Lindsay Sarah Krasnoff
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Barnstorming Frenchmen
The impact of Paris Université Club’s US tours and the individual in sports diplomacy
in Sport and diplomacy
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Meet Martin Feinberg, the sole American basketball player on the storied Paris Université Club (PUC) roster in 1956. That December, Feinberg organised a team tour through the American Midwest, the first such journey undertaken by a French basketball club. PUC’s travels (including a 1962 visit) were not subsidised by the US government and were thus not ‘official’ exchanges. The trips were nevertheless strong examples of sport’s ability to carry social and political messages with deep consequences. Basketball was first played in Europe in 1893 in a small sports hall located at 14, rue de Trévise, in Paris, France. Basketball, however, remained a niche endeavour in a country that favoured British sports, notably football and rugby. The young PUC players who travelled to the United States were thus not the ‘typical’ representatives of their generation. Yet many of them, even the more anti-American socialists, came away with favourable impressions of France’s sister republic in most matters, save that of race relations. ‘Barnstorming Frenchmen’ examines how the earliest French-American basketball exchanges created lasting impressions on young players in ways traditional diplomacy and diplomats rarely could. Set against the larger context of post-war French anxieties and reconstruction, French–American Cold War diplomacy and race relations in both countries, these trips are noteworthy.

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