Most brands, especially those that generate more than $100 million in annual revenue, don’t begin with a story about vomit. Yet, according to CrossFit, Inc. founder and former CEO Greg Glassman, the “eureka moment” of his now astronomically popular fitness program began just like that—with a teenage Glassman, having subjected himself to a grueling combination of barbell push presses and pull-ups, barfing on his garage floor. At the center of CrossFit’s origin story and its subsequent success is the human body at its most beautiful, its most playful, and its most grotesque. Indeed, in a previous article in Engaging Sports, Matt Crockett and Ted Butryn compellingly argue how CrossFit expresses a collective anxiety surrounding how our bodies atrophy in increasingly sedentary workplaces.
Ignorance is an activity, it isn’t simply not knowing but a form of knowing supported by the socio-political system. –Lisa Slater
It is well documented that youth sport teaches young people life lessons – about themselves, the importance of teamwork, etc. In this short reflexive essay (drawn from a larger book project), I consider another kind of education at work in youths’ encounters with sport in settler states – countries founded upon the theft of land from Indigenous peoples: it teaches young settlers, in particular, about their place in the world, their “right” to live on stolen lands.
Here, I take up selected fragments of my childhood and youth, interrogating how my encounters with sport (as both a participant and a consumer) shaped my understandings of myself and my belonging on lands claimed by Canada. I consider, in the words of social scientist Lisa Slater, some of the “dimly lit memories” that provide clues to my developing sense of self.
On March 6, 2023, video game company Electronic Arts (EA) announced the introduction of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) to their FIFA franchise. This inclusion, just like with the WNBA in EA’s NBA Live franchise, was initially celebrated as a step forward to gender equality in sport and the video game industry. However, this celebration faced pushback from many athletes about the (un)likeness of their digitized counterparts and how the game rates certain athletes’ performances. Subsequently, athletes’ public outcry drew pushback on social media, with some users urging NWSL athletes to stop making this a gender issue, arguing that it is just a technical problem because men, too, have been misrepresented in video games. In this article, we provide a different perspective on the misrepresentation of female athletes. Instead of saying “yes, the misrepresentation is about gender inequality,” or “no, it is merely a technical issue,” we want to argue, “yes, the misrepresentation may be due to technological limitations, but how these athletes are misrepresented can be a gender issue that hinders the good intention of advocating for equality.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) is a reality television show where drag queens—performers, who are typically but not always men, that dress up as glamourous and often overstated women—contend for the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar” and a $100,000 cash prize. In each episode, the queens compete in challenges that involve activities such as acting, sewing, dancing, comedy, and singing. The two queens who do the worst in the challenge that week compete in a lip-sync “smackdown” to a song chosen by RuPaul—the creator, co-producer and main judge of the show, who also is a drag queen—with the loser being eliminated from the show. The competition continues like this weekly until only four contestants remain, at which point they participate in a final challenge for the crown. The popularity of RPDR is evidenced by the fact it has spawned a variety of spin-offs in multiple countries.
For many people across the U.S., the summer of 2020 felt as if racial tension reached a fever pitch. The murder of George Floyd was met with anger, outrage, and a great deal of political banter among elected officials. Following the summer of 2020, there was a wave of discussion about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across the sporting/corporate world, along with a related “resurgence” of attention to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), with a particular focus on athletics. But please don’t call it a comeback, ‘cause HBCUs have been here for years. It is only now that the national sports media has shone a spotlight on decades of systemic financial and racial inequalities that have led to top Black students and athletes being lured away from HBCUs to predominantly white institutions (PWIs).
Sex segregated sport is increasingly untenable. As sports authorities and politicians enact flawed attempts to regulate who can and cannot participate in women’s and girls’ sports, the shaky foundations of the current system reveal themselves. Yet gender-integrated sports are perceived as unthinkable to many because they confront taken for granted beliefs about women’s inferiority to men. Sport is the only remaining institutional realm where sex segregation is permissible and, as such, it maintains and reproduces gender inequality. More than any other institution, sport showcases the cultural system of binary sex difference and makes it appear natural. Even people who, on all other fronts, believe in women’s equality to men, find themselves compelled by the argument that men are athletically superior to women. Gender expansive athletes, including trans, non-binary, and intersex athletes, threaten our social, economic, and political systems with disarray.
The increasing public recognition of direct links between sports, social issues, and politics poses a challenging question: what should we watch? If we watched the 2022 Beijing Olympics despite concerns about IOC policy and China’s human rights record and repressive surveillance, does that make us bad people? If we watch the 2022 World Cup in Qatar despite concerns about FIFA motives along with the rights of migrant workers and LGBTQ people, does that make us complicit?
Nneka Ogwumike, President of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, released a statement on August 8 asking for a resolution to the league’s ongoing travel issues. The seven-time league All-Star wrote the statement at 4 a.m. in an airport terminal.
Following a 79-76 win over the Washington Mystics the previous evening, Ogwumike and her teammates had arrived at the airport, learning at 1 a.m. that their flight back home had been rescheduled to 9 a.m. the next morning. Local hotels had limited capacity and could only accommodate about half of the team, leaving the other half stranded at the airport.
You’re probably thinking, “Duh! Of course bikes are good for the environment, we all know this!” But let’s take a minute to make an important distinction between cycling and bikes. The activity of cycling as a mode of transportation has been proven time and again to be beneficial for the environment; however, bikes are commodities made possible by the extractive industries, and they end up in the landfill alongside our diapers, toasters, and other trash. While sport sociologists who conduct environmental research have done an excellent job of highlighting the environmental cost of hosting mega-events, creating golf courses, and operating ski resorts, very few academics have asked questions about the environmental impact of our sporting goods. In fact, in 2009, in an article published in the journal Sports Technology, Subic and colleagues wrote, “The disposal of composite products in an environmentally-friendly way is one of the most daunting challenges facing the sports goods industry.” Thirteen years later, we have barely begun to scratch the surface of this issue.
In 2022, Atlantic University Sport (AUS), a conference within Canadian university sport (U SPORTS), witnessed a significant number of its men’s hockey players sign professional contracts as a result of the uncertainty in their sport caused by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Deliberations about U SPORTS as a viable pathway to professional men’s hockey are not new; however, the number of athletes entering that pipeline increased significantly throughout the pandemic. In contrast, there was little to no public discussion of women having or pursuing the same opportunities. In this article, we discuss these issues by drawing on the first author’s research on AUS hockey athlete experiences of the pandemic and the second author’s personal experience as a former U SPORTS athlete who also competed internationally.