Faculty Profile: Courtney Cox of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies

Photo by Dustin Whitaker, University Communications

RACE AND SPORT SPECIALIST

When you’re from Texas, it’s hard not to grow up a big-time sports fan. 

Courtney Cox hails from DeSoto—a Dallas suburb where people are, she says, “a little obsessed with the sport called football.” Her Lone Star childhood was a valuable primer in sports participation and spectatorship, but today she approaches athletics through the more critical lens of scholarship.

“I view sport as a vehicle to think about issues related to labor, technology, and globalization,” she says. “I also find that sport is a space where people are willing to have some discussions about class, race, or gender that in other spaces feel more difficult.”

Cox worked in sports media with ESPN, the Longhorn Network, and the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks, then completed her doctoral degree and joined the University of Oregon in fall 2019. She finds that sports offer a great icebreaker and entry point to introduce students to challenging or abstract concepts.

“It’s like the dessert I use to slide in a lot of vegetables,” she says.

PERFECT FIT

Cox’s research interests in global sport include women’s basketball within the US as well as in Russia, France, and Australia, and advanced analytics. The latter, she says, refers to “the role of big data and technology such as ‘wearables’ in sport”—wearables include watches, elasticated bras, and other equipment that measure acceleration, jumping, distance covered, and more.

Perhaps surprisingly, Cox adds, the Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies is a great fit for her scholarship.

“The department specifically looked for a race and sport hire with the hopes of finding someone that brought a critical cultural approach to studying sport,” Cox says. “When I first saw the position posted, I felt as if someone had written the perfect job for me, which is something I never thought would happen given the various fields my work straddles and the struggle for some to take sport seriously.”

THE PURITY OF PLAY

“I study sport from a very critical and cultural lens,” Cox says. “A lot of the times I am following the money, looking at corruption and scandal, or advocating that things be made more equitable for the next generation. Sport itself can be a very structured and corporate thing, but there is also something about the purity of play that connects us across time and generations.”

IT’S AN OREGON THING

For all her travels in the world of sports, Cox had never set foot in Oregon prior to her interview with the UO. But the state had already made a strong impression.

“Before ever coming here, I had many ideas about Oregon rooted in its relationship to sport,” she says. “I was thinking about industry, Adidas and Nike headquartered in Portland, as well as Track Town and the legacy here, what the University of Oregon represents in the sporting landscape. I came away from my job talk feeling like I needed to be here in Oregon, especially given the nature of my research interests.”

By Jason Stone, University Communications