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Sports in Society: Issues & Controversies Chapter 9 Race and Ethnicity: Are They Important in Sports? Defining Race & Ethnicity

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sports in society issues controversies

Sports in Society:Issues & Controversies

Chapter 9

Race and Ethnicity:

Are They Important in Sports?

defining race ethnicity
DefiningRace& Ethnicity
  • Race refers to a category of people regarded as socially distinct because they share genetic traits believed to be important by people with power and influence in society
  • An ethnic group is a category of people regarded as socially distinct because they share a way of life and a commitment to the ideas, norms, and material things that constitute that way of life
minority group
Minority Group

Refers to a socially identified collection of people who

  • Experience discrimination
  • Suffer social disadvantages because of discrimination
  • Possess a strong self-consciousness based on their shared experiences of discriminatory treatment
the concept of race
The Concept of Race
  • Racial categoriesare social creations based on meanings given to selected physical traits
  • Raceis not a valid biological concept
    • Verified by data from Human Genome Project
  • Racial classificationsare fuzzy because they are based on continuous traits with arbitrary lines drawn to create categories
    • Racial classifications vary from culture to culture

Racial Categories:

Drawing Color Lines in Society

Snow white

Midnight black

Skin color continuum

Continuous Traits=skin color, height, brain size, nose width, leg length, leg length ratio, # of fast twitch muscle fibers, etc.

Discrete Traits =blood type, sickle cell trait, etc.

Racial category lines can be drawn anywhere and everywhere on this continuum! We could draw 2 or 2000 lines; our decisions are a social decisions, not decisions based on biology. Some people draw many; others draw few; some reject lines.

race in the united states
“Race” in the United States
  • “Race” is a primitive but powerful classification system that has been used around the world
  • “Race” is based on a two-category classification system premised on the rule of hypo-descent or the “one-drop rule”
  • The “one-drop rule” was developed by white men to insure the “purity” of the “white race” and property control by white men
  • Mixed-race people challenge the validity of this socially influential way of defining race
tiger woods disrupting dominant race logic
Tiger Woods:Disrupting Dominant Race Logic


CA = Caucasian

BL = Black

IN = Indian

ASIAN = Asian

racial ideology in history
Racial Ideology in History

Racial classification systems were developed as white Europeans explored and colonized the globe and found that there were physical differences between people

  • These systems were used to justify colonization, conversion, and even slavery and genocide
  • According to these systems, white skin was the standard, and dark skin was associated with intellectual inferiority and slowed development
racial ideology in sports today
Racial Ideology in Sports Today

Racial ideology encourages people to

  • “See” sport performances in “racialized” terms, i.e., in terms of skin color
  • Use whiteness as the taken-for-granted standard
  • Explain the success or failure of people with dark skin in racial terms
  • Do research designed to “discover” racial difference

Figure 9.2

Racial ideologies often influence how athletes are assessed in society and in science.

traditional racial ideology used in sports
Achievements of White Athletes are due to:




Achievements of Black Athletes are due to:


Natural physical abilities

Traditional Racial Ideology Used in Sports
a sociological hypothesis
A Sociological Hypothesis

Racial ideology + discrimination + sport opportunities

Beliefs about biological & cultural destiny


Motivation to develop skills


searching for jumping genes in black bodies
Searching For ”Jumping Genes” in Black Bodies

Why is the search misleading?

  • It is based on oversimplified ideas about genes and how they work
  • It mistakenly assumes that jumping is a simple physical activity related to a single gene or interrelated set of genes
  • It often begins with ideas about skin color and with social definitions of race
the power of racial ideology
The Power of Racial Ideology
  • Black male students often have a difficult time shaking “athlete” labels based on racial ideology
  • Young people from all racial backgrounds may make choices influenced by racial ideology
  • In everyday life, racial ideology is integrally linked to ideas about gender and social class

Figure 9.4

Athletes often bring cultural traditions to the playing field

sport participation among african americans
Sport Participation amongAfrican Americans

The facts show that

  • Prior to the 1950s, African Americans faced a segregated sport system
  • African Americans participate in a very limited range of sports
  • African American men and women are underrepresented in most sports
sport participation among native americans
Sport Participation amongNative Americans
  • Native Americans comprise dozens of diverse cultural groups
  • Traditional Native American sports combine physical activities with ritual and ceremony
  • Native Americans often fear losing their culture when they play Euro-American sports
  • Stereotypes used in sports discourage Native American participation
images of native americans in sports
Images of Native Americans in Sports

Using stereotypesofNative Americansas a basis for team names, logos, and mascots is a form of bigotry, regardless of the intentions of those who do it

  • Are there conditions under which a group or organizations could use the cultural and religious images of others for their own purposes?
  • What would happen if a school named their teams the Olympians and used the Olympic logo (5-Rings) as their logo?

Figure 9.5

The racial and ethnic attitudes of team officials are sometimes hypocritical

sport participation among latinos hispanics
Sport Participation amongLatinos & Hispanics
  • The experiences of Latino and Latina athletes have been ignored until recently
  • Stereotypes about physical abilities have influenced perceptions of Latino athletes
  • Latinos now make up over 25% of Major League Baseball players
  • Latinos often confront discrimination in school sports
  • Latinas have been overlooked due to faulty generalizations about gender and culture
sport participation among asian americans
Sport Participation amongAsian Americans
  • The cultural heritage and histories of Asian Americans are very diverse
  • The sport participation patterns of Asian Americans vary with their immigration histories
  • Little is known about how the images of Asian American athletes are represented in the media and minds of people in the US
the dynamics of racial ethnic relations in sports
The Dynamics of Racial & Ethnic Relations in Sports
  • Race and ethnicity remain significant in sports today
  • Today’s challenges are not the ones faced in the past
  • It is a mistake to think that racial and ethnic issues disappear when desegregation occurs
  • The challenge of dealing with inter-group relations never disappears – it changes in terms of the issues that must be confronted
eliminating racial ethnic exclusion in sports i
Eliminating Racial & Ethnic Exclusion in Sports (I)

Changes are most likely when

  • People with power and control benefit from inclusion
  • Individual performances can be measured precisely and objectively
  • Members of an entire team benefit from the achievements of teammates


eliminating racial ethnic exclusion in sports ii
Eliminating Racial & Ethnic Exclusion in Sports (II)

Changes are most likely when

  • Superior performances do not lead to automatic promotions on teams
  • Team success does not depend on off-the-field socializing and friendships
  • Athletes have little power or authority in the organizational structure of a sport organization or team
after inclusion managing racial ethnic diversity
After Inclusion: Managing Racial & Ethnic Diversity

Racial and Ethnic Diversity creates management challenges related to

  • The social dynamics on teams
  • The social dynamics among spectators
  • The marketing of athletes, teams, and leagues

NOTE: The global recruitment of players insures that diversity issues will always exist in sports

the biggest challenge integrating positions of power
The Biggest Challenge: Integrating Positions of Power
  • Even when sport participation is racially and ethnically mixed, power in sports is not readily shared
  • The movement of minorities into coaching and administrative positions has been very slow
  • Social and legal pressures are still needed before power is fully shared
needed changes
Needed Changes:
  • Regular and direct confrontation of racial and ethnic issues by people in positions of power
  • A new vocabulary for dealing with new forms of racial and ethnic diversity in our lives
  • Training sessions dealing with practical problems and issues, not just feelings
other topics
Other Topics

The following slides are for those who deal with “race and performance” issues in depth

using critical theory to ask questions about racial classification systems
Using Critical Theory to Ask Questions About Racial Classification Systems
  • Which classification systems are used?
  • Who uses them?
  • Why are some people so dedicated to using certain classification systems?
  • What are the consequences of usage?
  • Can negative consequences be minimized?
  • Can the systems be challenged?
  • What occurs when systems change?
the racially natural athlete
The Racially “Natural Athlete”?

There is no evidence showing that skin color is related to physical traits that are essential for athletic excellence across sports or in any particular sport.

socially constructing the black male body racial ideology in action
Socially Constructing the Black Male Body: Racial Ideology in Action

In Euro-American history there has been

  • Strong fears of the physical power and prowess of (oppressed) black men
  • Powerful anxieties about the sexual appetites and capabilities of (angry) black men
  • Deep fascination with the movement of the black body

THEREFORE, the black male body =

valuable entertainment commodity

research summary genetic factors athletic performance
Research Summary(Genetic Factors & Athletic Performance)
  • Are there genetic differences between individuals? YES
  • Are genetic characteristics related to athletic excellence? YES
  • Could one gene account for success across a range of different sports? PROBABLY NOT
  • Might skin color genes & physical performance genes be connected? NO EVIDENCE
research summary continued
Research Summary(Continued)
  • Are physical development & the expression of skills in sports related to cultural definitions of skin color and race? DEFINITELY YES
  • Do cultural ideas about skin color & race influence the interpretation of and meaning given to the movement and achievements of athletes? DEFINITELY YES
social origins of athletic excellence
Social Origins of Athletic Excellence
  • A cultural emphasis on achievement in activities that have special cultural meaning
  • Resources to support widespread participation among young people
  • Opportunities to gain rewards through success
  • Access to those who can teach tactics and strategies
consequences of racial ideology in sports
Consequences of Racial Ideology in Sports
  • Desegregation of revenue producing sports
  • Continued racial exclusion in “social” sports
  • Position stacking in team sports
  • Racialized interpretations of achievements
  • Management barriers for blacks
  • Skewed distribution of African Americans in US colleges and universities