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Inside the Polynesian Pipeline: A Migratory Analysis of Professional Samoan Football Players.

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Title:Inside the Polynesian Pipeline: A Migratory Analysis of Professional Samoan Football Players.
Authors:Saluga, Salvatore J., Jr
Contributors:Geography (department)
Date Issued:May 2018
Publisher:University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Abstract:While Polynesian players have been a part of the National Football League (NFL) since
its early days in the mid-20th century, only recently has widespread media and collegiate
(recruiting) attention been allotted to it. CBS’ Sixty Minutes did a special on the topic in 2010,
stating that men of Samoan descent are estimated to be 56 times more likely than any other
ethnic or racial group to make it to the National Football League (Pelley 2010). The growing
presence of Polynesian players in both NCAA and NFL football in the United States has led the
journey from Polynesian communities to the NFL to be labeled the ‘Polynesian Pipeline’ by
mainstream media. As more individual players are navigating the Polynesian Pipeline through
the modern global sports system, there are an increasing number of stories, publications, and
media sensations surrounding the lives and backgrounds of these athletes (Bale and Maguire
2014). The backgrounds of these athletes is one of great interest to the sports and sports media
worlds, but in the twenty-first century academia has begun to take an interest in the topic, as
well. The creation of a perceived ‘sports region’ around American Samoa - and the Samoan
culture itself - has led to the significant increase in attention to the topic. Sports regions,
according to John Bale, are geographical locations that are heavily associated with a particular
sport, and often produces a disproportionate number of athletes in that spot. This interest has
continued to be reflected on the field, as the number of Samoan players in the NFL has continued
to rise.
This study explores the migratory patterns undertaken by these players, including both
players from American Samoa itself as well as the Samoan diaspora. This study finds that
American Samoa, as well as the Samoan culture itself, emerged as a football ‘sports region’ in
the twenty-first century, and that media output and mainstream culture attention to the
phenomena had an effect on the recruitment, drafting, and migratory patterns of Samoan players.
This thesis focused on the manner in which the Samoan athletes are portrayed in the
media and in the world of sports. Often times, it was the ‘Polynesian Warrior’ image that
permeated representations of Polynesian players. This study found that the identification of
origins of successful football players ignited media-generated stereotypes, and thus promoted the
Samoan people as fulfilling the stereotype of the ‘Polynesian Warrior’ for college coaches and
scouts. This was another factor in the perceived creation of a sports region around the Samoan
football community.
These concepts were analyzed within the framework of political economy and using
hermeneutics. Analyzing the capitalist systems of commodification of labor and people and its
relation to producing and influencing migration flows will be translated to the academic sports
arena. This theoretical framework is important in order to recognize the direct correlation
between the political, economic, and social situations in American Samoa (and among Samoan
diaspora), and the football mania of the society that ignites and enables the migratory football
patterns taken by Samoan men. This framework was used to analyze the ‘sports region’ concept
itself and how its production in the mainstream media affects the commodification and migratory
patterns of athletes in the modern day global sports system through the example of American
football players of Samoan descent. This analysis could provide a window into the formation of
the sports region, and how the sports region and media output of such have affected the
recruitment, drafting, and migratory patterns of Samoan football players.
Description:M.A. Thesis. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2018.
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: M.A. - Geography

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