Unveiling the emotional narratives: Black American male college athletes’ experiences

By Donald McAulay, assistant professor of management January 30, 2024

Donald McAulay

Inspired by my experience across the athletic continuum, I share a practical and intellectual commitment to creating new academic and environmental knowledge that supports players' holistic development, institutional integrity, and institutional honesty. While I understand sports as a subcategory of entertainment, I believe that sports as a business have a social responsibility to contribute to de-objectifying athletes across race, gender, culture, and ethnicity.

In a recent research presentation, as an assistant professor of management, I delved into the often-overlooked emotional landscape of Black American male college athletes, shedding light on their unique experiences and challenges. My research, titled “Anti-Black Misandry and the Emotional Reflection of Black American Male College Athletes,” explores the multidimensionality of Black males who navigate the intricate intersectionality of race, gender, and athletic identity.

This groundbreaking work, currently in review and resubmit status at the Sociology of Sport journal, employs an interpretive phenomenological lens featuring reflections from five Black American males, formerly college athletes. The findings suggest a nuanced perspective on emotional expression and vulnerability, revealing a willingness to share their experience in safe spaces while navigating societal expectations and racialized gender norms. This research is a crucial step towards recognizing the toughness that defines the lives of Black male athletes — a recognition of their exceptional talents juxtaposed with societal fear. I emphasize the importance of understanding the emotional and psychological experience of Black American male college athletes as they navigate the complexity of societal racism.

This study is not isolated but part of a broader research agenda that delves into the multifaceted experiences of Black individuals in various contexts. My ongoing work includes an exploration of the unintended consequences of Name, Image, and Likeness policies, the contrast of moral responsibility of success, and the competitive nature of Blackness. Lastly, the societal production of racial inequity in Sports, Entertainment, and Education by committee which aims to uncover the systematic factors contributing to the racial disparities within the realms of sports, entertainment, and education.

In weaving together these research threads, I seek to create a comprehensive narrative addressing the immediate concerns Black American male college athletes face in the broader societal structures contributing to racial inequities. Examining these issues aims to produce genuine awareness and concern on college campuses where these under-examined challenges persist, impacting scholarship and influencing future social interactions.

This work is a call to action — to acknowledge the humanity of Black American male college athletes beyond their roles of entertainers and athletes. My research emphasizes the need for constructive support, paving the way for meaningful dialogue and resolutions that reshape societal perspectives. Moving forward, my study and insight reflect a meaningful consideration across athletic roles and communities to foster inclusion and/or the deconstruction of less productive environmental conditions.

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