Jameson Wang

Cornell University quarterback Jameson Wang is the latest member Degree Deodorant’s #BreakingLimits Team after the rising sophomore signed a NIL (name, image and likeness) with the company, which was officially announced in a press release on Aug. 2.

New NIL rules that were adopted in 2021 allow college and high school athletes to sign contracts to not only profit from, but also market their name, image and likeness. Wang is joining Degree’s #BreakingLimits Team, which features 28 other Division I athletes, both male and female, from several sports. The initiative’s goal is to “amplify incredible stories of overcoming adversity to help inspire others to break their own limits and set a precedent for how to work with student athletes in an impactful way,” according to Degree.

“I was contacted by Opendorse, which is a third party NIL company, and they told me that Degree was looking for me to join the Breaking Limits Team,” Wang said. “Coming from an Asian American background, playing football … it's gonna help me share my story to a lot of people that don't know my story. And I'm really thankful for that; really blessed that Degree has given me the opportunity to do this.”

Wang played in seven games last season for the Big Red and led the squad in rushing with 349 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and four touchdowns, becoming the second freshman in program history to do so.

The level of Asian American representation in major United States sports is quite low. According to the 2021 Racial and Gender Report Card from The Institute for Diversity and Equity in Sports (TIDES), only 1.5 percent of male Division I athletes identified as Asian. For female Division I athletes, the percentage isn’t much higher (2.3 percent). Only two percent of Division I football players identified as either Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

The trend holds true at the professional level as well. Asian athletes made up 0.4 percent of NBA players, 0.1 percent of NFL players, 1.9 percent of MLB players, 1.3 percent of MLS players, and 1.4 percent (only two identified as Asian American) of WNBA players, according to TIDES’s 2021 reports on each league.

There are multiple factors that have contributed to the underrepresentation of Asian Americans in US sports. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibited many Asian individuals from participating in sport, and resulted in the cultivation of stereotypes. The feminization of Asian men, for instance, led to a societal view of them as “weak” and “too short.” When Asian people were allowed to participate in sports, they endured racism and xenophobia.

Asian folk are also stereotyped as the “model minority” in that they are high achievers. This stereotype has led Asian American families to believe that the only way they can succeed is through academics, thus athletics are looked at with little importance.

For Wang, though, athletics were considered an afterthought. His father played football as a high schooler in Rochester after his family emigrated to Rochester from Taiwan when he was five years old. (His parents fled China during the Communist Revolution to Taiwan where he was born.)

“At the time, my grandparents - his parents - they had a Chinese restaurant in Rochester, and they were working there all the time,” Wang said. “So no one really supported him playing football because they wanted him to work in the restaurant. But luckily, making good friends in Rochester, my dad was able to get rides and have teammates really care about him and really push them to play high school football.”

He said his father encouraged him to play football as a kid.

“He was trying to give me the opportunities that he never really had as a child,” Wang said. “So he was my coach all the way up to eighth grade. He really pushed me to be the player that I am today.”

Wang attended his first three years of high school at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, CA before transferring to Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village for his senior year. Through four years of high school football, Wang accrued 10,305 yards of total offense and 114 total touchdowns as quarterback. He also played basketball and ran track and field.

The quarterback position, despite the growth in the number of black athletes starting at the position professionally, has been predominantly held by white athletes. Non-white quarterbacks are subjected to much higher standards and are sometimes even encouraged to switch to a different position.

Luckily for Wang, he received support from those around him to compete at the position.

“I’m very fortunate to have gone to schools that the coaching staffs, they didn't care what color skin you were, what background you came from, whoever was the best player was going to play, and I really respect that from my high school coaches,” he said. “Never really gave me a hard time for anything, and just they were willing to play the best player. And at the end of the day, I feel like I could do a lot of great things on the field.”

That being said, he did face racism while on the field from opposing teams.

“It was my senior year, I was running out of bounds on the opposing sideline,” Wang recalled of a particular memory from playing high school football. “These kids who weren't even playing, but they were suited up. I run right by them; as I'm walking back on the field, one of them says, ‘How do you even see on the field?’ I'm like, wow, that's crazy.”

Ultimately, Wang hopes his story inspires more Asian Americans to pick up the sport of football.

“When you think of an Asian American, you're not gonna think of an athlete; you're gonna think more of a student,” he said. “We're just trying to break that stereotype. … For me, just to prove that Asians are more than just smart in the classroom; they are great athletes as well. … I don't normally think about that because I know what I'm capable of.”

Sports Editor

Andrew is the sports editor as well as a news reporter for the Ithaca Times/Finger Lakes Community Newspapers. He also enjoys writing personal essays in his spare time.

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