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The Game is Not a Game
The Power, Protest and Politics of American Sports

Part play-by-play, part op-ed, The Game Is Not a Game is an illuminating and unflinching examination of the good and evil in the sports industry. Liberating and provocative, with sharp wit and generous humor, Jackson’s essays explore the role that sports plays in American society and the hypocritical standards by which the athletes are often judged. The Game Is Not a Game is distinctly intended to challenge accepted ideology and to push the boundaries of mainstream sports media beyond the comfort zone. Chapters expose “Our Miseducation of LeBron James,” “#ThemToo: The UnRespected Worth of the Woman Athlete,” the duplicity of the NFL in its treatment of Colin Kaepernick and the anthem protests, the cultural bias of analytics, and the power of social activism versus the power and politics of professional sports ownership—all from the sharp, savvy, and self-critical perspective of one of the leading voices for social justice in sports media.

  • "Jackson, who is Black and most recently a writer at ESPN, has spent the last three decades navigating how, exactly, to present the concerns of Black athletes and fans to readers in a media industry owned and operated by white people. His examinations of protest and politics, as a result, read more like literary criticism than anything else.... Jackson asks not who has the real power—the answer is obvious: the white owners of the league—but rather who controls the cultural production of sports....The Game Is Not a Game was published before the protests in response to George Floyd’s death and the creation of the NBA bubble, but in his final chapter, Jackson predicts a revolution in sports that will spread to the greater public.... For Jackson, the game is the game, but there’s still the game itself, which is not a game." —New York Review of Books

    "Jackson's work is not about scores; rather, he stresses that sports are a self-contained microcosm of society at large. A thought-provoking, unfailingly insightful book." Booklist

    "It’s an artfully curated collection of close-ups that, when set side by side, tell the story of an industry that is inextricably tethered to—but still hoping to be insulated from—real-world politics." —Harvard Business Review

    "A huge percentage of American sports players are Black, and the number has grown over time. Jackson’s essay collection tears into the ways sports, for many Americans, is life. He considers the hypocrisy of the game, capitalism, activism (a la Kaepernick), disrespect to female athletes, and who benefits from sports the most." —Electric Lit

    "Only the legendary sports writer Robert “Scoop” Jackson could write The Game is Not a Game — a book that bristles with bracing and brutal insights that take no tea for the fever and offer no discount on truth or justice. Because he is a master of deep theory (who else could translate Michele Foucault’s notion that power doesn’t just hibernate in places of legitimacy but breaks out everywhere between all folk and situations), because he flings street vernacular like a grammatical drug dealer, because he is a savant of the history of sports in America, this book is an instant classic that reckons with the factors that make sports possible, and at the same time wrestles with the forces that make protest in sports necessary. The Game is Not a Game is intersectional cultural analysis at its best!" —Michael Eric Dyson 

    "Candid, riveting, informative — yet not surprising at all. This is Scoop Jackson we’re talking about, so I expected nothing less. If you care about the sports industry........if you value a true, authentic, perspective on the world of sports — and about its participants — you’ve come to the right place. This is a treat for anyone who loves sports." —Stephen A. Smith

    "To do this work of...talking candidly about race and sports, you have to realize that it’s supposed to get a little messy." In a conversation with the author, journalist Jemele Hill hits on just the thing that makes The Game Is Not A Game so special: Scoop Jackson is never afraid to get messy. Jackson doesn't avoid the static, he steps into it, pushing even the most woke minds to dig deeper into and think more honestly about issues of race, gender and politics. From the NCAA to LeBron James, Serena Williams to Colin Kaepernick, Jackson uses the biggest headlines of our day to reveal that the power of sports to change the world can only be realized if the powers that run sports allow it." —Sarah Spain, ESPN

    "I’ve long said that Scoop Jackson is the Coltrane of the sports page. With The Game is Not a Game he takes his skillset to a level few sportswriters - or any writers - can match. Scoop is that rarest of commodities: an original voice." —Dave Zirin, The Nation

    "Scoop Jackson has written an extremely timely book about sports and activism, THE GAME IS NOT A GAME. In another era (a month ago) it’s the kind of book that might be called “incendiary” but now just makes sense." —Louisa Thomas, Staff Writer for the New Yorker

    "This is the book we’ve been expecting from Scoop Jackson, one of the most insightful sports journalists of our generation. With humor and brutal honesty, Scoop pulls the covers off the sports industry and the blinders off those who enable its hypocrisy." —William C. Rhoden. The Undefeated, author, Forty Million Dollar Slaves

    "Scoop’s contribution to sports journalism in the last three decades is unparalleled, and incomparable. This leap into critical literature is not only welcomed, but crucial ..." —Bobbito Garcia, author/filmmaker

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