Discrimination And Racism In Sports Essay, Research Paper
Webster?s dictionary defines discrimination as a social, economical, political or
legal distinction made between individuals or groups such that one has the power to treat
the other unfavorably. Discrimination can also be defined as the act or policy of treating someone differently, setting them apart or denying them rights because they are different from the majority. Discrimination may be based on the grounds of one or more of the differences of nationality, religion, politics, culture, class, sex, age and colour. Discrimination of colour is known as racism. Discrimination and racism are present in all societies worldwide. Discrimination exists in different capabilities such as school, work, and in the home. Much of the hate is expressed through the media as well. In sports, discrimination against those of colour, homosexuals, and women will always be an ever-lasting presence. Sports have always been an arena for criticism, hatred and discrimination of certain groups or individuals. In actuality, racism and other forms of discrimination, within the microcosm of sport, will forever be a reality.
The fight against racism goes back into the years past slavery. During that time, it was mainly white people versus black people. Today, in this multicultural society there are many minority groups feeling the squeeze of being born ?non-white?. Along with the racism come the stereotypes. For example, the notion that black athletes are the most talented at basketball, because they can all jump very high, or that males are better then females (in sports), and the assumption that females in sports are not feminine. It is wrong to make such generalizations. However there is a little that can be done to change this frame of mind symbolic of society as a whole. The argument that black people are the best basketball players is very strong for many reasons. The first argument being that, almost 80% of the athletes in the National Basketball Association are of African-American descent. Arguably the greatest player in the history of the game, Michael Jordan, is a black person. If an athlete from a minority group can excel in a sport he/she is recognized for his/her skill as much as his/her skin colour. The media plays a big role in the issue as the influencing body of how society must think. Since the release of the 1992 film, White Men Can?t Jump, there has always been the hype and jokes made about a white person?s inferiority in terms if skill and talent compared o that of a black person. In the movie, Wesley Snipes, a black athlete, says to Woody Harrelson, a white athlete having trouble completing a slam dunk, ?White men can?t jump!? The catch phrase has never died out. People will always segregate athletes by their skin colour on the basis of their skills. There are always individuals trying to gain recognition for their talents rather then race. For example, people always refer to Tiger Woods as a ?black golfer? or ?the greatest black golfer?. A passage from TIGER WOODS: The making of a Champion, clearly illiterates this statement. ? But he resists being typecast as a racial pioneer. ?I don?t want to be the best black golfer on the tour, ? Tiger says. ? I want to be the best golfer on the tour.?(Pg 8) There are clear examples of white athletes making racial remarks in pro golf. Golfer, Fuzzy Zoeller made a stereotypical wise crack about Tiger Woods saying that Tiger should go home and eat fried chicken and collared greens after the young golf prodigy played a phenomenal round of golf back in 1998. This remark was senseless and unnecessary. It sparked controversy leaving bad taste in the mouths of many. No athlete deserves a preferred treatment on the basis of skin colour. The infamous John Rocker, In a Sports Illustrated interview, he made some very disturbing comments about various minority groups and New Yorkers. On the city specifically, Rocker had this to say:
?The biggest thin I don?t like about New York are the foreigners. Im not a very nig fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country??.
Rockers mindset is another example of all that is wrong with discriminating against people. As a result of this and many other remarks, he has become hated worldwide
(ie. www.rockersucks.com) and he has tarnished the fairly clean reputation of Major League Baseball. The thought of his comments influencing others is a dangerous reality. Through media and family influences , racism in sports is an ever-lasting reality and reflects society.
Ignorance is the lifeblood of a homophobic individual or group. Homosexuality to and outside is an unknown and unconquered place. The absence of knowledge and experience is a fear to man. Unfortunately, part of society is stubborn and ignorant to the acceptance of homosexuality. This is even more so in the world of sports. IN fact, using the words ?homosexuals? and ?sports? in the same sentence brought about laughter, disbelief or even anger. The author of Gays and Lesbians and Sports was laughed at by his friends at the thought of the book. ?I?m sorry, ?they would say, ?but its just the thought of those two-gays and football players. It is funny.? (pg 13) Not enough people take gay and lesbian athletes seriously. Once ?out of the closet? their superior talent and skill becomes meaningless. As well, the athlete becomes prone to criticism , ridicule and cruel jokes. During the Howard Stern radio show, Howard made a joke about lesbian tennis star, Martina Navritilova stepping out of retirement and back onto the Professional Tennis Tour. He says, ?She is going back to tennis because its still the best place to pick up chicks?. These crude and rude comments by members in the media are a reminder of the negativity in society. It is a reflection of people?s ignorance, stubbornness and hatred for others. And then there is John Rocker again. In comments made about playing for a New York team he says,
?Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpart, looking like you?re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queeer with AIDS?its depressing?.
Stereotyping homosexuals as having AIDS is another form of that ignorance. Man groups and individuals believe that a homosexual presence can ruin their reputations and how others view them in society. Sometimes, people are afraid of association. In 1980, when gay, American decathlete, Dr. Tom Waddell began planning a separate Olympic games for gays and lesbians, the U.S. Olympic Committee protested. In Gays and Lesbians and Sports, the author states:
?While it saw nothing wrong with older Americans using the name for a Senior Olympics, or with the Kennedy?s using it for the Special Olympics for the physically or mentally impaired, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) saw red when a gay man tried to use the name for a sporting event for homosexuals. The USOC spent millions of dollars fighting the Gay Olympics, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the homosexuals lost? (Pg 21).
The USOC felt that a Gay Olympics would ruin their reputation and therefore fought to suppress the homosexual pride. The games began however, known as the Gay Games. However, there will never be a Gay Olympics. A living and constant reminder of the hatred and discrimination against the gay minority groups by other groups and individuals society. Another live example of the same argument is the LPGA Tour. From Gays and Lesbians and Sports, a lesbian golfer discusses a previous players meeting in an interview with Out Magazine, ?Ladies, we do not care what goes on inside your bedroom. But keep it there.? The message was loud and clear: for the golf tour to succeed, we need to rid ourselves of the lesbian stigma.? (Pg 33). Homosexuality is a very sensitive issue for both gays and lesbians. It is hard to openly admit to being a homosexual. Individuals fear the rejection, ridicule and insensitivity displayed by individuals and groups in society. When Martine Navritilova came out and admitted she was a lesbian, she faced the humiliation and pain of her parent?s abandonment of her. The moved back home to Prague in the former Czechoslovakia. She had to deal without the support of her parents, who until that time were very close to her. For this reason many stay ?in the closet?. Bowing down to the negativity and discrimination against them. If they do not put up a fight, the discrimination will last forever.
A female who steps into an arena or onto and athletic field may feel like prey in an enemy territory. Sports have generally been a make domain in our culture. The exclusion of women in sports goes back to ancient Greece more then 2500 years ago. It seems as if women have been fighting for respect in the sporting world for a long, long time. Women have made great strides in sports such as basketball, hockey and track and field. However, they are still suppressed quite a bit. The first female to ever play in a National Hockey League game suited up for the inaugural game in the inaugural year of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Her name was Manon Rheaume.. They ended up losing 2-1 against the Minnesota Northstars. She never played another pro hockey game. She was immediately sent down to the minor leagues and was never recalled. Seemed to have been a publicity issue, to play a female goaltender. It goes to show how women are not allowed the opportunity to play against men. Stereotypes of females in sports are also present because women in sports have often said that their involvement in sports led others to believe that they were lesbians. One ?half of all females in athletics agree that homophobia was a hindrance to attracting and retaining women in athletic careers. The co-ed aspect of sport is non-existent. Women?s sports are stereotypically less interesting then those of the men. The women are less physical, the do now show much finesse, and are generally boring to watch, so the stereotype goes. For example, in professional tennis, the game is slower and the rallies are not as exhilarating. Women aren?t as strong and athletic as the men and do not display the same strength or skill level as them either. In the eyes of the spectator, watching Vince Carter play is more exciting then watching Sherryl Swoops even though both are at the top of the NBA and WNBA respectively. Women?s teams are not funded as equally as the men?s teams. This goes even for college athletics, in the NCAA with equal men and women on campus, only 30% of operating budgets are given towards women?s sports. This inequity denies women an equal opportunity to benefit from sports, and sometimes denies them from attending college at all because scholarship money is not made available to them. Not only in the school atmosphere, but also as a career women are discouraged to entering the field of athletics because the salary for female?s entering athletic careers is very low. The factors mentioned above occur mainly because the fans pay to see the more active and interesting men?s teams. Especially in spectator sports, women will always be at a disadvantage. Men play a more interesting and action packed game. Only fiver percent of televised sports contain women?s events. Women play more fundamentally which is in fact, boring.
Discrimination, racism and stereotypes will always exist in sports. There is too much influence making it hard for justice to prevail. Sports are mainly a reflection of society, the acceptance of minorities in sports will slowly take place, as acceptance of minorities occurs in society. Sports are meant to be for everyone to enjoy and differences are to be left outside the playing field. Sports are not to be political, yet some use them to make a point, some countries boycott the Olympics because of political differences, and some also use them to make amends among countries in dispute. Too much pressure is put on today?s athletes to compete on the highest level possible Athletics are a common ground where everyone can have a good time and show case their skills in an encouraging manner.
B i b l i o g r a p h y
T E X T S
Kenneth L. Shropshire, In black and white: race and sports in America, .New York : New York University Press, 1996.
Hoose, Phillip M, Necessities(Racial Barriers in American Sport), New York, USA: Random House, Inc., 1989.