*Cross posted on The Rabbit Hole*

It was recently (quietly) reported that the United Nations Office on Sport and Development and Peace (UNOSDP) closed on April 30, 2017 as a cost-saving measure, a fact that is interestingly not noted on the actual UNOSDP website. The UNOSDP was created to capitalize on all the ways that sport can be used as a vehicle to achieve development goals. Wilfred Lemke was appointed as the Special Adviser to the UN on Sport for Development and Peace in 2008 succeeding Adolf Ogi.  The job of the Special Adviser is three fold:

  • lead and coordinate sport projects that contribute to poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS prevention, universal education, sustainable development, and inclusion of persons living with disabilities etc.
  • encourage dialogue, collaboration, and partnerships between the UNOSDP and member states
  • represent the Secretary General and the UN at global sporting events/meetings such as the Olympics, Paralympics, and World Cup.

The closing of the UNOSDP means that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) now has a direct line to the Secretary General.  Given that the IOC is not a nation state, one wonders why the IOC is so invested in having the ear of the Secretary General. I asked my friend and colleague Dr. Nicolien van Luijk (@nicolien_vl) to offer her thoughts on the matter. more...

Women-focused organizations, such as Sports Women of Tampa, can serve an important role in supporting women who aspire to have careers in the male-dominated realm of sport.

In his book, Diversity and Inclusion in Sport Organizations, Cunningham highlights that the sport industry has historically been a male oriented space where men have continuously held positions of power, subjugating women’s ability to participate and take positions of authority. Despite this historical power imbalance, research also shows that better business decisions are made when a diverse group of both men and women are a part of the process. Further, having more women represented in leadership roles can ultimately help an organization progress and evolve in a successful direction.

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Muhammad Ali’s stand against the Vietnam War transcended not only the ring, which he dominated as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, but also the realms of faith and politics. —Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic. (AFP | Getty Images)

April 28, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the day that boxing champion Muhammad Ali (1942-2016), citing religious reasons, was stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to be inducted into the United States Army. That memorable event is somehow all the more amazing when considered as part of an evolution whereby “The Greatest” went from being reviled as a “draft-dodger” to being respected as a spokesperson against Islamophobia and a political activist for persons living with Parkinson’s disease.

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Press conference for Oilers YCP Night. Left to Right: Andrew Ference (former Edmonton Oiler and YCP Ambassador), Matt Hendricks (current Edmonton Oiler and YCP Ambassador), Kevin Lowe (Vice-Chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group), Cheryl Macdonald (U of A YCP postdoc in building inclusive sporting communities and Co-Chair of YCP western Canadian board), Kris Wells (Faculty Director of the U of A Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services and co-creator of Pride Tape).

The You Can Play Project (YCP) is an organization that promotes the inclusion of LGBTQ+ athletes in sport. It seeks to mitigate the possible negative aspects of locker room culture such as anti-gay attitudes and language. It was founded in 2012 by Patrick Burke, Glenn Whitman, and Brian Kitts following the death of Patrick’s brother, Brendan, who was an openly gay ice hockey player. The Burke family is well known in the hockey community since Patrick works in Player Safety for the National Hockey League (NHL) and his father, Brian, is currently the President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames. The Burkes wanted to honour Brendan by advocating on his behalf for equality among athletes regardless of their gender or sexual identity. While most visible in hockey, YCP works with a range of sports and athletic organizations from high school to college and university to the amateur and professional ranks.

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The University of North Carolina men’s basketball team celebrates after winning the 2017 National Championship. Photo From Nathan Klima/The Daily Tar Heel

Fireworks boomed from the Dean Dome two weeks ago, sparking a high-spirited time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). Tar Heel fans had gathered around the home court and all along Franklin Street to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game. The celebrations following the Tar Heels’ victory have been a stark contrast from last year’s disappointing buzzer-beating loss.

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Portland Thorns FC led the NWSL in attendance during the 2016 season with an average of 16,945 fans per match. (Photo by Ray Terril)

The National Women’s Soccer League begins its fifth season this week with markers of success that eluded the two failed U.S. women’s professional soccer leagues that predated it. Perhaps first and foremost is the league’s longevity. Both the Women’s United Soccer Association (2001-2003) and Women’s Professional Soccer (2009-2012) folded after three seasons. With no sign of impending failure, the beginning of a fifth season for the NWSL bodes well for this league’s ability to break into the national sporting imagination. Currently, when I ask the undergraduates I teach to name a women’s pro sports league, they are only able to recall the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). This could change in the future, but only with a league that lasts long enough to build a national profile.

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RALEIGH, NC – MARCH 21: Chaz Williams #3, Trey Davis #12 and Maxie Esho #1 of the Massachusetts Minutemen sit on the bench in the second half while taking on the Tennessee Volunteers in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 21, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Over many years of watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournaments, one thing that I, and many others, have looked forward to is the video montage broadcast at the end of CBS’s coverage of the championship game, set to the song “One Shining Moment”. The montage celebrates not only great basketball, but also the range of male emotional expression in sport. Images of young men bursting with joy over a victory and crying in agony over defeat have long been a staple of this video memory of the tournament. Quite honestly, this video has often brought a tear to my eye as I connected to these young men’s emotions. However, it is not my reaction to the video that is notable, but rather the celebration of men’s emotions that is of interest.

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Mack Beggs, a 17-year-old transgender boy, made national headlines when he won the Texas state wrestling title in the girls’ division. AP Photo

Several cases working their way through the legal system have placed a national spotlight on the issue of transgender access to bathrooms. While some states have taken steps to allow access based on gender identity, many are considering legislation that restricts bathroom use by the sex assigned at birth.

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On Sept. 5, 2016, the New York Mets signed former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow to a minor league contract. Photo from Sports Illustrated.

Five years since Tim Tebow and “Tebow Mania” flooded mainstream media, electoral politics, and religious discourse, the genuflecting born-again Christian is relevant in American sport culture once again. Though Tebow no longer throws fluttering passes in the NFL, the barrel-chested southpaw now crowds the plate at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, Florida for the New York Mets in spring training. On September 5, 2016, the Mets signed Tebow to a minor league contract that included a $100,000 signing bonus.

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Stadium 2, Indian Wells. Photo by Courtney Szto.

*Cross posted on The Rabbit Hole*

I recently visited Palm Springs/Indian Wells, California to see the BNP Paribas Open. For non-tennis aficionados the BNP Paribas Open (more commonly referred to simply as Indian Wells) has been unofficially titled the “Fifth Grand Slam” (AKA major tournament) of the professional tennis circuit because of it’s prestige as a title, the fact that both the men’s and women’s tours play concurrently, and the amenities available to the players and fans.  In doing my trip planning I stumbled upon some of the tourist appropriate history of Palm Springs:

More than 2,000 years ago, Palm Springs’ first residents were the ancestors of today’s Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. One of the many Cahuilla bans, the Agua Caliente existed as peaceful hunters and gatherers, living off the land, and adapting to the extremes of desert summers and mountain winters…The Cahuilla tribe first encountered non-Indians in 1774, as Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition traveled through the area. In 1853, a government survey party mapped Palm Springs and its natural hot springs mineral pool – now the site of the Spa Resort Casino – and established the first wagon route through the San Gorgonio Pass.  The Cahuilla culture was decimated with the 1863 smallpox epidemic that killed thousands.

In 1877 as an incentive to complete a railroad to the Pacific, the U.S. government gave Southern Pacific Railroad title to the odd-numbered parcels of land for ten miles on either side of the tracks running through the Southern California desert around Palm Springs…

The even-numbered parcels of land were given to the Agua Caliente, yet federal law prohibited them from leasing or selling the land to derive income from it. (Visit Palm Springs)

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