The Cold War was fought in every corner of society, including in the sport and entertainment industries. Recognizing the importance of culture in the battle for hearts and minds, the United States, like the Soviet Union, attempted to win the favor of citizens in nonaligned states through the soft power of sport. Athletes became de facto ambassadors of US interests, their wins and losses serving as emblems of broader efforts to shield American culture—both at home and abroad—against communism.
In Defending the American Way of Life, leading sport historians present new perspectives on high-profile issues in this era of sport history alongside research drawn from previously untapped archival sources to highlight the ways that sports influenced and were influenced by Cold War politics. Surveying the significance of sports in Cold War America through lenses of race, gender, diplomacy, cultural infiltration, anti-communist hysteria, doping, state intervention, and more, this collection illustrates how this conflict remains relevant to US sporting institutions, organizations, and ideologies today.
Toby C. Rider is assistant professor of kinesiology at California State University, Fullerton and the author of Cold War Games: Propaganda, the Olympics, and U.S. Foreign Policy.
Kevin B. Witherspoon chairs the Department of History at Lander University. He is the author of Before the Eyes of the Word: Mexico and the 1968 Olympic Games.
“The machinations of the role of sport throughout America’s Cold War battles is both familiar and unexplored territory, something that this fine edited collection makes clear. With this set of probing essays, the editors Toby C. Rider and Kevin B. Witherspoon unpack many untold stories of the sports battles waged between the United States and the Society—and their many satellites—in the decades following World War II. … The book benefits greatly from the multiple perspectives of the diverse array of writers corralled by Rider and Witherspoon, all of whom offer important and intersectional lenses with which to demonstrate why the role of sports in Cold War politics is still a vibrant and critical field for exploration, from the identity politics of race and gender to the anticommunist hysterias that saturated American life.”
—Amy Bass, The Journal of American History, December 2019
“This volume…makes an important contribution to a growing body of work on the cultural Cold War competition for hearts and minds. The volume will also be of interest to scholars in a number of fields, including history, political science, and cultural studies.”
—Jenifer Parks, The Journal of Arizona History, Autumn 2019
“Toby Rider, Kevin Witherspoon, and their collaborators have crafted a focused, thoughtful, and illuminating set of essays that dissect sport’s Cold War arena. They reveal just how intensely the US and the USSR waged the Cold War in a fifth dimension—not via military alliances, economic pacts, political doctrines, or global bodies like the IMF—but via sport. It’s history at its best—explaining sport’s past while showing how that past continues to affect sport today.”
—Rob Ruck, author of Tropic of Football: The Long and Perilous Journey of Samoans to the NFL
“An impressive collection that focuses on a variety of themes and issues, Rider and Witherspoon’s book smartly investigates how the Cold War influenced peoples’ experience with sport, and how sport was used to promote Cold War agendas. Anyone who studies the topic should read this engaging volume.”
—Chris Elzey, coeditor of DC Sports: The Nation’s Capital at Play
Sport, Culture, and Society is a series from the University of Arkansas Press that publishes monographs and collections for academics and general readers in the humanities and social sciences. Its focus is the role of sport in the development of community and the forging of individual, local, regional, and national identities.
Sport is an extraordinarily important phenomenon that pervades the lives of many people and has enormous impact on society in an assortment of different ways. At its most fundamental level, sport has the power to bring people great joy and satisfy their competitive urges while at once allowing them to form bonds and a sense of community with others from diverse backgrounds and interests and various walks of life. Sport also makes clear, especially at the highest levels of competition, the lengths that people will go to achieve victory as well as how closely connected it is to business, education, politics, economics, religion, law, family, law, family, and other societal institutions. Sport is, moreover, partly about identity development and how individuals and groups, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic class, have sought to elevate their status and realize material success and social mobility.
1. Sport and American Cold War Culture
Toby C. Rider & Kevin Witherspoon
The War of Words: Presenting and Contesting America Through Sport
2. Projecting America: Sport and Early U.S. Cold War Propaganda, 1947-1960
Toby C. Rider
3. Millard Lampell: From Football to the Blacklist
Winning the “Right” Way: High Performance, Amateurism, and the American Moral Compass
4. The “Big Arms” Race: Doping and the Cold War Defense of American Exceptionalism
John T. Gleaves & Matthew P. Llewellyn
5. Preserving ‘the American way’: Gerald R. Ford, the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports, and the Fight Against State-Funded Sport in America
Nevada Cooke & Robert K. Barney
Making Men and Defining Women: Femininity, Masculinity, and the Politics of Gender
6. “Wolves in Skirts?”: Sex Testing in Cold War Women’s Sport
Lindsay Parks Pieper
7. America’s Team: The U.S. Women’s National Basketball Team Confronts the Soviets, 1958-1969
Kevin B. Witherspoon
8. To Win One for the Gipper: Football and the Fashioning of a Cold Warrior
Addressing the “Achilles Heel”: Race and the Cold War at the Periphery
9.“An Outstanding Representative of America”: Mal Whitfield and America’s Black Sports Ambassadors in Africa
Kevin B. Witherspoon
10. “One of the greatest ambassadors that the United States has ever sent abroad”: Wilma Rudolph, American Athletic Icon for the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement
11. Defying the Cultural Boycott: Arthur Ashe, the Anti-apartheid Activist
Damion L. Thomas
Manipulating the Five Rings: Public Diplomacy, Statecraft, and the Olympic Games
12. Sport is Not so Separate from Politics: Diplomatic Manipulation of Germany’s Postwar Return to the Olympic Movement
Heather L. Dichter
13. Sport and American Foreign Policy During the 1960s
Thomas M. Hunt
14. In Defense of a Neoliberal America: Ronald Reagan, Domestic Policy, and the Soviet Boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games
Bradley J. Congelio
Conclusion: A Post- Cold War Perspective
15. Olympic Spectacles in the Next “American Century”: Sport and Nationalism in a Post-Cold War World