The black male athlete through the prism of sport : a mixed method study examining identities, academic self-concept and experiences
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The Black experience throughout the history sport has engendered significant transformations to the landscape and culture of both sport and society. However, in the present sociocultural climate of intercollegiate athletics, the disproportion of Black male student athletes in the revenue generating high profile sports have a unique experience in sport unlike their athlete and non-athlete counterparts. The uniqueness of these student athletes’ experiences exists in the ways in which they figure to negotiate their Blackness and their roles as an athlete and student contextualized within the current racial climate of sport culture. There remains a gap in existing literature and research of the conditions and lived experiences of Black student athletes concerning the developmental process of racial identity and its relationship with their athletic identities and academic self-concepts. The present research addresses this gap of knowledge about these stakeholders (i.e. the Black male student athlete) in sport by conducting a mix-methods study exploring the issues of identities, academic self-concept, and developing a deeper understanding based on the experiential knowledge of participants. The relationships between racial and athletic identity and academic self-concept were examined with a participant sample of Black male college football players at Division 1-A universities (N=255). Additionally, a qualitative instrumental case study grounded by Critical Race Theory explored the experiences and perceptions of eleven Black male student athletes participating in high profile athletic programs at predominately White institutions. The research findings indicate at least partial evidence of a relationship between pre-encounter assimilationist and miseducation attitudes with academic self-concept mediated by an elevated athletic identity of participants. There were five themes that emerged from the empirical materials. The themes are presented as: Lane Assignments, Allegiance to the Game versus Classroom, Race Matters??, Conformity, and Still at Work. This research illustrates that the identity, academic self-concepts and experiences of the Black male student athlete in college sport is vastly impacted by complex sociocultural systems. Findings suggest intercollegiate athletic support staff should purposefully accommodate the needs and experiences of student athletes with culturally relevant systems of practice to enhance student athlete development.