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Racism in the Sports Pages Essay

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September 1, 1955: The African-American Absence

The 1950's saw the birth of rock and roll and the explosion of television sitcoms. The decade was also marked by the influx of African-American athletes into the sporting world following Jackie Robinson's debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. However, one would not realize the significance of African-Americans in athletics by reading sports pages during the 1950's. The athletic achievements of African-Americans were often doomed to the latter pages of sports sections in favor of advertisements and routine sports articles. The San Francisco Chronicle is guilty of hiding the impact of African-Americans in sports, reflecting a lack of racial tolerance.

It can be said that newspapers are a reflection of the society that they represent. If one were to look at the San Francisco Chronicle sports page in 1955, a message of racial intolerance would surely be present. September 1, 1955 surely is no exception. The front page of that sports section features a report on a horse race, a story on a baseball game and an advertisement for Early Times Kentucky Whiskey. Nowhere is an African-American athlete mentioned. It seems as if society during the pre-Civil Rights era was more concerned with promoting gambling on horse races and drinking whiskey. After a few more pages of baseball game reports featuring pictures of white players and more liquor advertisements, there is finally a mention of a black athlete. However, it does not portray 1950's society in the best light.

The headline for the bottom corner column of page 5H reads, "Cureton Becomes First Negro UCLA Captain" (see attached article). This headline is telling for several reasons. First of all, the first black foot...


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...ll sell, and in 1955, people responded to the sports section if it featured cultural icons of the time: white athletes. Although African-American athletes were excelling in sports, the public and the newspapers did not care.

Fast-forward to 1982. By this time, African-Americans had already established themselves as the premier athletes in the American sports world. Society accepted this, and therefore, newspapers respected it. America was now more colorblind. One would be pressed to find a sports page in the United States that did not have an article on an African-American athlete. Although society was by no means living in complete racial harmony in 1982, the newspapers did not show any obvious racial bias. It was, however, a much better world for the African-American, and one could decipher all this by simply picking up the sports page in the morning.


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