Advance ticket sales have ended but plenty of additional tickets remain avaialble at the door.
Profs and Pints DC presents: “When the NBA Became Black,” with Theresa Runstedtler, associate professor in the departments of history and of critical race, gender, and culture studies at American University and author of Black Ball: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation that Saved the Soul of the NBA.
Nowadays the National Basketball Association (NBA) is popularly known as a Black league, celebrated around the world for its Black superstars and their exciting brand of African American urban cool. It also has a reputation as a progressive outlier in North American professional sports, both in terms of its labor politics and its stance on social issues.
There was a time, however, when the NBA was none of these things.
How did the NBA transform from a white-dominated league that generally catered to mostly white fans to a majority-Black league that embraced a multinational and multicultural fanbase? How did it become one of the few institutions in pro sports that seems to support Black players’ right to speak out against racial injustices?
Hear such questions tackled by Professor Theresa Runstedtler, whose meticulously researched book on the subject, Black Ball, was hailed by The New Yorker as “one of the best and most politically truthful books on basketball."
She’ll explore the trials and triumphs of players from the 1970s, such as Spencer Haywood, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Earl “the Pearl” Monroe. She’ll talk about how Black players introduced an improvisational style derived from the playground courts of their neighborhoods.
You’ll also learned how Black players challenged NBA team owners’ autocratic power, garnering higher salaries and increased agency. Their skills, style, and savvy laid the foundation for the global popularity and profitability of the league we know today.
If the NBA is “woke,” it’s because Black players made it so.
Dr. Runstedtler is a scholar of African American history whose research focuses on the intersection of race, masculinity, labor, and sport. She also is the author Jack Johnson, Rebel Sojourner: Boxing in the Shadow of the Global Color Line. Before earning her doctorate she was a member of the Toronto Raptors Dance Pak and worked in public relations for a Canadian national sports network. Attending her talk will be like having a courtside seat for great insights on American history and professional basketball. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a Milwaukee Bucks center in 1974. (Photo by Frank Bryan / Public Domain.)