Anthropology Magazine

Power Players: U.S. Football and French Rugby

Power Players: U.S. Football and French Rugby

Sports have been tied to power as long as they’ve been played. For modern-day athletes, how does their power extend beyond the field?

Some athletes seem larger than life. They are revered and imitated—and they seemingly hold a lot of power. But whether they feel empowered in their lives and choices off the field depends on a variety of complex factors. We explore the experiences of black college football players in the U.S. and Fijian rugby players who migrate to play on teams in France to learn more.



Tracie Canada is a graduate student in the anthropology department at the University of Virginia. In 2017, her research project Tackling the Everyday: Race, Family, and Nation in Big-Time College Football was awarded a dissertation fieldwork grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

 Niko Besnier is a professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and has a research professorship at La Trobe University, Melbourne (Australia). He is also a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Besnier is a co-author of The Anthropology of Sport: Bodies, Borders, Biopolitics.

Learn more about the study of sports at SAPIENS:

This episode of SAPIENS was produced by Cat Jaffee, edited by Matthew Simonson, and hosted by Esteban Gómez, with support from SAPIENS co-hosts Jen Shannon and Chip Colwell.

SAPIENS producers Paul Karolyi and Arielle Milkman, along with House of Pod intern Lucy Soucek, provided additional support. Cat Jaffee is our executive producer.

Fact-checking is by Christine Weeber, illustration is by David Williams, and all music is composed and produced by Matthew Simonson.

SAPIENS is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library.

This is an editorially independent podcast funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and produced by House of Pod.

Read a transcript of this episode here.