In the United States, sports have provided a historic framework for perpetuating the social construction of black men as a threatening menace to public safety. At the same time, sports have also provided a framework for understanding how to control black men's bodies. This framework shares physical, structural, and financial similarities with the institution of slavery and interacts with a variety of modern American social institutions (including the education and criminal justice systems). Sports provide a way for society to judge the value of young black men, prior to rewarding, controlling, or destroying their lives. This article examines how sports were used to determine the value of three young black men in Missouri, all named Michael (gay football player Michael Sam, HIV felon Michael “Tiger Mandingo” Johnson, and Michael Brown of Ferguson), with dramatic and even mortal consequences for their lives and freedom.
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