The barefoot leagues: an oral (hi)story of football in the plantation towns of Kaua’i

by Morimoto, Lauren Shizuyo

Abstract (Summary)
Recent sport scholarship has expanded the literature on race and sport beyond African-American experiences to include Asian Americans and Latinos/Latinas. Nonetheless, studies on Japanese American sport have generally focused on Japanese American participation in baseball and internment camp recreation/ sporting practices. Though illuminating untold aspects of sport history, the aforementioned studies focus on an especially dramatic and painful moment in Japanese American history. Meanwhile examinations of Hawai’ian sport have looked at what might be labeled “native” activities. In contrast, this paper examines American football, a non-native mainland sport within the context of everyday plantation/cannery life in pre- and post-World War II Kaua’i. The Barefoot Leagues consisted of loosely affiliated teams from various towns on the island of Kaua’i. Participants played football in their bare feet: in part because they rarely wore shoes – in part because as field and cannery workers, they could not afford athletic gear. The leagues drew players from a range of ages and ethnicities provided they could meet the weight limits of 115 to 135 pounds. Most of the teams arose from “company” or plantation towns – i.e. the sugar and pineapple plantation or cannery was the primary source of employment. In general, the plantation/cannery supported the teams formally and informally with the camp residents acting as fundraisers and spectators. According to Kunio Nagoshi, a league participant in the mid-1940’s, the companies hoped to develop esprit de corps. In addition, they encouraged barefoot football to provide a form of recreation for the male laborers. Written sources document the structure of the barefoot leagues as well as how football was played, but obscures the meanings of football for spectators and players. By interviewing former barefoot football players, a story behind the official or written sources emerges. As Karen E. Fields notes in her article, “What One Cannot Remember Mistakenly,” she chooses not to call her grandmother’s memoir history, sociology or even an oral history in order to free herself from methodological constraints. Similarly, though employing the stock method of oral history, the interview, I present a story (rather than history) of football amongst laborers on Kaua’i.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:barefoot football critical race theory hawai ian history sport


Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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