Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Fall 2018

Department 1

Africana Studies


The prevalence of African Americans in certain American professional sports is certainly evident. Their prevalence is particularly pertinent and commonly associated with sports such as basketball, football, and track. The percentage of the players in the National Basketball AssociatIon (NBA) that were African American in the 2017-2018 season was 73.9% (Lapchik, 2018). Additionally, the percentage of players that were African American in the National Football League (NFL) during the 2016-2017 season was 69.7% (Lapchik, 2018). These statistics however differ from proportions of African Americans representing these respective sports at the Division I college level. The percentage of African Americans at the Division I college level in basketball is 53% and 44.2% in football (Lapchik, 2017). These statistics clearly show that African Americans represent the majority of the players in these respective sports at a professional level, a subject that is often discussed and debated. Often times these discussions extend further as to why African Americans represent the majority of these leagues. There are two prominent theories as to why African Americans represent the majority of players in certain sports, such as football and basketball; one attributing it to their genetics and other attributing to their environment. This paper will articulate on the two prominent theories that offer explanations as why African Americans constitute the majority in specific sports. Furthermore, this paper will analyze the theory that suggests that their athletic abilities and prevalence in certain sports is attributed to genetic differences; and use research to discredit such claims. Additionally, this paper will offer explanations as to how this notion has come into existence and how has sustained. Ultimately, this paper will illustrate the importance of the environment when analyzing the representation of African Americans in certain sports, and how these different atmospheres interact with one another.


Written for AFS 250: Black Bodies in American Sporting.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.