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David LeonardDavid J. Leonard

Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies and American Studies

With a B.A. in black studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, David J. Leonard has dedicated his career to interdisciplinary scholarship, transformative teaching, and research that underscores the continued significance of race within popular culture, the structures of politics, and society at large.

He is the author of Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema and coeditor of Criminalized and Commodified: New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports (Rowman and Littlefield). He is author of After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness (SUNY Press) as well as several other works. Leonard is a regular contributor to NewBlackMan, layupline, Feminist Wire, and Urban Cusp. He is a past contributor to Ebony, Slam, and Racialicious as well as a past contributor to Loop21, The Nation, and The Starting Five. He blogs at No Tsuris. Follow him on Twitter @drdavidjleonard.


While seemingly disparate in topic, ranging from the prison industrial complex to the NBA, from post–Katrina hip-hop to Shawn Green’s religious/baseball identities, Leonard’s work is linked by its commitment to examining the ways in which racial meaning is constructed, transformed, and challenged across time and space. It focuses on the manner that representations and dominant discourses teach race within the popular imagination. His work also explores narratives and ideologies within a myriad of popular cultural spaces, examining the ways in which media culture becomes a space of contestation, rearticulation, reification, and even resistance. David Leonard investigates popular culture as both a space of violence/white supremacist affirmation and opposition. Focusing on sports, he underscores the importance of the historic moment of production and consumption, thinking through what we can learn about race, gender, nation, and class through examining popular cultural representations and audience reception.

Research Interests

  • Comparative ethnic studies
  • African American studies
  • Video games
  • Popular culture/racialized representations
  • Cultural politics of sport
  • Race and sport (NBA)
  • Black popular culture (film, television, and hip-hop)
  • Social movements (grassroots organizing)
  • Black freedom struggle
  • Prison industrial complex


While at Washington State University, Dr. Leonard has taught and/or developed a myriad of classes, including the following:

  • Introduction to Black Studies
  • Hip Hop Around the Globe
  • From Malcolm to Black Panther Party
  • Cultural Politics of Sport
  • Black Freedom Struggle
  • Black Popular Culture
  • Cinematic Representation of Blackness
  • Race, Gender, and the Prison Industrial Complex
  • Race and Popular Culture
  • Global Inequality
  • Social Justice and American Culture
  • Theories of Racism and Ethnic Conflict

Regardless of the course, he creates opportunities for students to interrogate their relationship to the course content, he challenges students to think about the ways that subjugated knowledge contains transgressive possibilities. In examining myths about the black freedom struggle, or colorblind racism within contemporary African American films, for instance, he creates a classroom that is a space of learning, critical thought, and transformation. Equally important to his pedagogy is the power of disruption. While avoiding the traps of lecturing and teaching for test, collective learning attempts to disrupt the ways that we produce knowledge and learn about new topics.

Selected Publications

  • Leonard, D.J. (2012). After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness. SUNY Press.
  • Leonard, D.J.*; King, C.R. (2011). Commodified and Criminalized: New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports. Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2006). Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema, Praeger Publishers.
Articles and Book Chapters
  • Leonard, D.J.,* King, C.R. (2011). “Lack of Black Opps: Kobe Bryant and the Difficult Path of Redemption.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 209–223.
  • Leonard, D.J., Davie, W.R., King, C.R. (2010). “A Media Look at Tiger Woods—Two Views.” Journal of Sports Media, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp.107–116.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2010). “Jumping the Gun: Sporting Cultures and the Criminalization of Black Masculinity.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 34, No 2, pp. 252–262.
  • Leonard, D.J.,* King, C.R. (2009). “Surrounded by Terror, Consumed by Violence: Borders, Frontiers, and America’s (Virtual) Imperialistic Impulses.” Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World: A Review Journal, Vol. 1, Issue 2, pp. 1–14.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2009). “It’s gotta be the Body: Race, Body, and the Surveillance of Contemporary Black Athletes.” Studies in Symbolic Interaction: A Research Annual, pp. 165–190.
  • Leonard, D.J.,* King, C.R. (2009). “War Games as a New Frontier: Race, Space, & Empire in Virtual War,” in Nina Huntemann and Matt Payne, eds., Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games, pp. 91–105. Routledge.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2009). “Young, Black (& Brown) and Don’t Give a Fuck: Virtual Gangstas as Children’s Culture in the Era of State Violence.” Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 248–272.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2009). “New Media and Global Sporting Cultures: Moving beyond the clichés and binaries.” Sociology of Sport, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 1–16.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2008). “Can the Subaltern Play and Speak or Just be Played With?” Invited chapter in Rick Ferdig, ed. Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education, pp. 938–955. Information Science Reference.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2008). “‘Death Is a Slave’s Freedom:’ Curt Flood and the Fight against Baseball, History, and White Supremacy,” in Joel Rosen and David Ogden, eds. Reconstructing Fame: Sport, Race, and Evolving Reputations. The Redemption of Once-Tainted Public Personas, and What It Means for Today’s Athletes, pp. 31–47. University of Mississippi Press.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2008). “To the White Extreme in the Mainstream: Manhood and White Youth Culture in a Virtual Sports World,” in Michael Giardina and Michele Donnelly, eds. Youth Cultures & Sport: Identity, Power, and Politics, pp. 91–112. Routledge.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2007). “George Bush Does not Care about Black People: Hip Hop and the Struggle for Katrina Justice,” in Kristin Bates and Richelle Swan, eds., Through the Eye of Katrina: Social Justice in the United States, pp. 261–283. Carolina Academic Press.
  • Leonard, D.J.,* Hulst, J. (2007). “Unraveling the Prison Industrial Complex: Race and Mass Incarceration in Oregon,” in Jun Xing, Erlinda Gonzales-Berry, Patti Sukurai, Robert Thompson, and Kurt Peters, eds., Seeing Color: Indigenous Peoples and Racialized Ethnic Minorities in Oregon, pp. 225–237, University Press of America.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2007). “To Play or Pray? Shawn Green and His Choice over Atonement,” in Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Purdue University Press, special issue edited by Mikel Kovel, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 150–167.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2007). “Performing Blackness: Sports, Video Games, Minstrelsy, and Becoming the Other in an Era of White Supremacy,” invited chapter in Mary Flanagan and Austin Booth, eds., Re: Skin, pp. 321–339, MIT Press.
  • Leonard, D.J., King, C.R.*; Kusz, K. (2007). “White Power and Sport: An Introduction.” In Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 3–10.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2007). “Innocent until Proven Innocent: In Defense of Duke Lacrosse and White Power (and against the Jewish media, menacing black student-athletes, activists and strippers).” In Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 25–44.
  • Leonard, D.J.,* Lugo-Lugo, C.R. (2006). “American Girls, Welfare Queens and Race Relations: Lessons from the Third Season of American Idol,” in Leslie Wilson, ed. Americana: Readings in Popular Culture, pp. 85–98, Press Americana and Americana: The Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2006). “Not a Hater, Just Keepin It Real: The Importance of Race and Gender Based Game Studies,” Games and Culture, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 83–88.
  • Leonard, D.J., King, C. R.* (2006). “Racing the Matrix: Variations on White Supremacy in Responses to the film Trilogy,” in Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 354–369.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2006). “The Real Color of Money: Controlling Black Bodies in the NBA,” in Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 158–179.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2006). “Untapped Field: Exploring the World of Virtual Gaming,” in Art Raney and James Bryant, eds., Handbook of Sports and Media, pp. 393–408, Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2006). “Virtual Gangstas, Coming to Suburban House Near You: Demonization, Commodification and Policing Blackness,” in Nathan Garrelts, ed., Meaning and Culture of Grand Theft Auto: Critical Essays, pp. 49–69, Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2006). “A World of Criminals or a Media Construction? Race, Gender, Celebrity and the Athlete/Criminal Discourse,” in Art Raney and James Bryant, eds., Handbook of Sports Media, pp. 523–542, Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2004). “The Next MJ or the next OJ? Kobe Bryant, Race and the Absurdity of Colorblind Rhetoric,” in Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 284–313,
  • Leonard, D. (2004). “Unsettling the military entertainment complex: Video games and a pedagogy of peace,” in Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, Vol. 4, No. 4.
  • Leonard, D. (2003). “‘Live in Your World, Play in Ours’: Race, Video Games, and Consuming the Other,” in Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education,Vol. 3, No. 4.
Select Public Writings

David Leonard
Thompson Hall 203A

Courses Taught

  • Amer St 507
  • Amer St 525
  • CES 101
  • CES 209
  • CES 260
  • CES 301
  • CES 308
  • CES 335
  • CES 336
  • CES 338
  • CES 440
  • CES 444
  • CES 491
  • CES 494
  • Honors 270