Only a Black Athlete Can Save Us Now

2022

Grant Farred

A call to arms exploring the protest movements of 2020 as they reverberated through the athletic world

Starting with George Hill’s refusal to participate in a playoff game following the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police, Grant Farred shows how the Covid-restricted NBA “bubble” spurred athletes into radical action. Farred uses sport as a point of departure to argue that the current dystopic crisis offers a singular opportunity to reimagine how we live in the world.

Starting with the refusal of George Hill of the Milwaukee Bucks to participate in an August 2020 playoff game following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Grant Farred shows how the Covid-restricted NBA “bubble” released an energy that spurred athletes into radical action. They disrupted athletic normalcy, and in their grief and rage against American racism they demonstrated the true progressivism lacking in even the most reformist-minded politicians and pundits. Farred goes on to trace the radicalism of black athletes in a number of sports, including the WNBA, women’s tennis, the NFL, and NASCAR, locating contemporary athletes in a lineage that runs through Muhammad Ali as well as Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics.

Only a Black Athlete Can Save Us Now uses sport as a point of departure to argue that the dystopic crisis of our current moment offers a singular opportunity to reimagine how we live in the world.

Grant Farred is author of An Essay for Ezra: Racial Terror in America; Martin Heidegger Saved My Life; In Motion, At Rest: The Event of the Athletic Body;and What’s My Name? Black Vernacular Intellectuals, all published by Minnesota.

Contents

Prologue

1. The NBA and the WNBA Are the Most Progressive Forces in American Politics

2. From “Fear the Deer” to “Follow the Deer”

3. Out of One, Many

4. Reforming the Unreformable

5. Nur ein Gott kann uns jetzt Retten

6. Strange Things Happen in the Bubble

7. “Hey, Chicago, What Do You Say?”

8. The WNBA Takes Its Stance

9. Colin Kaepernick

10. Silence Reverberates

11. The Peculiar Science of Black Athletic Entropy

12. The Burden of Over-Representation, Curiously Borne by Woods and Jordan

13. Change Is Everywhere, or So It Seems

14. Change Is Everywhere, Even the NHL

15. Biting the Hand That Feeds Them

16. A Pause for a Cause

17. Ontological Exhaustion

18. Inverse Displacement

19. Love, Unrequited

20. From L.A. to Kenosha

21. Harmolodics

Acknowledgments