This article proposes a new way of thinking about the relationships between sport and race in the U.S. It is critical of sport's racial form and function but does not overlook its unique and potentially progressive characteristics. This theoretical framework is generated through an extended review and critique of longstanding popular beliefs and post-1970s scholarly critiques thereof. It draws most heavily from the latter but also argues that academic critics have been too quick to dismiss the opportunities for racial resistance and change available through sport and, thus, failed to grasp the full extent to which sport is implicated in American racial formations. In contrast, sport is portrayed as a "contested racial terrain." This formulation, in combination with the "golden ghetto" metaphor, not only conveys the complexity of racial dynamics in sport but also reveals the broad public significance of sport in a racialized culture.