Jerseys Off: An Investigation of Basketball Players and Body Commodification

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Sam BELKIN, University of Leicester, United Kingdom
Richard SHEPTAK, Baldwin Wallace University, USA
From amateur wannabes to professional superstars, the stereotypical mental picture of basketball players in the United States is intertwined with tattoos. Whether purposeful or happenstance, the prevalence of highly visible tattoos in the NBA and college basketball world has been growing rapidly. With the increased prominence of tattoos, fans in the United States are commodifying the tattooed bodies of basketball players leading to their objectification. Furthermore, the tattooed portions of player’s bodies become commodified as objects of their own. As both whole bodies and individual tattooed body parts, the commodified body takes on meanings associated with the experiences of those interpreting them. These commodified tattooed bodies and tattooed body parts combine the idea of the Maussian symbolically charged gift, due to the symbolism the body adopts while necessitating reciprocity, and the Marxian notion of a good. In this study, we discuss how the commodification of the tattooed body and body parts of professional and collegiate basketball players are symbolically charged objects that can be bought, sold, and traded. Furthermore, using symbolic interactionism and Norbert Elias’ ideas as a framework, the study investigates how tattooed bodies act as commodities influencing marketing, identity, performance of masculinity, and the chains of interdependency inherent in the player/player, player/team, and player/fan social structures.