Sparring In the White House: Theodore Roosevelt, Race, and Boxing by Andrew McGregor was an interesting introduction to the strange and very dynamic relationship between one of our nation’s former presidents and the sport of boxing. I’ve known about Roosevelt’s participation in the sport since high school, but I was never taught of the somewhat humorous reason for its adoption by the elite, nor did I know of Roosevelt’s polarized attitudes towards the sport when race was involved. Understanding the political context of the time and the widely popular sentiment for “manifest destiny” or a desire for empire, I couldn’t be entirely surprised by learning about either. The overwhelming fear of being too effeminate by elites leading to a hasty adoption of this “sport of the lower-classes” is quite funny looking back now but in the eyes of a nation whose set on some sort of colonial power in the near future, a strong male population would be somewhat necessary to achieve this lofty goal. Roosevelt’s distaste to the sport during the successes of the sport’s minority boxers is also somewhat predictable as the president had to maintain the dominate European narrative to the nation.

The article had a lot in common to the novel I chose for my book club this semester, The Rise of Gridiron University, which discussed the turmoil between the top colleges of our nation and the sport. The adoption of football by universities being for somewhat the same reasons as boxing was by Roosevelt and other elite. Universities were at the time required military instruction as standard education for male students so the popularization of masculine and violent sport rooted in strategy makes perfect sense. Though for ill intentions, both boxing and football succeeded in their efforts at preventing “effeminate” elite, and allowed for both sport to receive far greater interest, and more importantly far greater funding. It is also quite ironic that both powers present (Roosevelt, and Universities) had their reservations about their respected sports due to concerns of being too violent or barbaric. I remember actually reading in Gridiron University that football games were so violent at times that boxing was seen as civil and tame in comparison by the public. Both this article and the novel really show this quite uneasy relationship of how we view these more violent sports, and how the discussion of such is always been present in the public mind. The current reignited crusade against these sports today are nothing new or surprising as they have always had some sort of protest since their adoption.