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Beyond the Sporting Boundary: The Racial Significance of Sport Through Midnight Basketball

Sport is among the most potent institutions in the production, maintenance and contestation of race in the modern world. The last decade has witnessed a significant increase of sport-based research on the cutting edge of theorizing race and racism in the post-civil rights, post-colonial era. Nonetheless, the study of sport has yet to be seriously engaged by mainstream social scientists. This paper argues that sport scholars need to better demonstrate the powerful, even irreducible racial significance of sport in politics, public policy and popular culture. This argument is illustrated and elaborated with findings from an ongoing, multifaceted research project on midnight basketball in the USA. Key points include: the complexity of racial imagery in and around sport; sport’s legitimating functions for racialized neoliberalism; and the impact of sport and race politics on federal crime policy. Revealed throughout is a more sophisticated understanding of the centrality and complexity of contemporary racial formations.