Not Only A Game Anymore
Game, Set, Match!
It’s only a game, we used to say, but this season, between the US Open in tennis and pro-football’s opening games, our wide world of sports is an arena for every kind of cultural politics in the tense time of Trump. There were hard feelings, a ‘kill the ump’ atmosphere on the tennis court of all places last weekend, around racism and sexism blurring together in the volcanic frustration of Serena Williams and the modest bow of Naomi Osaka, the player who defeated her. And then there is Nike’s “woke” branding campaign: it’s restored the back-up quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who “took a knee” for social and racial justice. He’s now the Number One sneaker salesman in Nike’s global marketplace.
We’ve been watching our HD world of 2018 in a dazzling sports mirror all week, a kaleidoscope of bodies, social culture in struggle. Fresh captions this hour, through the smoke of a war of succession, Serena to Naomi, in women’s tennis, and then the bounding cast of Colin Kaepernick’s Nike ad—an idea in every frame of it, touching race, gender, resistance, just-do-it dreams, competitive struggle, and global commerce in sneakers, as well.
poet, essayist, and playwright
writer and professor of English and African American studies at the University of Georgia
writer, dramatist, filmmaker, critic, and professor of Drama and African American studies at the University of California, Irvine
frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and author, most recently, of Black Deutschland
writer and Professor of English at CUNY