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Throughout history, sports have always been portrayed as being among the most open ground for race relations. Nevertheless, sports have been used to define the historical racial trends in the American society. In fact, sports have been characterized by discrimination and efforts by minority groups, particularly African- Americans to overcome racism. The history of race and sports mirrors the progression of strained relationships between the minority and majority population. In the case of black minority and white majority population, these historic events date back to the exclusion or exploitation of slaves from participating in white controlled sports during the slavery period, through post-slavery periods of discrimination and segregation in many sports activities.
In retaliation to racism and discrimination, African Americans formed their own parallel sports structures or organizations in such sports as basketball and baseball after the end of World War II. After World War II, the desegregation of race in sports accelerated in major sports such as football, baseball, and basketball, but not in golf. Although white resistance to black participation in major sports continued after the first desegregation efforts, golf sports experienced the strongest resistance where racism still prevailed many years after racial barriers had been removed (Harris, Kirsch & Nolte, 2000). For instance, in 1949 there were no black NBA players, but by 1998, 77 percent of all professional players were black. Similarly, there were no black players in professional white football in 1994, but by 1998, over 65 percent of NFL players were black.
Harris, Kirsch & Nolte (2000) assert that the current state of popular sports is very different as compared to the previous years. Recent interest about the historical setting of racial discrimination in popular sport such as gold has been stimulated by the exceptional success of golf sensation Eldick Tiger Woods. This golfer of African American ancestry has stimulated both the past experiences of minorities in the sport and efforts to attract more black youths to golf. Likewise, Althea Gibson overcame the stereotype that is associated with tennis by becoming the firt black person to play and win both the United States tennis championship and Wimbledon. Following in her footsteps were the Serena twins, who have become tennis sensational in recent years.