The Chain Culture In Sports Links Blackness and Plantation Politics


Last week, Louisiana Tech Football tweeted an image of a Black football player with his head bowed, fists clenched, and a large chain around his neck.

The caption read “Seven. Days. Away. You ready?”

I don’t know about you, but I am definitely ready for this type of imagery to end.

While chains can signify many things, these particular chains, the swiftness of the backlash on Twitter, and the image’s sudden disappearance suggest that the school realized that the message they thought they were getting across wasn’t in fact it.

In 2020 I taught a course entitled Plantation Politics: The Black Sports Experience that highlighted the ways that the metaphor of the plantation still holds when it comes to conversations about Black athletes at the college and professional level.

This idea isn’t new.

In 2010, Dr. Billy Hawkins published his book The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions where he detailed the ways in which predominantly white institutions (PWIs) “function like plantation systems that internally colonize and exploit the athletic resources of Black athletes, [to such an extent that] they return to their communities injured (physically or psychologically) or poorly educated; despite the athletic expenditures they have given to these institutions” (p. 19).

Those expenditures include mental, physical, and emotional health.

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