The Sports Loyalty Test

Asian Athletes and Asian American Cultural Politics

Authored by: Rachael Miyung Joo

The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415738255
eBook ISBN: 9781315817514
Adobe ISBN: 9781317813927


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Yao. Yuna. Ichiro. 1 In the era of contemporary globalization, 2 these sporting figures exist as global icons referenced and recognized by a single name. They are part of a growing number of top-level celebrity athletes of Asian 3 origin in North American and European sports leagues including baseball, golf, basketball, soccer (football), figure skating, and tennis. 4 Throughout the 20th century, organized sport played an important role in Asian American communities (Yep 2009; Franks 2000; Regalado 2013) and some Asian American athletes, like diver Sammy Lee and baseball pitcher Ron Darling, achieved national recognition for their athletic accomplishments. 5 Beginning in the 1990s, Asian athletes who were by and large citizens of Asian nations started to become a regular presence in several major sporting leagues as sports and media industries focused on globalizing their markets. Commercial sports featuring Asian athletes have had a major impact in Asian American communities as seen in the commercial, racial, and national significance of figures such as Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao and basketball player Yao Ming. The regular presence of Asian athletes in commercial media has played an important role in shaping the racial landscapes of sport and has added to the corpus of images of Asians featured in mainstream media. Through transnational media coverage, global advertising, and digital communications technologies, athletes have emerged as transnational icons that produce deterritorialized nationalisms as they come to stand in for the nation in diaspora (Joo 2000). The increasing visibility of Asian athletes reflects important changes in Asian America, especially in how racial, ethnic, and national differences are represented and shaped by global commercial interests.

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