman Gallery. 12 I will not assume to the sex-identity of the person depicted in ball-and-chain. Within the discourse of athlete-representation sex does inform different narratives as pertaining to gender, belonging, and sexuality. In this context, the dominant narratives carry a common thread of the highlight-reel identity- the denial of those features in identity unique to the person
  10. 10. 10 | P a g e H i l l combination of the latter in the dunk shot. In association to the narrative previously expounded upon through the analysis of the Space Jam film, these images reflect on the packaging of the NBA player and how the “African-American sports stars are traded”13 as social capital. In approaching the complexity of meanings within Thomas’s art it is important to acknowledge the exhibit titles which Thomas has chosen for the purpose of priming the viewing public to the meanings sought in the arrangement. “Strange Fruit,” for instance, is reference to jazz piece popularized by Billie Holiday upon release in 1939.14 The poem, “Strange Fruit” was penned by a New York schoolteacher, Abe Meeropol, and published in 1937.15 Written in critique to the abhorrent lynchings of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith16 in Marion, Indiana 1930, the written text “Strange Fruit” is a 12-line prose describing the way lynched bodies fit the Southern atmosphere. These descriptions figured the swinging bodies into the nature of the South- tied to the landscape inasmuch as they are to the culture. To this point, it is important to note that while the lynching of Shipp and Smith took place in the North, “This Marion, Indiana, lynching is among several thousand in American history 13 14 "Strange Fruit ( 1939 )." Oxford African American Studies Center, (accessed Wed Apr 24 14:47:46 EDT 2013). 15 Ibid. 16 I will not repeat here what they were charged with because to do so would lend legitimacy to their apprehension in suggesting probable cause.
  11. 11. 11 | P a g e H i l l (U.S.), though unlike most it happened in the North and in a community with little harsh racial antagonism.”17 The performance of the mutilation and efficacious position these bodies were made to occupy followed in the Southern-attributed culture. As surmised by Journal of American History essayist, James H. Madison: “[T]he Marion tragedy, like many southern lynchings, was a spectacle lynching. The mob was not content to murder their victims at the jail or to carry them off to an isolated spot. They chose the courthouse square because it was the civic and geographical center of town. The mob deliberately performed their drama on that stage, using lynch ropes as their central props. They insisted the county coroner not immediately cut down the two bodies. They must hang through the night, they shouted, to send a message to blacks who stepped out of line. Long after the sheriff finally cut the lynch ropes, the photograph remained: the upper half with its vivid brutality; the lower half showing ordinary Americans without sorrow or shame.”18 The position of Black male in respect to this culture of spectacle, the policing of the Black body, and more widely the racial framework of the U.S. is what is at the heart of the images in Hank Willis Thomas’ “Strange Fruit.” In this framework we must account for ‘lynch ropes’ as a “central prop,”19 and the purposeful selection of space as a means to exhibit a domination of the Black body. It is in the scenes depicted by Thomas that we can understand the “Strange Fruit” thematic of the contemporary Black male athlete. 17 Madison, James H. “A Lynching in the Heartland: Marion, Indiana, August 7, 1930. Teaching the Journal of American History 18 Ibid. 19 Ibid.
  12. 12. 12 | P a g e H i l l The first piece from Thomas that I will examine is one from the “Strange Fruit” set which I will reference as The Playoff. The image depicts two Black men, both elevated in mid-air. Both are shirtless, exposing the muscularity of their arms and legs. One of the men has his back facing the viewer, his arm outstretched so as to block the play of the ball-handler who partially obscured from view by the first man. Neither of their faces are visible; one because his back is turned to us, and the ball-handler’s because his arm is raised so as to cover his face with his hand. Putting this piece in conversation with Meeropol and Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” questions the positionality of the Black body in the cultural landscape and the racial framework of the U.S. The men depicted in this first image from Thomas’s “Strange Fruit” would seem to be engaged in a competition for a place on the noose. The men, acting within the discourse of the basketball game, are placed at odds- as defined in the game by who has possession of the basketball. The contest is structured such that they find themselves in constant opposition: on defense, trying to steal away the opportunities from the individual with the ball and prevent them from acquiring the game’s capital- points; on offense, exploiting the weaknesses of the defense in order to create as great a separation between your accumulation of points and that of the opposition. The significance of these roles within this great drama of the game is what gains are made in trading in the basketball game’s capital. What Thomas positions these men to demonstrate is that their performance, regardless of the victor or their identity (hence the invisibility of their faces), are set up to
  13. 13. 13 | P a g e H i l l achieve a net loss for the athlete in the public diminution of character and social death of that identity. These are the narratives of the highlight-reel identity: an oversimplification of identity, of purpose and meaning. In kind to the referenced lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, their lynching was an event- a spectator sport as it would be. Much in the likeness of the image of a photographed Marion, Indiana community gathered around the hanging feet of Shipp and Smith, the bodies of the men are illuminated by the camera flash. Their bodies are exposed to the gaze of the audience. Thomas Shipp, whose face is badly disfigured, hangs with his chest and stomach exposed. Identifying Shipp was in some ways aided in that Smith’s pants had been torn off and divided as souvenirs, then clothed with a Klansman’s robe,20 a feature that can be perceived in the image. Smith’s arm and lower legs are exposed. More deeply into the nature of lynching, specifically in this case, the performance was one of silencing the voice and perspective of the Black men. Killing them, demonstrably so, illustrates an ideology that the law is in the hands of the white public. To this end, the Black body is expendable as a marker of this power of judgment- the ideologies of white supremacy are affirmed in the action of degrading and destroying the personhood of a Shipp or Smith, leaving their body to be manipulated as effigies. The body, removed from the character and personality, is subject to the labels placed upon it by the power that make it a spectacle. The “Strange Fruit” are markers of white supremacy because they have been appropriated to be so, and have been robbed of an agency to say otherwise. The charges and stereotypes lobbied against them are then immutable and 20 Lynchings & Hangings- Page 9. Legends of America.
  14. 14. 14 | P a g e H i l l canonized within the viewing public and popular culture. These narratives are reified in the second image drawn from Thomas’s “Strange Fruit”. Also drawn from “Strange Fruit,” this second piece, which I reference as Hangtime, echoes many themes from The Playoff, while adding new perspectives on isolation and the highlight-reel identity. There are multiple differences although it is clear in form and concept that the images are related. The Black body is again defined in context to the noose, the basketball, and the basketball game motif, in addition to the physical spectacle of the body at work. Like the first image, the Black male upper body and the legs are exposed highlighting the muscularity defined in those areas. The defender has since disappeared, leaving the offensive player to be examined in isolation. The backlight of the image has since gone out, leaving the elevated body suspended in darkness. Nonetheless, the body gleams off a distant light, also illuminating the noose, the basketball, the player’s basketball shorts and shoes. The player maintains a grip on the basketball which would seem to be caught within the noose. The imagery of Hangtime depicts the Black athlete when the arena lights go off. This is a central concept to the highlight-reel identity as it asserts the pre-determination of the Black body to the quality of the spectacle. The body, even after the crowd disperses and the lights go off, is still associated to the labor and spectacle to which it is bound. The body, again having no face, is anonymous to us- the personality or history of the man hung there has fallen away from the subjected body, which hangs in suspension to be given purpose in competition and performance. Like the bodies of the Shipp and Smith whose bodies were
  15. 15. 15 | P a g e H i l l left to hang through the night, the conception of athlete hangs in the air even after the game. The private identity of the men who engaged on the court is not regained after they have left, rather they are appropriated to the game itself. The loss of a personal identity is key to understanding the make-up of the highlight-reel identity. Hank Willis Thomas’s “Strange Fruit” pieces presented here tie together the spectacle of the lynched body and the athletic body. These bodies carry the common distinction of a cultural Blackness. Todd Boyd, a cultural theorist with strong focus on the NBA explains in his text, Young, Black, Rich and Famous that “For most of their history Black people have had to exist outside of what is known as mainstream America.”21 What has since happened according to Boyd is that “The Blackness that defines basketball now is as American as apple pie…”22 What is suggested here is a re-appropriation of the Black body from the margins to the space of the spectacle. The Black body is given the possibility of inclusion and social value within the structure set aside by white supremacist ideologies. The highlight-reel identity represents a gilded opportunity to be seen, to be appreciated as opposed to marginalized. The men in Thomas’ “Strange Fruit” are jumping for the noose in order to capture this promise of inclusion. What is implied in Hangtime is that the ‘achievement’ of this inclusion is a stripping of humanness- reflecting back on Boyd, the Black body is made into a consumable good, like apple pie. In this way the body is controlled. Whether the game lights are on or off, the athletic body is dependent on the position as a spectacle, as property. The basketball becomes a marker of this need as it 21 Boyd, Todd. Young, Black, Rich & Famous (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2003) 174 22 Ibid. 175
  16. 16. 16 | P a g e H i l l reminds us, when viewing the images of these bodies, why they are allowed to occupy this space in popular culture. Another image that closely ties to those from “Strange Fruit” comes from Thomas’ “Branded” series. Hank Willis Thomas’ art series “Branded” picks upon the embedded narratives of the highlight-reel identity and many of the themes identified from “Strange Fruit”. Thomas again employs the Black body to talk explicitly about race, class and history, as well as the commodification of the Black body.23 Branded, with respect to “Strange Fruit” and the control of the emancipated Black body, connects to the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Homer Plessy, described as a man who was “seven-eighths white and could pass,”24 brought a case before Judge John H. Ferguson regarding Plessy’s being asked to move to the black car on a train into Louisiana.25 With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Louisiana’s segregation policies the legal institution of ‘separate but equal’ laws. The sole dissenting justice, Kentuckian John Marshall Harlan, would state in his opinion: “If evils will result from commingling of the two races… they will be infinitely less than those those [evils] that will surely come from state legislation regulating the enjoyment of civil rights upon the basis of race.”26 Enforced social divisions would ensue in spite of Justice Harlan’s opinion, yet even after the repeal of this decision the marked boundaries embedded in the U.S. would inform the construction of dichotomies like that of the NBA. In a league of predominantly white ownership, and predominantly Black athletes, 23 Thomas, Hank Willis. Jack Shainman Gallery. 24 “Plessy v. Ferguson ( 1896 )." Oxford African American Studies Center, (accessed Fri Apr 26 16:06:49 EDT 2013). 25 Ibid. 26 "Plessy v. Ferguson ( 1896 )." Oxford African American Studies Center, (accessed Fri Apr 26 07:48:55 EDT 2013).
  17. 17. 17 | P a g e H i l l the social division supported from Plessy v. Ferguson continues to play a role in the U.S. culture. Within this culture, the images of these Black men carry what Justice Harlan warned to be “the brandof servitude anddegradation.”27 Like the previous scenes from “Strange Fruit” the central thematic is basketball- the ball itself figuring into the text of the image, and contextualizing the narrative to the NBA. The “Branded” image, which I will refer to as “Basketball & Chain,” characterizes what the title might suggest insofar as the literal depiction of the ball and the chain. Prior to receiving the image, the title of the piece signifies the metal weighted ball affixed to prisoners by their captors. The weight, used from the decks of slave ships to prisons, conveys the condition of imprisonment. Within the image itself, the fact that the basketball is weighing down on the Black body is telling of this imprisonment, that what we might perceive as innocuous is in fact insidious. What can be said in respect to this relationship between ball-and-chain and the individual is that the former gives the latter purpose- it binds them to an identity, a space in society. The ball is weighted so as to contain this identity, and to encourage an ostensible conformity to said identity. For the prisoner, whether as a slave or convict, the ball deters exertion beyond the one’s status. Looking now at the image, the basketball is indeed the item hailed in the title- the focus. The basketball equally balanced with the athlete, suggesting they carry an equal importance, and, in conjunction to the chain, that their meanings are tied together. The athlete in this sense is an accessory to the ball and chain, that the athlete- faceless and 27 "Plessy v. Ferguson ( 1896 )." Oxford African American Studies Center, (accessed Fri Apr 26 07:48:55 EDT 2013).
  18. 18. 18 | P a g e H i l l nameless- is given meaning in association; the ball gives the athlete a place in the image (or in society) even if achieved by restrictive means, and if the identity is a marginalized one. As an inhibitor to full mobility, the basketball is an obstacle not in front of the person but constantly behind them- something they can’t get past, but must constantly struggle with into the present. It is a burden, veiled in the ideology that without it the Black body would be outside of the picture, beyond our view and without the benefit of ‘fitting in.’ This dogma would suggest that without the ball-and-chain the Black body would be worthless. The basketball prevents real progress; it is, by system, limiting. This vision takes us deeper into the image- first, into the fact that the person is in flight in spite of the basketball; second, the ball is not grounded, but also in flight. To the first perception, that the person might still achieve a jump, one cannot say that they have freedom. While the capacity for mobility is there, it is systemically limited by the ball-and-chain. Over time, and certainly with age, the basketball will be progressively more taxing on the body, but also the mind as imprisonment becomes as close as the basketball. In addition, the ball is a social marker of difference, of ‘otherness.’ It opens for our imagination the racist narratives of ‘natural athleticism’ and reifies the hierarchy whereby the Black male bodies- especially athletes- occupy a policed public space. The spaces allotted for the Black body figure mainly into athletics where the imagined natural aptitude for labor and spectacle are fit- on the courts and fields of our sports culture. As previously alluded to, these spaces are deeply reflective of the structure
  19. 19. 19 | P a g e H i l l of power through race and imagery. The dichotomy of ownership and athlete- of mind and matter on a micro-level- is ingrained in the culture and operation of the NBA and its production of images. Once a year, the exhibition of this power structure is nationally telecast. For every championship team in the NBA, the ring and banner ceremony is a moment when the NBA franchise recognizes key figures in its organization for their contributions to the team’s achievement on the court. The most recent example came in Miami, Florida’s American Airlines Arena at the beginning of this past NBA season. October 30th, 2012 marked the date for the emergence of a new season in the National Basketball Association (NBA). This the marquee game of the night would feature the league’s best: The Miami Heat team that won the national championship for the 2011- 2012 season, and LeBron James the elected most valuable player of the season and playoffs.28 These trophied prime achievements, as well as the Olympic gold medal he earned over the summer with the NBA’s Team USA, James was widely lauded as the best player in the game today. This game would play host to the pageantry of the championship ring and banner ceremony. The championship team of the previous season would usher in the season with their coronation; players and player-relations administration take the floor together to accept the diamond-studded gold rings custom-made and styled to the tastes of select personnel, and bearing the organization’s emblem. Within this ceremonial procession, the structure of the business is for once put into the public sphere. Here we see the hierarchal ideologies at work as the order of who receives is choreographed to convey power and importance. 28 “NBA Basketball: Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat” Turner Network Television, first broadcast October 30th, 2012
  20. 20. 20 | P a g e H i l l This October celebration is important to the study of the visual representations of power in the NBA as it presents this power structure to the public. The ties and the talent meet in a rare moment to celebrate the achievement of the team- the accomplishment of the basketball team in competition, and the success of buying the right athletes, and managing an effective structure. This separation is never clearer than on this floor where the athletes are labeled with team-branded warm-up apparel and sneakers, while the ownership and executives sport suits black and gray European-cut suits. In spite of the fact that only a half hour earlier, the men now sporting Miami Heat jerseys on the court had been adorned in their own designer label professional garb, it was fitting for the them to don their uniforms in the face of the ownership and the larger public. They are marked men, even in this celebratory atmosphere- their identity on this field of play is that of the athlete. On the court the identity of the NBA athlete is just that- the athlete. The highlight- reel identity of the fills in the qualities of the athletic body with the racialized imagination,29 divided along the Black-White colorline. In a league like the National Basketball Association where Black players represent over 78 percent of the active NBA players30 the visual dynamic of power places Black men on the court and white men in ownership of Black labor. This divide has been authenticated through the American (U.S.) racial imagination as a natural formation of the inherent abilities of the ‘races’. The expanding presence of African-American players began with the full-scale integration of professional sports in the 1960s, although “the color barrier of the NBA was broken in 29 Statistics increasingly figure into the identity of the athlete. 30 Lapchick, Richard, et al. “The 2012 Racial and Gender Report Card: National Basketball Association” June 2012:
  21. 21. 21 | P a g e H i l l 1951 by Nathaniel ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton with the (New York) Knicks, Earl Lloyd with the Detroit Pistons, and Chuck ‘Tarzan’ Cooper with the Boston Celtics.”31 This history is pertinent in understanding the racial plane on which the NBA operated prior to the now super-majority of African-American men in the NBA. The Black male was never just an athlete, but a representative of an expanding presence of African-Americans in the public and popular discourse. This history carries a greater weight in the implications it holds in the expanding representation of the contemporary NBA player. William C. Rhoden, the author of Forty Million Dollar Slaves, suggests that the NBA player today carries with him the responsibility and legacy of pressing for further “power” within the structure of the system- in this case the NBA. This mantle has evolved with the Black community to which it is integrally connected. Rhoden recalls the evolution of this power through Black athletic participation in the U.S.: power in freedom from slavery, power in achieving personal success, power in opposing white supremacy, power in developing community-centered institutions, power in pursuing a platform of change, and power in out-playing the system of exploitation in the sports-industrial complex.32 The legacies of the Tom Molineauxs, Jack Johnsons, Curt Floods, the Jackie Robinsons, Willie Mays’, Muhammad Alis, the Allen Iversons follow in this tradition to further the power of the Black community. It is my belief that these advancements in power are not mutually exclusive, but grounds on which each generation of Black athlete has had to re-establish and advance. The contemporary NBA 31 Rhoden, William C. Forty MillionDollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete. (Three Rivers Press, NY: 2006) Pg. 151 32 Rhoden. Pg. 6
  22. 22. 22 | P a g e H i l l player like LeBron James in indicative in this steady movement of Black representation and achievement. Returning to October 30th, 2012, the Miami audience is cued into a roar as the arena lights cut to darkness. The spotlights stream quickly over the crowd in the Miami-based American Airlines arena reaching a crescendo as they fall into a blinding flash on the court, prompting the flash of flames emitted from the backboards. A video begins on the jumbo- tron above the court to the instrumental anthem of “Niggaz in Paris”. Flashing across the screen are the dunk shots, jump shots, alley-oops, and victories of the Miami Heat team. What is absent from the spectacle are the men who exist when the game and the season is over. There is no highlight of ‘the Decision,’ LeBron James’ televised choice to join the Miami Heat organization two years prior, or that of All-Star teammates Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh. There is no highlight of the philanthropy efforts of James in his hometown of Akron, Ohio where his education and fitness initiatives make a difference in the lives of numerous ‘at-risk’ youth growing up with similar obstacles as a young LeBron James. There are no videos of the fatherhood of James, Wade or Bosh. The highlight-reel gives us only the ‘natural Black athletes’ that materialize with the jerseys and the arena lights. The true genius and resistance to the power structure of the NBA must be observed at the margins of this identity, in the visual texts of the game and of the experiences of these men beyond the hardwood.
  23. 23. 23 | P a g e H i l l The championship celebration of 2012 would not have been had it not been for “the Decision” and the strategic collaboration of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade.33 In what was deemed “the Summer of LeBron (James),”34 James figured as the centerpiece of a free-agency season in the summer of 2010. Free-agency is a uniquely defined privilege within the culture of the NBA. Free-agency is conceived as either restricted or unrestricted, the former entailing that the team currently contracting a player has the first right of refusal on whether that player may leave the team, provided they pay the player more than any other teams’ maximum offer. Unrestricted free-agency is without this provision, giving the player the ability to choose which team he wishes to play for. Although the conditions of unrestricted free-agency are conceptually accessible to even the passing fan, the culture around free-agency is very tense- especially in the “Summer of LeBron”35. Having been hailed as a once-in-a-generation talent since high-school, every NBA team fed into the hype of his impending decision. The boundaries of loyalty and ownership within the NBA imagination are contoured by the imagery of the athletes themselves. In this way, the culture of the NBA extends beyond the contract and enters into its own realm of meaning-making in regard to the identities of the athletes. Examining the career arc of LeBron James produces a spectrum of images that fit within the motif of the highlight-reel identity. From his early NBA career through to his movement to the Miami Heat franchise, James has been figured into the system of the highlight-reel identity. 33 As well as their teammates Joel Anthony, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Terrell Harris, Udonis Haslem, Juwan Howard, James Jones, Mike Miller, Dexter Pittman, and Ronny Turiaf 34 Wojnarowski, Adrian. “” June 25, 2010 lebronfreeagent062510 35 “ESPN Special: The Decision” Entertainment Sports Programming Network, July 8, 2010
  24. 24. 24 | P a g e H i l l LeBron James broke into the national spotlight as a high school Junior, when he was featured on the cover of the February 2002 Sports Illustrated issue “The Chosen One.” Still 17 years-old, James was being heavily courted by media and corporate spokespersons alike.36 With the potential James carried, in the eyes of sports giants Nike and Adidas, he was projected to be “a year from signing what's expected to be the most lucrative shoe deal in history for an NBA rookie, estimated at $20 million over five years.”37 These are all expressions of value placed on James’ body and his body of work at that point. After being drafted into the NBA in 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise James was marketed as the face of the franchise. The images jointly referred to above as The King’s Limits set the context for this early NBA representation of LeBron James. Stylistically, these Nike brand images relate closely to the images from Hank Willis Thomas, specifically those of “Strange Fruit”. As alluded 36 Wahl, Grant. “Ahead of his Class” Sports Illustrated Vault, February 18, 2002. 37 Ibid. A Kings’ Limits As a part of Nike’s “Witness” campaign, these murals hung on Cleveland’s Landmark Office Tower and were taken down the weekend after “The Decision” according to the Associated Press article, “Cleveland erasing memories of LeBron”. The tower, “a long 3-pointer from Quicken Loans Arena,” represents James stature in the public eye- unremoved from the branding of the franchise and the basketball.
  25. 25. 25 | P a g e H i l l to in the caption, the images of James were figured prominently in downtown Cleveland- this was the medium of introduction of the franchise’s new asset. The Nike tagline “We Are All Witnesses” highlights the spectacle that is James, while his muscularity is also offered unto the viewing audience. The ads don’t feature James’ name nearly as prominently as his number- his identifier under the ownership of the franchise. The emerging message is that you would recognize him by his athleticism and by his franchise label. These are the tenets of a highlight- reel identity; James is known as the basketball player. His value is ascribed to his propensity for labor on the basketball court. Without his jersey and without the basketball, he is anonymous. Even as James’ visibility and popularity grew, his identity remained tied to the league. In endorsements and features James was tied to the basketball. His personal identity was suppressed by this association, allowing for the media to affix labels to his character indiscriminately. One of the more extreme and criticized examples came from the Vogue, April 2008 issue where James was pictured with famed model Gisele Bundchen.38The image juxtaposed with the Vogue cover is a 1917 World War I recruitment poster,39 mirroring in a plethora of ways the James-Bundchen image. From the obvious associations of the ‘brutish,’ black monster, as well as the sexual threat that beast figures as in respect to the bare-breasted illustrated woman (or the similarly dressed Bundchen), a new wrinkle has emerged in the text of 38 “LeBron James Vogue cover called ‘racially insensitive’” New York (Associated Press) March 24, 2008. 39 Shea, Danny. “Uncovered: Possible Inspiration For Contraversial LeBron James Vogue Cover” April 5, 2008. Huffington Post,
  26. 26. 26 | P a g e H i l l the Vogue cover. Where the “Mad Brute” of the propaganda poster wields a bloodied club of culture, James has picked up basketball. Putting this image in conversation with Thomas’s Ball- and-Chain, we can understand clearly how basketball and the highlight-reel identity operate in policing the Black male. On the Vogue, April 2008 issue, James is pictured in basketball attire and in mid-dribble with his right-hand. Carrying over the imagery from the juxtaposed recruitment poster, James and the “Mad Brute” are depicted in desire of white femininity. With one arm around the respective woman’s waist, both figures are limited from a full embrace of their captive by the occupation of their right arm. Unlike the “Mad Brute’s” blood-soaked club, James wielding of a basketball is non-threatening. In fact, it can be understood that in order to maintain his dribble his body and attention must be divided. The focus James gives to the basketball limits his ability to act in full consciousness; granted, in this racist40 depiction of James would suggest his purpose is to possess the body of Gisele Bundchen. In the big picture, the highlight-reel identity and the accessory of the basketball speaks to a cultural policing of the Black body through sports. The NBA as an institution is limiting of the athletes, defining their greatest success in context to the court. We see with the Vogue cover that in stripping away the personal identity of the man, the stereotypes prevalent in popular culture can adhere to the Black body. Vogue, whether intentioned or not, did what Marion, Indiana was able to do with the bodies of Thomas Shipp and Abhram Smith: use it as a spectacle to police Black bodies through association, and to reaffirm a white supremacy over Black savagery. While popular culture regularly produces images in likeness to these themes, the NBA is one institution producing the narratives that inform it. The most common medium for these ideologies is in respect to free-agency, the contractual 40 As well as sexist, misogynistic and heteronormative
  27. 27. 27 | P a g e H i l l opportunity for players to negotiate their space within the league. In these moments, the Black body is often exchanged between franchises with the openly expressed hope for profitability on trade return. The institution of the NBA informs a public on the necessity of ownership of the athlete, which is especially visible in the free-agency period dubbed, “the Summer of LeBron (James)”. Thinking back to the Hank Willis Thomas’s “Strange Fruit” and “Branded” images, James is being appropriated within the NBA by analysts and agents who inform the public of where he ‘should’ go. Between the banter and arguments of commentators and ‘NBA insiders’ alike it is can be seen that the desire is for James’ body, the perceived value of his labor. This theme is furthered by fan art (pictured below) which picks up on the tones of the discussions over James emanating from the league. The image, James dressed in the jerseys of the franchises of the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and the New Jersey41 Nets. As a body, whose 41 Now Brooklyn-based, playing in the Barclays Center and owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokorov The Summer of LeBron
  28. 28. 28 | P a g e H i l l expressed social value is limited to the basketball court, James need only be dressed in the costume of our choosing. In this image, James’ decision matters only as far as affirming what has already been advised as the right path- since each teams’ fandom has participated in this, James is boxed into the expectations of the highlight-reel identity. The decision has been made for him, the reasons vetted in the imaginations of the fans and analysts. His body will inevitably follow one, and for his compliance to this identity he will be applauded. LeBron James would not comply with business as usual however. At 9pm EST42 on the night of July 8, 2010, LeBron James was the subject of an hour-long ESPN special later dubbed “The Decision”43. The televised spectacle of a then, 25-year old man and athlete drew the attention of almost ten million44 viewers- an unforeseen plateau for a Black boy from Akron, Ohio raised by his single mother. For doing something without a ball in his hand or sneakers on his feet, LeBron James was attracting a great deal of attention as a worker choosing his place of employment on national television. The vitriol and praise that would emanate from this television special would carry the force of the anticipation for and expectations of this athlete. The Decision was a turning point in the identity of LeBron James, marked by a tangible shift in his visual representation and that of the NBA and world around him. Looking at the Decision, its immediate aftermath on national news, the “Rise” Nike video and the “Cleveland Response,” and the markers of the shift in James’ branding, this section of history illustrates the emergence of an athlete from the spotlight of the game into a man and public figure. 42 “Sources: LeBron decision on Thursday” ESPN, NBA, July 7, 2010. 43“ESPN Special: The Decision” Entertainment Sports Programming Network, July 8, 2010 44 “’Decision’ watched by nearly 10 million” ESPN, NBA, Associated Press. July 11, 2010.
  29. 29. 29 | P a g e H i l l The Decision was steeped in anticipation for Cleveland, Ohio, Cavaliers’ fans and the businesses local to the Quicken Loans Arena (the “Q” Arena). In addition to the acclaim of being an Ohio-native, James was envisioned to be generational talent that would lift the whole of the Cleveland sports’ legacy. “The Decision” is the title attributed to James’ choice of the Miami Heat franchise, following in the decades’ long drought of success in sports for the city of Cleveland. The city, marred by the history of The Drive, The Shot, (and) The Fumble would take another blow with “The Decision.” James’ legend prior, as a savior for Cleveland’s sports, was fed from the time he began gaining national notoriety in middle school, and canonized just years later when, as a sophomore in high-school, “a local newspaper dubbed him King James”45. The Nike “Witness” campaign would further the lore of the athlete- the gaze of the crowds focused upon the court, the placement of the action, drama and importance. The identity of LeBron James was appropriated to his Court, a double-entendre all the more telling as we consider its limits in power and dominion. At the heart of this conflict of interests engages the relationship dynamic of the athlete and the “ownership” of that talent. Cleveland in the summer of 2010 was subject to the social backlash of the talent declaring its independence. The visual markers of identity are contested grounds in the NBA. The public identity- that which we see on television, magazines, movies and on billboards- is profitable. Insofar as the public representation of the Black athlete can carry tones of a ‘natural athletic Blackness’ and a racial hierarchy, the associative value of an athlete to a franchise can translate to millions of dollars. LeBron James off-court value to the Cleveland 45 Jenkins, Lee. “Sportsman of the Year: LeBron James “ Sports Illustrated (December 10, 2012)
  30. 30. 30 | P a g e H i l l was speculated in the midst of his looming free agency. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the “downtown businesses figure to lose $48 million over the course of a season” when James left the Cleveland franchise.46 That the Plain Dealer47 would cover such a story angle represents the importance of the issue. What is not deemed important, what is lost in the highlight-reel identity is a consciousness of the personhood of the athlete. As opposed to the fantasy of the ‘natural athlete,’ James grew up in a marginalized community in Akron, Ohio. As reported in Sports Illustrated “The Chosen One” 2002 article: [Gloria] gave birth to [James] at 16, and after her mother died two years later, she and LeBron drifted from apartment to apartment around Akron. (On one occasion their building was condemned and bulldozed by the city.) ‘I saw drugs, guns, killings; it was crazy,’ LeBron [James] says. ‘But my mom kept food in my mouth and clothes on my back.’48 Following this description, we are not taught to associate persons with this background to success, promise or choice. It is more readily understood that his ‘situation’ is indicative of the failure in his family in his upbringing; the absence of James’ father, the youth of his mother, the dregs of his neighborhood. James was not a child seen to have a future- except by his mother who persevered these circumstances to feed and clothe him. As Shaun Powell, author of Souled Out? states, For too many young black men, athletically gifted or not, such an upbringing isn’t a 46 Schoenberger, Robert. “How Much is LeBron James Worth to Northeast Ohio?” The Plain Dealer. June 29, 2010. 47 The Plain Dealer’s website claims the “largest audience of any media company in Northeast Ohio” ( 48 Wahl, Grant. “Ahead of his Class” Sports Illustrated Vault, February 18, 2002.
  31. 31. 31 | P a g e H i l l recipe for success in today’s America”49James was not a child seen, but rather a statistic. The highlight-reel identity drags the Black body into the exploitation and profit of the league, but erases connection the men of the NBA have to their upbringing and the communities from whence they grew. James expression of personhood in “The Decision” disrupted business-as- usual and challenged the structure of the highlight-reel identity.50 The representations of the athlete are constantly being negotiated through media; probably the greatest difficulty of this project was the constantly shifting narrative-images adding to the latent canon which I’ve described here. Seemingly everyday new wrinkles in the discourse are added in the commercialization of athletes. Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul and his State Farm-alias/twin Cliff Paul perform the explicitly scripted narrative of the ‘natural’ athlete. The commercial departs from this ideology stating “they were both born to assist” with the imagery of a growing Chris Paul all including a basketball, each reflecting on his inherent potential for basketball. With the NBA playoffs, the tournament of the season’s marquee teams from mid-April into June each year, the Chris Paul/ Cliff Paul- State Farm commercial has taken a new twist. Cutting Chris Paul out altogether, the commercial centers around NBA Hall of Famers Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Reggie Miller- both now commentators employed by TNT. The commercial begins with Smith throwing the ball between his hands, Miller offering the opening line of “Kenny, are you sure you want to do this?” referencing the basketball hoop across the parking lot. The hoop, positioned behind a mid-sized sedan harkens to the 2011 49 Powell, Shaun Souled Out? How Blacks Are Winning and Losing in Sports, (U.S.: Human Kinetics) 5 50 The responses analysts had to The Decision even to today speak to how great of an impact James had in disrupting the system. In space and time consideration I have included some notable quotes in the Afterward.
  32. 32. 32 | P a g e H i l l Sprite Slam Dunk competition when Blake Griffin, another L.A. Clippers star player, leaped over the hood of a Kia sedan. Smith responds to Miller exclaiming, “Man, you saw me in the 1990 Dunk Contest!” to which Miller quipped, “That was twenty-three years ago!” In this commercial we continue to see the narrative of maintaining the value placed upon the Black body through athletics. Even decades after leaving the court, and moving on in finding a new and successful career, “The Jet” is dragged back into the association51 allowing the basketball and his ability using it to define his value. This theme extends to Reggie Miller who in making the alley-oop pass to Smith a skill that Miller is not renowned for. The need to redefine himself within the discourse of basketball is symptomatic of system restricting the identity of these men to extend beyond the court, or the field as it were. This is made all the more clear as Marv Albert, a noted and tenured NBA commentator, is allowed the space of spectator and commentator solely, remarking only how ‘clearly dillusional’ Smith is in the attempt. As a white male, having established himself well beyond the court, his identity is not confined to the ball. If not for prior knowledge of him or looking for him in the cast list, you wouldn’t know he had anything to do with the NBA- he is allowed anonymity and definition away from the game. The commercial ends with Smith having crash-landed through the windshield- his legs depicted as hanging out of the windshield itself, while his upper body has emerged through the passenger window. Cliff Paul, the absent Chris Paul’s twin brother, comes into the scene after the accident. It is further telling that although they are hailed as twins, Miller does not acknowledge this clear resemblance between the State Farm agent Paul and the NBA star Paul. It would seem to suggest that without being accessory to the basketball and 51 Double entendre
  33. 33. 33 | P a g e H i l l the basketball-related feats, Chris Paul would be unrecognizable. The association we can make to these men away from the court is dictated as beyond unimportant, but rather unfeasible and unrealistic. The slideshow of images that cover my computer screen every so often includes a compilation of Black men whom I find inspiring: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul, as well as Dr. King, Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela. So that the images files are not bereft of order and management, each image carries the name of the figure and is filed within a corresponding folder capturing a thematic of what they are related to socially. In filtering through the images of James, Wade and Paul, each prominent basketball players within the contemporary National Basketball Association I reached a dilemma; how can I place the images of them out of uniform, off the basketball court, or with their friends and family into a folder labeled ‘NBA.’ In previous years I may not have questioned this action but presently I wondered why is it so easy to sum up an individual into to their profession- why can we stereotype the NBA player so easily? The NBA, as a cultural institution, produces their players in that way. In the images we consume and the language that informs those images and the culture around the Association the athlete is separated from the person; theirs is what I will term a ‘highlight reel identity.’ These images and the ideology embedded within them are widely dispersed and central to the culture of televised sports. This culture allows for the dehumanizing violence in language and action against the athletes; while certain persons can envision the personal narratives of the player, the culture emanating from the NBA does not encourage an identity beyond the profit structure of the league. If you think of the athlete, they should be
  34. 34. 34 | P a g e H i l l thought of as a product and asset of the league- that’s where you will find them, that’s where they belong. From the film Space Jam, through the representations of athletes in the commercials airing today, the dominant ideology of ownership is prevalent. While players look for avenues to self-expression through self-branding, the avenues will remain tightly constricted as long as the fan accepts the object of the Black body, and the narrative of the ‘natural athlete.’
  35. 35. 35 | P a g e H i l l Bibliography Boyd, Todd. Young, Black, Rich & Famous (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2003) 174 Jenkins, Lee. “Sportsman of the Year: LeBron James “ Sports Illustrated (December 10, 2012) Lapchick, Richard, et al. “The 2012 Racial and Gender Report Card: National Basketball Association” June 2012: Madison, James H. “A Lynching in the Heartland: Marion, Indiana, August 7, 1930. Teaching the Journal of American History dison.html Powell, Shaun Souled Out? How Blacks Are Winning and Losing in Sports, (U.S.: Human Kinetics) 5 Rhoden, William C. Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemptionof the Black Athlete. (Three Rivers Press, NY: 2006) 151 Schoenberger, Robert. “How Much is LeBron James Worth to Northeast Ohio?” The Plain Dealer. June 29, 2010. th.html Shea, Danny. “Uncovered: Possible Inspiration For Contraversial LeBron James Vogue Cover” April 5, 2008. Huffington Post, Thomas, Hank Willis. Basketball and Chain, 2003. 30”x20.” Terminartors. Thomas, Hank Willis. Jack Shainman Gallery. Wahl, Grant. “Ahead of his Class” Sports Illustrated Vault, February 18, 2002. Wojnarowski, Adrian. “” June 25, 2010 lebronfreeagent062510
  36. 36. 36 | P a g e H i l l Space Jam directed by Joe Pytka (1996; Warner Brothers Family Entertainment) “Compiling The Absurd Box Score For Space Jam” The Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective, March 22, 2011. absurd-box-score-for-space-jam/ “’Decision’ watched by nearly 10 million” ESPN, NBA, Associated Press. July 11, 2010. “ESPN Special: The Decision” Entertainment Sports Programming Network, July 8, 2010 “ TV Spot, ‘Make Someone Happy’” video, 0:29, “LeBron James Vogue cover called ‘racially insensitive’” New York (Associated Press) March 24, 2008. controversy_N.htm “Lynchings & Hangings”- Page 9. Legends of America. “NBA Basketball: Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat” Turner Network Television, first broadcast October 30th, 2012 “Plessy v. Ferguson ( 1896 )." Oxford African American Studies Center, (accessed Fri Apr 26 16:06:49 EDT 2013). “Sources: LeBron decision on Thursday” ESPN, NBA, July 7, 2010. "Strange Fruit ( 1939 )." Oxford African American Studies Center, (accessed Wed Apr 24 14:47:46 EDT 2013).