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Grant number: FZ-266901-19

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FZ-266901-19

Theresa Runstedtler
American University (Washington, DC 20016-8200)

Black Ball: Rethinking the "Dark Ages" of Professional Basketball

Research and writing leading to a book for a popular audience on the history of race, labor, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the 1970s.

Playing on the multiple meanings of the expression “Black Ball,” my book recasts the history of the NBA’s “Dark Ages.” According to popular wisdom, the league’s waning profitability and popularity in the seventies was the fault of a new generation of immature, selfish, lazy, and greedy Black players who came to dominate the professional ranks. Only after white league executives and team owners regained control did the NBA rebound in the 1980s. However, the actual history is much more complicated. It is also more revealing about the ongoing significance of anti-Black racism in U.S. sport and society in the post-Civil Rights era. Combining narrative history and cultural analysis, Black Ball argues that the misnamed “Dark Ages” were pivotal years in the rise of the NBA as a profitable powerhouse, thanks largely to the efforts of Black players in fighting for greater compensation and control over their labor and in reshaping the game with aesthetics and ethics of urban Black streetball.

Project fields:
African American History; African American Studies; Cultural History

Program:
Public Scholar Program

Division:
Research Programs

Total amounts:
$45,000 (approved)
$45,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
12/1/2019 – 8/31/2020