How Do Sports Reflect America’s Racial Divide?

Join us for two Think & Drink events in Seattle, “You Mad Bro?: Race and Diversity Issues in Sports,” April 20 and 27 with UW basketball great Donald Watts.

Tanya Mosley, Donald Watts, and Eric Davis

Tanya Mosley, Donald Watts, and Eric Davis



NBA players Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Derrick Rose wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts to support Eric Garner, an African American man killed by police officers. Frank Deford, commentator for NPR, pointed out the strangeness of courts filled with African American student athletes entertaining predominantly white fans. Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught telling his girlfriend to stop associating with black athletes. An increasing number of commenters criticized the NCAA for making huge profits from unpaid student athletes.

“2014 was filled with news stories about racism in sports,” said’s Richard Lapchick. “Although it seems we have made much progress in hiring practices in our front offices and league offices, there are still racial issues in sports we must deal with both domestically and, especially, internationally.”

With issues of race in sports rising to the surface of our national conversation, how do sports embody the state of race in America today? How should we address racial issues in sports as fans, players, organizations, and as a society? What’s it like to be a black college athlete? Do modern American sports exploit minority athletes, or do they provide a path to personal empowerment?

To address these questions, Humanities Washington is presenting “You Mad Bro?: Race and Diversity Issues in Sports,” a conversation with former University of Washington basketball star Donald Watts and sociology professor Eric Davis on April 20 and 27. Watts and Davis will join moderator Tonya Mosley, a journalist with Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, and KUOW, to discuss the wide spectrum of race in sports both on and off the field.

Think & Drink events are hosted conversations on provocative topics and new ideas in pubs and tasting rooms around the state.

Donald Watts was one of the best and most sought after high school basketball players of his time before being named team captain of the University of Washington basketball team. From 1996-1999, he led the UW to four postseason victories in four years, including two NCAA tournaments and two NIT tournaments. After college, Watts was slowed by chronic fatigue syndrome. He tried out for the Seattle Sonics and the Portland Trail Blazers, and played on the NBA dev team The Revelers. He also played with the Ambassadors in South America, and finished his career in Belgium. Since returning to Seattle, Watts has been a commentator for Fox Sports NW (now Root Sports), a college basketball commentator, and a KJR Husky Honks analyst.

Eric Davis is a member of the sociology faculty at Bellevue College and a member of the University of Washington Consulting Alliance. From 2004 to 2009, Davis was an academic adviser in the UW Athletic Department. Prior to that position, he was the director of multicultural affairs at Seattle University and director of campus diversity at North Seattle College. Davis holds a BA in African American studies from UCLA and an MA in education from Seattle University.


Seattle’s COLUMBIA CITY neighborhood, April 20, 6:00 p.m., The Royal Room

Seattle’s GREENWOOD neighborhood, April 27, 7:00 p.m., Naked City Brewery and Taphouse

Seattle Think & Drink events are sponsored by KUOW.


SPOKANE: April 18, 7:00 p.m., Auntie’s Bookstore: Why is the issue of capital punishment so divisive? Are Americans aware of the complexities of the issue? Capital punishment, more than any other public issue, has risen to considerable differences of opinion in U.S. society. Join author and educator Dorothy Van Soest at “The Power of Story: A Conversation About the Death Penalty” to discuss the controversies of capital punishment, promote cultural change, and influence policy.

OMAK: April 22, 5:00 p.m., Wenatchee Valley College at Omak: Using music as a catalyst for discussion, “Rap 101: The Message Behind the Music” explores contemporary popular culture, diversity issues, and social justice through the lyrics of popular rap music. Eric Davis facilitates a conversation with audiences about the dominant ideology found in mainstream news media and the status quo, to explore what we can do individually and societally to stimulate social change.

DES MOINES: April 27, 10:00 a.m., Wesley Terrace: Cartoons and comics can play huge roles in storytelling, our sense of memory, time and place – sometimes without words. In this fascinating presentation of “Comics Can Take Us Places,” cartoonist Megan Kelso explains how she uses memory, her own life, research, and photo references to create sequential panels that evoke the feeling of a specific, inhabited world.

SPOKANE: April 28, 7:30 p.m., Lindaman’s Gourmet Bistro: A journalist’s recent challenge for Americans to stop reading white male authors for one year provoked a firestorm online. What motivated this challenge, and what other ways are there to explore the intersection of race, culture, and modern literature? On April 28, Humanities Washington will host “Writing in the Margins: Race in Literature,” a Think & Drink exploring topics ranging from popular notions of race and masculinity to how individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds are portrayed in modern literature. Featuring M.L. Smoker, poet and director of Indian education at the Office of Public Instruction in Helena, MT; and Jessica Maucione, associate professor of multi-ethnic literature, film, and women’s and gender studies at Gonzaga University. Moderated by Shann Ray, the author of American Masculine.

CENTRALIA: April 29, 1:00 p.m., Washington Hall: What do we envision when we hear “American family?” How is the definition of ‘family’ changing and why? Whether nuclear, step, foster, extended, transnational, adoptive, or informal, American families are more diverse than ever. Sociologist Teresa Ciabattari presents “Family Diversity: Past, Present, and Future” that explores the complexity and history of modern American families, including how and why they have changed and what the implications are for the future.

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