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Journal of Leisure Research





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A growing body of evidence shows a widening gulf between baseball and African-Americans. African-Americans comprise less than three percent of the players at the highest competitive levels of youth baseball and three percent of NCAA Division I baseball players. African-Americans constitute less than five percent of spectators at some Major League parks and the percentage of African-American players in the Major Leagues has reached a 30-year low. Basketball has become pre-eminent among sports in African-American culture. Baseball assumed that role at one time, with even small African-American enclaves sponsoring and supporting teams during the first decades of the 20th Century. But the cultural shift away from baseball to basketball has been brought about partly through the process of collective identity. Collective identity involves the absorption of cultural traits by an individual in the formation of self-identity. African-American youth are more apt to gravitate to basketball rather than baseball because of the cultural premium placed on the former and various factors that facilitate interest in the sport. A survey of literature on race theory and on leisure studies shows that four factors tied to collective identity influence African-American youths' preference for basketball: encouragement by authority figures to pursue basketball, basketball's portrayal as a form of expression and empowerment, the abundance of black role models in basketball, and the perception of basketball's influence on social mobility. Future research should explore other cultural and social factors which predispose youth to favor certain sports.


“The publisher-authenticated version Ogden, D. C., & Hilt, M. L. (2003). Collective Identity and Basketball: An Explanation for the Decreasing Number of African-Americans on America's. Journal of Leisure Research, 35, 2, 213. is available online at: