American football is a standardized space that, ideally, disciplines and trains bodies, serves as a vehicle in the transmission of cultural values, and mirrors a modernist preoccupation with order. One of the most recognizable ways this is done is through the idea of the team, a narrative that is touted by football administrators and popularized in the media to demonstrate how players are able to come together as a ‘football family’ for the greater good of the overall unit. However, I complicate this trope to argue that the notion of the team projects onto college players’ lives normative, Euro-American standards of whiteness. Because of this, it is important to consider how Black players navigate this administration-driven family ordering. By focusing on the lived experiences of Black college football players at predominantly white institutions in the southeastern U.S., I consider how these athletes confront this circumstance with their own forms of relatedness that, at times, contradict and undermine the idea of the team. In the face of a broader normative discourse that prioritizes the team, I reveal that Black college football players successfully tackle and survive their everyday lives by building relationships with and taking strength from their football brothers.
Dr. Tracie Canada is a socio-cultural anthropologist with research and teaching interests in race, sport, kinship, and the performing body. In her postdoctoral position at the University of Notre Dame, she will work on her first book project, tentatively titled Tackling the Everyday: Race, Family, and Nation in Big-Time College Football, which moves off the gridiron into the daily lives of the young Black athletes that sustain this American sport. Informed by more than a year of ethnographic research at universities in the southeastern United States, this work argues that Black football players are able to navigate institutional systems and everyday lived spaces that order, discipline, and regulate them because of their meaningful mobilization of certain kinship relationships.