From Forever Foreigners to Model Minority: Asian American Men in Sports

  • 1 State University of New York, United States of America


Despite their long history in the United States, relatively little scholarly attention has been paid to Asian Americans and their lived experience in sports. The purpose of this study was to give voices to Asian American men by focusing on their experiences in sports. In particular, this study examined the experiences of East Asian and Southeast Asian American male college students who were often perceived as “foreign” and “pejoratively feminine” racialized minority yet participated in sports that were associated with dominant masculinity in the U.S. The setting of the study was as a predominately White institution located in Upstate New York where Asian Americans make up about one percent of the total student population. Qualitative research method was employed for the study. Six Asian American male students were recruited through snowball and purposeful sampling methods. In-depth interviews were conducted to reveal the rich stories of these Asian American men. The research showed that the stories of Asian American male college students were much nuanced and complicated. Specifically, this study revealed that Asian American men were constantly otherized as “forever foreigners” who did not have a legitimate citizenship in the United States. Also, Asian Americans faced unique ideas about their manhood that either highlighted emasculated and feminized masculinity or hyper-masculinity. In dealing with these situations, Asian American men employed unique cultural strategies to challenge and resist racial stereotypes through sports.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Anderson, E. (2005). In the game: Gay athletes and the cult of masculinity. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

  • Anderson, E., & McCormack, M. (2010). Intersectionality, critical race theory, and American sporting oppression: Examining Black and gay athletes. Journal of Homosexuality, 57, 949-967.

  • Brown, K., & Jackson, D. (2013). The history and conceptual elements of critical race theory. In M. Lynn, & A. Dixon (Eds.), Handbook of critical race theory in education. New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Chen, A. (1999). Lives at the center of the periphery, lives at the periphery of the center: Chinese American masculinities and bargaining with hegemony. Gender, & Society, 13, 584-607.

  • Cheng, C. (1996). We choose not to compete: The “merit” discourse in the selection process, and Asian and Asian American men and their masculinity. In C. Cheng (Ed.), Masculinities in organizations (pp.177-200). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • Coakley, J. (2015). Sports in Society: Issues and controversies. New York: McGraw-Hill.

  • Chou, R., &Feagin, J. (2015.) Myth of the model minority: Asian Americans facing racism (2nd ed.). Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

  • Connell, R. W. (2005). Masculinities. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Collins, P. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.

  • Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241-1299.

  • Delgado, R. (Ed.) (1995). Critical race theory: The cutting edge. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

  • Eng, D. (2001). Racial castration: Managing masculinity in Asian America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  • Espiritu, Y.L. (2008). Asian American women and men: Labor, laws, and love (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman, & Littlefield.

  • Fletcher, T. (2014). ‘Does he look like a Paki?’ an exploration of ‘whiteness’, positionality and reflexivity in interracial sports research, Qualitative research in sport, exercise and health, 6, 2, 244-260.

  • Gringeri C, Barusch, A., & Cambron, C. (2013). Epistemology in qualitative social work research: A review of published articles, 2008-2010. Social work research, 37, 55-63.

  • Hamamoto, D. Y. (1994.) Monitored peril: Asian American and the politics of representation. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Harris, A. (1990). Race and essentialism in feminist legal theory. Stanford Law Review, 42, 581-616.

  • Hirose, A., & Pih, K. (2010). Men who strike and men who submit: Hegemonic and marginalized masculinities in mixed martial arts. Men and masculinities. 13 (2) 190-209.

  • Hylton, K. (2005). ‘Race’, sport and leisure: Lessons from critical race theory. Leisure Studies, 24(1), 81-98.

  • Hylton, K. (2010). How a turn to critical race theory can contribute to our understanding of ‘race’, racism and antiracism in sport. International review for the sociology of sport, 45(3), 335-354.

  • Kibria, N. (2002). Becoming Asian American: Second-generation Chinese and Korean American identities. Baltimore MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

  • Kimmel, M. (2011). Manhood in America: A cultural history (3rd ed.). New York: Free Press.

  • King, C.R. (Ed.) (2015). Asian American Athletes in Sport and Society. New York, NY: Routledge.

  • King, C.R. (2006). Defacements/Effacements: Anti-Asian (American) sentiment in sport. Journal of sport and social issues. 30 (4) 340-352.

  • Lee, Y. (2015). Beyond black and white: Chinese American women’s experience in sports. In C. King (Ed.), Asian American athletes in sport and society, pp.13-31 New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Lowe, L. (2000). Heterogeniety, hybridity, multiplicity, In J. Wu, & M. Song (Eds.) Asian American studies: A reader, pp. 423–42. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

  • Lu, A, & Wong, J. (2013. Stressful experience of masculinity among U.S. born immigrants and Asian American men, Gender, & Society, 27, 345-371.

  • Messner, M. (1992). Power at play: Sports and the problem of masculinity. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

  • Patton, M. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. London: Sage Publications.

  • Shek, Y. (2006). Asian American masculinity: A review of literature. The Journal of Men's Studies, 14(3), 379-391.

  • Solorzano, D., &Yosso, T. (2002). Critical race methodology: Counterstorytelling as an analytical framework for educational research. Qualitative studies in education, 14(4), 471-495.

  • Takaki, R. (1998). Strangers from a different shore. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

  • Thangaraj, S. (2012). Playing through differences: black-white racial logic and negotiating South Asian American identity. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 35(6), 988-1006.

  • Thangaraj, S. (2015.) Desi hoop dreams: Pickup basketball and the making of Asian American masculinity. New York, NY: New York University Press.

  • Thangaraj, S., Arnaldo, C., & Chin, C. (Eds.) (2016). Asian American sporting cultures. New York, NY: New York University press.

  • Tizon, A. (2014.) Big little man: In search of my Asian self. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  • U.S. Census Bureau (2012). The Asian population: 2010. Retrieved May 5, 2015, from

  • Wu, F. (2002). Yellow: Race in American beyond Black and White. New York, NY: Basic Books.


Journal + Issues