Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world in 1908. Johnson was one of the first American sport icons and was heavily reported on by American media. The ways in which the media portrayed Johnson tainted his reputation as a successful boxer. Johnson’s boxing style focused on endurance and defensive techniques to win matches; however, the media portrayed him as an overly violent, unintelligent brute. He was also over-sexualized by American media because of his open relationships with white women. The themes of physicality and violence, lack of intelligence, and over-sexualization continue to plague American media in relation to African American athletes. These themes are rooted in colonial slavery, and black athletes still face these decades old stereotypes. Athletes such as Lebron James, Colin Kapernick, the 2007 Rutgers women’s basketball team, and Serena Williams have received media coverage that mirrored the same coverage Johnson received during his lifetime. Sport has existed in almost every society and culture throughout human history. Sport is accessible for everyone despite income, education, race, gender, and disability; therefore, it is imperative to study components of the sport world that try to deny people the opportunities and pleasures of athletic competition.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 2020


Dr. Joel Cormier

Mentor Professional Affiliation

Department of Exercise and Sport Science

Access Options

Restricted Access Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars


Exercise and Sport Science