Black Male College Student-Athletes and Race-based Stereotypes

College Basketball Player

(Photo Credit: Riverside Hawks Education)

In “Theorizing on the Stereotyping of Black Male Student-Athletes,” Hodge, Burden, Jr., Robinson, and Bennett, III (2008) explained that Black male athletes have been perceived as athletically gifted and intellectually inferior since the 19th century to the present day.  They disclosed that the purpose of their paper was to theorize about race-based stereotyping of Black male college student-athletes.  The scholars relied upon tenets of psychological critical race theory to explore racial, social, economic, cultural and psychological factors that impact Black male college student-athletes’ academic and athletic experiences.  Hodge and colleagues divulged that a substantial body of research has identified that Black males who have participated in sport have been stereotyped.  They informed the reader that race-based stereotypic beliefs have been proven to impact Black male college student-athletes’ ability to meet their full athletic potential.  Many Black male college student-athletes have been found to sabotage their own athletic performances to attempt to evade negative stereotypes about them.

Hodge and colleagues (2008) noted that stereotypic beliefs have been found to result in a number of Black males at a young age believing in their athletic prowess over their intellectual capabilities.  The scholars made clear that people can unconsciously employ stereotypic beliefs.  They cited scholarship that indicated a large proportion of students of color have low academic achievement as a result of damaging intellectual stereotypes “directed toward and perceived cognitively” by them (p. 210).  The article also provided research that revealed that students of color have a deep fear of performing in ways that will affirm deleterious intellectual stereotypes about them, and this significant fear often contributes to their low academic achievement in higher education.  The scholars contended that Black youths are often not exposed to Black intellects, so this further results in an internalization of the false notion of their athletic superiority and intellectual inferiority.  The article offered empirical evidence that Blacks aspire to be professional athletes more so than Whites, and this tends to operate as a means of reaffirming race-based stereotypes about Blacks’ athletic superiority.

Hodge et al. (2008) posited that vastly different experiences between Black and White youths in education and sports are impacted by structural inequities in school and community resources.  They state, “For Black students and athletes, their often inequitable educational and sports experiences, compared to their White peers, typifies the prevalence and magnitude of racism in the US” (p. 212).

The integration of Black male college student-athletes into predominantly White institutions’ athletic teams emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s because of a longing by these institutions to achieve significant economic revenue.  Hodge et al. (2008) asserted that Whites will “tolerate” and champion “racial advances” when they benefit from this tolerance and racial progress (p. 214).  When these Black male student-athletes arrive at these predominantly White higher education institutions, the scholars found that they are less likely to graduate than White student-athletes, and they academically underperform White student-athletes.  They demonstrated that many Black male student-athletes are placed at an academic disadvantage because of the limited resources available to prepare them for college at the high schools they attended.  The scholars argued that some Black male student-athletes devote too much attention to athletics and not enough to academics.


The article written by Hodge et al. (2008) evinces that higher education administrators and coaches have to engender policies and employ practices that fight against the toxic impact intellectual stereotypes have on Black male college student-athletes.  Before recruiting and admitting Black male college student-athletes, predominantly White institutions must ensure these student-athletes have the necessary preparation to graduate.  Predominantly White institutions must find ways to integrate Black male student-athletes into their academic culture, and don’t simply limit them to the fields and the courts they contribute their athletic labor.  With the dismal national graduation rates of Black male college student-athletes, more research should be devoted to helping higher education institutions develop ways to increase graduation rates for Black male college student-athletes.


Hodge, S.R., Burden Jr., J.W., Robinson, L.E., & Bennett III, R.A. (2008). Theorizing on the stereotyping of Black male student-athletes. Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 2(2), 203-226.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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