J. Iber and M. Longoria

Sep 16, 2020

Latinos in American Football

Pathbreakers on the Gridiron, 1927 to the Present

McFarland 2020

Today we are joined by Jorge Iber, Professor of History and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Texas Tech, and Mario Longoria, a long-time author and educator who received his PhD in English in 2014.

The two are the authors of Latinos in American Football: Pathbreakers on the Gridiron, 1927 to the Present (McFarland and Co Publishers, 2020). In our conversation we discussed the origins of Latino American football, the role of World War II and the Civil Rights movement in expanding opportunities for Latino sportsmen, and the ongoing obstacles to Latino participation in the game that many love.

In Latinos in American Football, Iber and Longoria recover the history of Latino participation in American football at the high school, college, and professional level. Although each chapter includes a series of case studies of Latino players, often undergirded by interviews conducted by the two scholars over thirty years, their work does more than recount histories on the field. They instead contextualize Latinos determination to play gridiron football within the broader history of migration, assimilation, and liberation.

Iber and Longoria’s account encompasses football across America and to a lesser extent in Cuba and Mexico. They illustrate the early days of Latino football when Latino athletes challenged stereotypes of physical inferiority and mental incapability – the first Latin professional football player was Cuban Ignacio Molinet who played football for Cornell in the 1920s before being hired by the forerunner of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1927.

Over the next hundred years, Latino’s presence in the gridiron game expands almost inexorable alongside their demographic expansion. Nevertheless, even as Latino footballers won great and growing acclaim on the field and on the sidelines, they faced significant obstacles to their participation including being overlooked by NFL and NCAA coaches despite their talent, poorly financed schools and athletic programs, and prejudice from opponents and referees.

Latinos in American Football will appeal broadly to people interested in sports history, but also particularly to anyone interested in the history of American football and in Latinos place in American society.

Keith Rathbone is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He researches twentieth-century French social and cultural history. His manuscript, entitled A Nation in Play: Physical Culture, the State, and Society during France’s Dark Years, 1932-1948, examines physical education and sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime. If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at keith.rathbone@mq.edu.au.

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Keith Rathbone

Keith Rathbone is a Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He researches twentieth-century French social and cultural history.

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