The Athletic Crusade


The Athletic Crusade

Sport and American Cultural Imperialism

Gerald R. Gems

238 pages


May 2012


$25.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The Athletic Crusade is the first book to systematically analyze the role of sports in the expansion of U.S. empire from the 1890s through World War II. Gerald R. Gems details how white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant males set the standard for inclusion within American society, transferred that standard to foreign territories, and subtly used American sports to instill allegedly desirable racial, moral, and commercial virtues in colonial subjects. In the realm of such expansion, sports provided a less harsh, less militaristic means of instilling belief in a dominant system’s values and principles than more overt methods such as war.

The process of change, however, had unexpected consequences as subordinate groups adapted or even rejected American overtures. Sport became a means for nonwhites to challenge whiteness, Social Darwinism, and cultural hegemony by establishing their own physical prowess, claiming a measure of esteem, and creating a greater sense of national identity. Gems shows the direct influence of sports in Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic and explores their comparatively minimal influence in countries such as China and Japan.

Amid increasing globalization, The Athletic Crusade offers a welcome perspective on how the United States has attempted to spread its influence in the past and the implications for the future of indigenous and other societies.

Author Bio

Gerald R. Gems is a professor of health and physical education at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of For Pride, Profit, and Patriarchy: Football and the Incorporation of American Cultural Values and Windy City Wars: Labor, Leisure, and Sport in the Making of Chicago.


“Gems has produced a brisk, provocative, clearly written history of the role of sport in US foreign engagements. . . . This is a lucid and valuable study.”—Choice

“Gems is careful to examine each nation and its own experiences and not lump the globe together in a one effort/one reaction model. The study of sport imperialism is not new. Gems provides the largest and most detailed examination of American involvement in this process, and the organization of his book readily allows for nation by nation comparisons of imperialist techniques and reactions. The book is of obvious interest to sport scholars but also those whose interest include sociology, politics, and military history.”—Aethlon: Journal of the Sport Literature Association


“Gems has done a great service to all those interested in the role of sport in the imperial adventures of the United States. He has offered a devastating analysis of the American imperial enterprise and has demonstrated the significant role of sport both for the conquering power and for those who tried to resist the imperial intrusion.”—Journal of American History

"[The Athletic Crusade is] an important contribution to our understanding of the international ramifications of American sports."—Aram Goudsouzian, American Studies Journal

Table of Contents

1. Race, Religion, and Manifest Destiny
2. China and the Rejection of Christianity
3. Baseball and Bushido in Japan
4. Sport and Colonialism int he Philippines
5. Hawaii as a Cultural Crossroads of Sport
6. Cuba and Rehabilitative Qualities of Sport
7. Sport and the Restoriation of Pride in Puerto Rico
8. Sport and Economic Retaliation in the Dominican Republic
9. The Outposts of Empire
10. The Globalization of Sport

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