Jermaine Scott is a PhD Candidate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, USA. His research interests include critical sport studies, black political thought, and coloniality studies. He is writing a dissertation on an original concept he has termed ‘black teamwork’–the ways in which black diasporic athletic collectives challenge, unsettle, and reveal the colonial constitution of modern sport, or what he is calling the coloniality of sport.
“Black Team, White Sport: Diasporic Fields of Play at Howard University, 1970-1974
In the early 1970s, Howard University’s newly hired Trinidadian soccer coach, Lincoln Phillips, formed a black transnational soccer team and led them to two NCAA Division 1 Championships, becoming the first Historically Black College/University (HBCU) to win a Division 1 title in soccer in 1971. During this time, Howard’s team explicitly embraced their diasporic makeup and adopted the dominant representation of blackness that emerged from the Black Power/Black Arts era. Following their first championship in 1971, however, the NCAA launched an investigation into the eligibility of some of its international players and stripped Howard of its title. After the NCAA’s decision, Phillips declared that the NCAA was guilty of practicing racism. Such a declaration effectively crystallized the formation of what I am calling a “Black team” at Howard University which eventually resulted in their second championship in 1974. My conceptualization of a Black team is a diasporic formation of black sporting subjects (from athletes to coaches to sporting fans) that critique, unsettle, and reveal the colonial constitution of modern sport. Accordingly, this paper will explore how Black teams decolonize modern sporting identities and marks how race and racism constitutes contemporary sporting practices.
The formation of Howard’s Black team constituted an African diasporic collective, with players from Sierra Leone, Bermuda, Trinidad & Tobago, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Haiti, Guyana, USA, Guinea, Eritrea, and Ghana. Phillips traveled throughout the Caribbean and Africa in an effort to find the best athletes available and created a team that contested the athletic performativities of blackness that the NCAA sought to manage and discipline. This paper will explore the constitution of Howard University’s Black team of the 1970s in order to theorize about the coloniality of sport and its function within postcolonial/post-civil rights nations.