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U.S. public diplomacy and sports stars: mobilizing African-American athletes as goodwill ambassadors from the cold war to an uncertain future

Andrew F. Cooper ()
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Andrew F. Cooper: University of Waterloo

Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 2019, vol. 15, issue 3, 165-172

Abstract: Abstract The United States has diverse options in the projection of public diplomacy ranging across the spectrum from risk-averse to risk-oriented strategies. A significant test highlights the use of the deep pool of the U.S. star athletes generally and African-American athletes more specifically. During the Cold War era, a conformist style was privileged in the U.S. State Department goodwill ‘ambassador’ program. Yet, paralleling the overall trajectory of celebrity diplomats, significant gaps can be located in this risk-averse culture. With this unevenness in mind, the article look back to see what lessons or parallels can be taken from earlier initiatives. At a moment marked by the populism of the Trump administration and the environment of intensified racial polarization, it is unlikely that any new connection between African-American athletes and a new public diplomacy strategy will fit into a recalibrated conformist model. Even if it is a sharper break from past experiences, however, the constant is that this category of individuals—especially the high-profile African-American sports stars—remains a huge asset if the U.S. State Department has the desire and ability to tap into this talent pool under different political conditions in the future.

Keywords: U.S. public diplomacy; African-American athletes; Goodwill ambassadors; Cold war; Trump administration (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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