When Race, Religion, and Sport Collide
Black Athletes at BYU and Beyond
By (author) Darron T. Smith
Publication date:30 October 2015
Length of book:228 pages
PublisherRowman & Littlefield Publishers
When Race, Religion, and Sport Collide tells the story of Brandon Davies’ dismissal from Brigham Young University’s NCAA playoff basketball team to illustrate the thorny intersection of religion, race, and sport at BYU and beyond. Author Darron T. Smith analyzes the athletes dismissed through BYU’s honor code violations and suggests that they are disproportionately African American, which has troubling implications. He ties these dismissals to the complicated history of negative views towards African Americans in the LDS faith. These honor code dismissals elucidate the challenges facing black athletes at predominantly white institutions. Weaving together the history of the black athlete in America and the experience of blackness in Mormon theology, When Race, Religion, and Sport Collide offers a timely and powerful analysis of the challenges facing African American athletes in the NCAA today.
Arguing that the close and complex relationship between race and religion can be uncovered through sports, Smith does a masterful job of weaving together critical race theory, US religious history, and sports to examine institutionalized racism in intercollegiate athletics. Specifically, Smith examines the realm of the sacred through the uneasy relationship between black student athletes and Mormonism’s larger theological constructions of race. Smith points out that within the Mormon Church blackness, especially in regard to black male athletes, is in tension with the notions of freedom, justice, and equality. However, Brigham Young University is not very different from other primarily white schools where, when it comes to sports, big money commands more interest than does the need of athletes. Black student athletes are especially under attack from the systemic white racism of the NCAA sports world. Perhaps most interesting here is Smith’s attention to how change can occur both within Mormon circles and in the sporting world at large. This book is timely, excellent, and worth a very close read. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels.