Corporate Colonization of Blackness – The Representation of Blackness in the National Basketball Association from 1984 to 2005

Till Neuhaus, Niklas Thomas

Abstract


In light of current social justice dynamics, this article examines marketing strategies employed by the NBA (and associated companies) to sell predominantly Black athletes to a chiefly White audience. Through historical contextualization and critical analysis, the NBA’s development from a non-profitable and scorned circus to a multi-faceted and multi-billion-dollar global attraction is explored. From the earliest league structures until the 1980s, a dichotomy between Black and White players (and the values/stigma they embodied) dominated the sport of Basketball. This however changed with the rise of Michael Jordan to fame. Jordan became the first basketball player who transcended these racial lines in terms of associated values and/or stigmas. Simultaneously, His Airness’ rise to global fame let the NBA’s popularity soared into astronomical spheres. A shiny Black Superhero was born, yet his public image is predominantly inspired by corporate considerations – a case of corporate colonization of Black bodies. Black players’ transgressions and the NBA’s reactions to those – as happened in the Malice in the Palace (2005) incident – highlight the conflicting lines along which the NBA constructs and presents its players with a clear tendency towards corporate colonization, a concept which will be outlined in the paper. Through critical historical reading of past corporate efforts, this article re- and deconstructs the strategic illustration of Black athletes.


Keywords


race, basketball, marketing, Black Lives Matter, corporate colonization

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/nh.2021.6.175-189
Date of publication: 2021-10-10 16:24:54
Date of submission: 2021-04-10 13:13:32


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