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Published on January 21st, 2013


Why Black People Are Good at Sports

We have all noticed it when watching NFL, NBA, or track & field, the lion’s share of athletes are of African origin. In contrast, Asians are almost absent in the world of sports. Popular Social Science has taken a closer look at why this is the case.

The facts show that East Africans own every distance running record. In most of the sports people of African descendant dominate. Why have black people dominated sports? Are they somehow physically better? Research shows that it is not just being black that matters. Where in Africa your ancestors come from makes the huge difference.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. White people dominate sports that require expensive equipment, such as golf, sailing, hockey, etc. And, just as “white men can’t jump”, it is also the case that “black men can’t swim.”  One of the reasons for the latter fact is that black people have denser skeletons and lower levels of body fat, a physical trait inherited from the tropical areas of Africa.

In the U.S., sports are dominated by men and women of West African descent. The same reason, namely the low body fat, provides blacks of West-African origin with an advantage in sprinting, as well as in football and basketball. When it comes to long distance running, East-Africans excel due to their lack of a fully developed Gastrocnemius, also known as the lower calf muscle.

Asians are generally smaller and are thus underrepresented in the sports where especially blacks excel. However, they do well in sports that require quickness and agility.

According to Jon Entine a huge amount of research show that elite black athletes have a phenotypic advantage. They have bodily characteristics that evolved over tens of thousands of years of evolution. While people of African descent have spent most of their evolutionary history near to where they originated, the rest of the world’s populations have had to modify their African adaptations after migrating to far different regions and climates.

It is important to point out that the evolved differences are also mediated by environment and culture. These factors can amplify or diminish genetic variations. Entine proposes a biocultural explanation stating that cultural conditions can amplify smaller but significant differences in performance related to heredity. Inherited physiological differences may therefore prove meaningless without rigorous training.


Further reading:

Entine, Jon (2000). Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It. New York: BSS Public Affairs.


*Cover photo by Zennie Abraham, sprint photo by Sawyer Law



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7 Responses to Why Black People Are Good at Sports

  1. SportsPhysiologist says:

    “Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.”

    Like triathlon, road cycling, track cycling, tennis, badminton, diving, ice hockey, rowing, speed skating, figure skating, canoeing, swimming, judo, wrestling, taekwondo, karate, weightlifting, boxing (!), athletic throws, high jump, decathlon, gymnastics… just few exceptions that I can remember.

    • Ser says:

      You clearly are offended by the article, that’s why you need to say the obvious to contradict this in some way (end).

      This article indirectly reaffirms the humans are all humans and it was the different climates and regions which make them different somehow Like the eye and hair colours, which just were different mutations and/or reactions the human bodies had to their environments.

  2. adam smith says:

    These same studies that show Blacks better at certain sports also show that Whites are more intelligent, possibly explaining why the White race has historically dominated the planet. But do you really want to make those comparisons? Is race really that important? I think people researching this sort of thing force the human race to be separated by ethnicity and it shouldn’t be.

    • Raj says:

      Probably the article just wanted answer a question that a lot of people have just from turning on the television and looking at their sports teams. There really isn’t any harm in the study.

      Moreover, “the same studies” also prove that the differences in intelligence quotients are predominantly caused by nurture and not nature. In other words, empirical evidence suggests fixed IQ is an illusion and poor whites, living in areas with bad schools, complicated families, and skewed morals tend score lower on IQ tests than blacks living in wealthier areas. Of course, it is unknown whether these facts are correlated or casual, but it doesn’t truly change the implication of the conclusion.

      Don’t be offended by a simple observation. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing differences. Problems only occur when people try to say that because of said differences, one race is altogether superior to another.

    • ? says:

      Whites did not historically rule the planet…….

    • John McConnell says:

      The white race has historically dominated the planet? Where did you get that idea? White people were still living in huts not even wearing clothes while brown arabs were inventing ways to farm and creating civilization. Julius Caesar described white people (Gauls and Celts) as if they were brainless animals, and that was in the 50′s BC… One could hardly count the dark ages as “dominating.” So that leaves white people dominating the world for about 500-600 years depending on what date you believe the dark ages ended. I’m white also, you have to acknowledge truth no matter what.

      • lauren says:

        The whole dark ages thing is a myth that the UK didn’t have enlightenment is not true the real ways of life may have seamed more primate than the Romans but it was very advanced and mud huts were the most appropriate structure in the colder climes plus they didn’t have hierarchy in the way the roman or egyptians had to have slavery and empire they were pagan or druid

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