In recent decades, sport has become recognized increasingly as an important site through which to examine broader society, including its history, culture and politics. Since the 1960s, sociologists and historians have been researching sport and leisure practices in a serious, scholarly way, with their attention initially drawn to the global, mass-spectator team sports of soccer, baseball, cricket, rugby, (American) football and basketball. The sports of golf, track-and-field, ice hockey and horse-racing also received scholarly attention, but the omission of tennis from early academic scrutiny was one “research gap” that caught the attention of social scientists. In 1983, historian William J. Baker, in a summary paper on the state of British sport history, described the scholarly marginalization of tennis as “one of the most baffling gaps in the entire literature.” The same was certainly true in North American sport history, yet only modest advances were made in the initial years following Baker’s astute observation.
On March 8, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team filed a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, claiming gender discrimination. This was only the most recent step in the team’s two-year old fight for more equitable resources, a fight that has inspired women athletes to push for change in other sports as well.
Professional athletes in the United States and Canada are increasingly discussing their personal struggles with mental health on commercial media outlets. Notably, National Basketball Association (NBA) star Kevin Love has received praise for his “courageous fight” to combat the stigmatization of mental illness in sports. In a March 2018 essay for The Players’ Tribune, Love detailed his bouts with panic attacks during the NBA season, writing, “Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing.” As a successful athlete, Love has accrued lucrative endorsement deals with Banana Republic and the Built with Chocolate Milk campaign. Following the public stories of other NBA players like Channing Frye and DeMar DeRozan, national media outlets framed Love’s essay as a “courageous decision to speak candidly on mental health.”
Tampon Applicator. She Got Drilled. Pussy Whipped. Slippery When Wet. Quick and Slick. The Reacharound.
Any guesses as to what I’m talking about?
Believe it or not, these are the names of rock climbing routes on public land in Canada.
In outdoor rock climbing, it is customary for the first person who successfully “sends” a route (the first ascensionist) to choose a name for it. A culture of adolescent sexual humour permeates climbing and some first ascensionists name cliffs and routes with sexist puns—this can take the form of sexual innuendo, gender stereotyping, male sexual gratification and overt gender violence. It is because of the strong tradition of first ascent naming rights in the climbing community that these route names persist with little to no confrontation.
This year marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic images of the 20th Century and the history of sport—the “Black Power” Salute by U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. With athlete activism and protests as relevant as ever, we wanted to capitalize on an opportunity to examine teammates’ reactions to Smith and Carlos’ silent protest. To do so, we collected and analyzed interviews with 59 members of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team. Our results, recently published in the Journal of Sport Management, highlight a range of perspectives and provide insight about the context and legacy of the demonstration.
One of the most interesting sociological phenomena to occur at the 2018 FIFA men’s World Cup was the diverse, multi-ethnic and migrant composition of many playing squads. Teams representing former colonizers (e.g., France and Belgium), settler-colonial nations (e.g., Australia), and former colonized territories (e.g., Algeria), all illustrated how histories and legacies of empire continue to shape patterns of citizenship, belonging, and representation in the (post)colonial sporting landscape.
On April 6, 2018, the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) were travelling to a playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks on a rural highway when their bus collided with a semi-trailer truck. Sixteen people on board were killed and 13 were injured in the crash. Ten of the fatalities were Humboldt Broncos players.
What first drew me to this story was the overwhelming wave of emotion that it captured across Canada. The crash led to a nationwide outpouring of grief and mourning for the victims and their families. This included a social media campaign with the hashtag #putyoursticksout, where thousands of Canadians placed sticks outside the front doors of their homes and businesses to pay tribute to the memory of the fallen hockey players. What followed was an official “Jersey Day”, where Canadians donned a hockey jersey to show their support with the hashtag #jerseysforhumboldt. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an official statement on the tragedy, saying:
Our national hockey family is a close one, with roots in almost every town — small and big — across Canada. Humboldt is no exception, and today the country and the entire hockey community stands with you…. We are here for you. As neighbours, as friends, and as Canadians, we grieve alongside you.
On April 6, 2018, a bus associated with the Humboldt Broncos Junior Hockey Team crashed in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, killing 16 people. The national and international response was astounding, including a (the largest ever in Canada) along with another $over just 12 days. Between consistent features in sport media outlets, shout outs from the likes of , a , and a large participatory movement of the tragedy was seemingly omnipresent.
Among the social media buzz, Québec-based writer and activist Nora Loreto commented in a that the “maleness, the youthfulness and the whiteness of the victims are, of course, playing a significant role” in this uptake. was swift and included over 5000 replies to her tweet, death threats, an attempted boycott, and multiple editorials. While were negative, the public response to Loreto’s critique – which was almost as prompt and passionate as the philanthropy toward the players and families – offers us the opportunity to think through the ways in which power and politics play out in the Twittersphere and digital spaces more broadly. The attack on Loreto provided interesting points through which we can critically unpack ideas of nationalism, rurality, and the hockey community in the context of Canadian sport.
There is a thesis that Donald Trump’s presidency has a silver lining in inadvertently laying bare the source and extent of many contemporary problems.
This can be named the Wake-Up Call Thesis. It was expressed, for example, by Baltimore Sun columnist Tricia Bishop: “This social media president has brought our faults to the surface for all to see. So now, instead of expending energy to hide them, perhaps we can start addressing them.”
Whether this thesis bears out – that is, whether the harsh realities of a Trump presidency will alert us to long-standing problems that have been largely ignored or dismissed – remains to be seen. Moreover, Trump opponents might well argue that any silver linings are still features of the storm cloud of his presidency. But, if the first step in solving a problem is admitting its existence, the Wake-Up Call Thesis is intriguing.
As researchers studying sport and the environment – and as researchers who have had our own “encounter” with Trump – the Wake-Up Call Thesis piqued our attention. Is there a silver lining in Trump’s fraught relationship with sport, and with golf in particular?
Sport has important political power in contemporary culture. When North and South Korean athletes marched under a unified flag during the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, it provided a powerful sign of cooperation between the two nations. Seeing the two Koreas marching together symbolized hope for reunification in the Korean peninsula. The 2018 Olympics, however, were only one chapter in a much longer story about the ways in which South Korea has invested substantial resources in attempts to foster a (global) Koreanness through success in sporting mega-events. In fact, cultural anthropologist Rachael Miyung Joo has argued that South Korea sees transnational sport as the most useful way to demonstrate the potential of a “global Korea.” Sport, in this respect, is used as a cultural apparatus to build a collective identity—what political scientist Benedict Anderson called an “imagined community.” Here, we aim to deconstruct South Korean sporting nationalism by analyzing how sport operates to establish and reinforce nationalism in South Korea.