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TABOO by Jon Entine


Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It

by Jon Entine

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-891620-39-8
Publisher: PublicAffairs

A brave sprint in the marathon of genetic racial equality.

Journalist and award-winning TV producer Entine writes lucidly about a forbidden topic. After O.J., it takes courage to discuss race science, nature vs. nurture, and brains vs. brawn. Sure, African-Americans dominate major American sports, but even black scholars here ask why every Olympic 100-meter finalist is black. The middle chapters explore the checkered history of blacks in America sports. Two centuries before the NBA, whites marveled at the slaves' superior athleticism. "Our sports and dances was big sport for the white folks," said one ex-slave. Readers discover that Paul Robeson, the actor-singer-communist, was an all-American and "the finest wide receiver of his era"—a Phi Beta Kappa valedictorian who went on to Columbia Law. Entine compares the defiant boxing champ Jack Johnson to Dennis Rodman. When he beat "the Great White Hope" in 1910, some whites consoled themselves with notions of their mental superiority. Jesse Owens's and Joe Louis's victories mocked theories of eugenics and white supremacy. The more recently fashionable environmental approach to the question is weakened by Michael Jordan's middle class background. After noting that Dodger executive Al Campanis and sportscaster Jimmy the Greek (who felt former slaves were bred to be athletic) lost their careers suggesting blacks were better athletes, Entine presents the evidence that makes his argument unusually ambitious and controversial: graphs of fast twitch muscles, comparisons of Scandinavian and African runners, and studies of the jumping ability of various races. (It’s true: White men really can’t jump.) The heavier bone density of whites may help them dominate swimming, though this is also one of the expensive, country club sports that Entine uses to present the sociological view. Courageous enough to ask tough questions about the uneven playing field, forthright enough to present hard evidence. (8

pages b&w photos)