Skip to main content Skip to navigation

David J. Leonard, Ph.D.

Director, School of Languages, Cultures, and Race
Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies
Professor of American Studies and Culture
Head of Section, Comparative Ethnic Studies

David J. Leonard is the Director of and a professor in the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race at Washington State University, Pullman.  He is the author of several books, including Playing While White: Privilege and Power on and off the Field (University of Washington Press, 2017), and After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness (SUNY Press, 2012).   He is co-editor of Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice (with Kishonna Gray; University of Washington Press) and several other books. His work has appeared in Black Camera, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Cultural Studies: Critical Methodologies, Game and Culture, Simile, as well as several anthologies.


While seemingly disparate in topic, ranging from sporting cultures to video games, from the ways we narrate gun violence to sports media discourse, 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. He 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 (2017). Playing While White: Privilege & Power on and off the Field. University of Washington Press.
  • Gray, K.L.*, and Leonard, D.L., eds. (2018). Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice, University of Washington Press
  • Leonard, D.J.,* George, K, & Davis, W, eds. (2016).  Studies in Football, Culture, and Power, Routledge
  • Leonard, D.J.; King, C.R/* (2014) Beyond Hate: White Power and/as Popular Culture. Ashgate.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2012), After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness. SUNY Press.
Articles and Book Chapters
  • Leonard, D.J., King, C. R.* “The Resurgence of Hate: Introductory Notes on the 2016 US Presidential Campaign.” For “Hate and the 2016 Presidential Election,” special issue of Journal of Hate Studies, eds. C. Richard King and David J. Leonard. Volume 14, Number 1, pp. 1-6.
  • Leonard D.J. 2018 “Saving/Staging Whiteness: Racial Reconciliation in 42 and FIFA 2017/2018.” In Special issue of Black Camera, ed., Samantha Shephard, vol. 10, no. 1, fall, pp. 177-192.
  • Leonard D.J.* & Groves Price, P. (2018). “Make Higher Ed White Again: Tourism, Customer Service, and the Neoliberal University.” In Difficult Subjects: Radical Teaching in the Neoliberal University, eds., OiYan Poon and Badia Ahad (Stylus Press), pp. 72-91.
  • Leonard D.J.* & Noble, S. (2018). “BlackLivesMatter: Online Technologies and the Struggle for Educational Justice.” In Digital Equity and Educational Opportunity, eds. William G. Tierney, Zoe B. Corwin & Amanda Ochsner, (John Hopkins University Press), pp. 172-193.
  • Leonard D.J and King, C.R. (2017) “Letting America off the Hook: Roots and its challenge to white supremacy.” In Reconsidering Roots: Observations on the 40th Anniversary of a TV Mini-Series that changed the Way We Understood American Slavery, eds., Erica Ball and Kellie Carter Jackson (University of Georgia Press), pp. 113-128.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2016). “Illegible Back Death, Legible White Pain: Denied media, Mourning, and Mobilization in an era of ‘Post Racial’ Gun Violence.” In special issue on Gun Violence Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, eds., Norman Denzin & Michael Giardina, August, pp. 1-9,
  • Leonard, D.J. and Park, S. (2016). “Toxic or Intersectional? Challenges to (White) Feminist Hegemony Online.” In Are All the Women Still White, ed., Janell Hobson (SUNY Press), pp. 205-226.
  • Leonard D.J. (2016). “Linsanity and Te’o: Asian American masculinities in sporting flux.” In Asian American Sporting Cultures, eds., Christina Chinn, Stanley Thangaraj and Constancio Arnaldo (New York University Press), pp. 221-246.
  • Leonard, D.J. (2016). “Grand Theft Auto: Post Racial Playground of Racial meaning.” In The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, and Culture Online, eds., Safiya Noble and Brendesha Tynes (Peter Lang), pp. 129-146.
  • Bailey, J.* and Leonard, D.J. (2015).  “Black Lives Matter: Post-Nihilistic Freedom Dreams.” In special issue of Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric, ed., Andre Johnson, Vol. 5, No.3/4, 2015, pp. 67-77,
  • Leonard D.J. (2015). “Remixing the Burden: Kony 2012 and the wages of whiteness.” In “The White Man¹s Burden: After Race” a special issue of Critical Race and Whiteness Studies, ed., Scott Jeffries,
  • 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. (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. (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

Contact Dr. 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