Friday Night 'Lite': How De-Racialization in the Motion Picture 'Friday Night Lights' Disserves the Movement to Eradicate Racial Discrimination from American Sport
46 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2007 Last revised: 29 Mar 2015
Sport has a unique power to unite. The power of sport to unite, however, has unfortunately obscured the extent to which sport is beset with the sociological ills plaguing broader society. Indeed, there exists in contemporary America a widely-held belief that sport is a utopian realm immune to the issues of race with which society in general must grapple. This article examines this idyllic picture of sport and the extent to which, through suggesting an absence of discrimination, it frustrates much needed anti-discrimination efforts in the sporting community.
Decades after the United States Supreme Court issued its 1954 desegregation mandate in Brown v. Board of Education, Odessa, Texas - home to Permian High School - continued to struggle bitterly with racial discrimination and discord, so much so that in 1982 it was placed under a federal court order to effectuate the desegregation both promised and denied nearly thirty years earlier. As this article explores, the unfortunate result was an uneasy interaction among members of different races at Permian High School and in its vaunted football program, which led to substantial racial discord and discrimination reflective of vexatious issues plaguing American sport more broadly. Although these troubling issues at the intersection of race, law, and sport dominated the 1988 Permian football team's season and inspired a Pulitzer Prize winning author's investigative chronicle, Friday Night Lights, a 2004 motion picture of the same name purporting to tell the tale of that team radically de-racializes the story. This article argues that by recasting a true but disturbing story largely about the impact of race on interscholastic athletics into a highly fictionalized and de-racialized vehicle buttressing the idyllic picture, the motion picture Friday Night Lights disserves the movement to eradicate racial discrimination from American sport.
Keywords: sports, sport, employment, media, entertainment, discrimination, race, racism
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation