Savage Race participants struggle through an obstacle named “Sawtooth.” (Photo by Mac Stone / Daily Burn)

The racist and historically problematic myth of the “savage” lives on within contemporary North American discourse. A prominent example of this is found in the rising popularity of adventure races, such as Savage Race, Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash, in which sporting companies reproduce traditional notions of masculinity and comradery through environmental and obstacle conquest. In at least one of the events, a historically racist term like “savage” is frequently employed to sell customers an opportunity to push themselves to their physical, mental, and emotional limits by running a purposefully rural, physically-taxing course filled with predesigned obstacles and stressful natural environments (running through mud and near dangerous elements like fire and barbed wire, for example). It is symptomatic of the enduring ubiquity of racial ideals within American society that, through a company like Savage Race, customers pay for a chance to be physically active, have fun and “get savage.”

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The football programs at Baylor University and the University of Oklahoma made headlines in 2016 due to criminal behavior by team members. (Photo by Alonzo Adams/AP)

As we welcome another college football season, players, coaches, and fans are busy breaking down rosters, reviewing schedules and predicting which four teams will remain in the hunt for a national championship on New Year’s Day.

The arrival of a new season is an especially welcomed sight for the Big 12 Conference, with the 2016 season being such a forgettable one. Not only was the conference left out of the College Football Playoff, but two of their featured programs dealt with major issues and violations relating to the criminal behavior of their student-athletes. Baylor University fired head coach Art Briles and several high level university administrators in the wake of a sexual assault scandal involving numerous football players, and the University of Oklahoma had two players in Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook that garnered national attention for their off-field issues. A video of Mixon striking a woman in 2014 was released, and it was reported that Westbrook had twice been arrested on domestic violence charges.

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Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata traveled to Mumbai, India this summer as he launched the Common Goal project, an initiative in which players pledge 1% of their salaries to a fund that supports football charaties around the world. (Photo by Jamie Spencer)

Prior to the 2017-18 season, Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata announced that he would be donating one percent of his salary to a collective fund managed by Streetfootballworld (SFW) as part of their recently launched #Commongoal movement. The initial plan for #Commongoal is to recruit a roster of 11 footballers willing to match Mata’s generosity by donating a portion of their salary to the collective fund that will then go toward supporting the more than 100 organizations that are part of SFW’s global network. Mats Hummels from Bayern Munich later announced that he would be the second player to join #Commongoal. The response to these announcements has been mostly positive with some cynical responses about a millionaire only donating one percent of his salary. However, the announcement of #Commongoal also provides an opportunity to examine what organizations like SFW hope to accomplish.

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Following a season of protest and activism, Colin Kaepernick has been frequently passed over by teams in need of a quarterback.
Following a season of protest and activism, Colin Kaepernick has been frequently passed over by teams looking to sign a quarterback. (Photo by Gerry Melendez/ESPN)

With NFL training camps well underway, teams looking to sign a quarterback have passed over Colin Kaepernick time and time again. It appears he may be serving his ultimate punishment following a year of protest and activism. Amid those who defend NFL decision-makers as simply making choices for “football reasons,” there has also been a chorus of critics who see (black) players as responsible for his remaining on the sidelines.

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On July 16, 2017, Roger Federer became the oldest man to win a Wimbledon singles title in the “open era,” which dates from 1968 onwards. Notably, Wimbledon played a key role in ushering in “open tennis,” essentially allowing amateurs and professionals to compete in the same tournaments. (Photo from NBC News)

Last Sunday, after winning his record eighth title just three weeks shy of his 36th birthday, Roger Federer became the oldest male Wimbledon singles champion of the “open era”. The designation “open era”, dating from 1968 onwards, denotes the most profound and marked structural shift in the history of tennis. Given that this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the last amateur Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships and the first professional tournament held at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), it is worth looking back on Wimbledon’s role in the development of “open tennis”.

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Photo from Sports Politicus USA.

There is a paradox to the idea of sport in prisons—namely, that institutions whose primary purpose is the restriction of human movement are home to vibrant physical cultures and diverse forms of physical activity. Despite the numerous sociological questions that arise from this peculiar phenomenon, to say nothing of widely-circulated pop culture tropes of tattooed and muscular (and usually male) convicts, there is relatively little research on the topic within the sociology of sport. Here, I reflect on a project I conducted on prison sport and physical culture in Canadian federal prisons, and discuss the significance of prison sport to the broader sociological study of sport.

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“We are on the map and we’re staying on the map, not just in sports, but in everything”. This quote from American-Jewish basketball player Tal Brody is not only one of the most well-known quotes in Israel’s sports history, but also one of the most famous in Israeli culture overall.

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Kevin Durant faced criticism for his lack of “loyalty” when he decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors prior to the 2016-17 NBA season. (Photo from NBA.com)

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
– Karl Marx, The Manifesto of the Communist Party

Last year, Reggie Miller criticized Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors in order to win a championship. While many others made similar critiques, I find that Miller reveals a broader issue in professional sports. Miller expresses this point through the article’s title, “Kevin Durant Traded a Sacred Legacy for Cheap Jewelry.” Framing his critique through the sacred (legacy) and the profane (cheap jewelry) reveals what I see as two inter-twined, mutually-dependent yet contradictory elements that structure professional sports.

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Image from Barbies and Robots.

For many women, bodybuilding (i.e., sculpting one’s body through rigorous diet and training to develop muscle size) is an empowering activity. Heavy weightlifting increases muscular strength and size, and enhances one’s physical capacity. For women, bodybuilding can be empowering because a muscular female body defies our traditional understanding of a feminine body as a one that is small, weak, fragile, and limited. A female bodybuilder – someone who has, through years of strength training, gained a considerable amount of visible muscularity – challenges these stereotypes of femininity, forcing us to critically examine and reconsider our taken-for-granted knowledge of the female physique and its capabilities. Bodybuilding allows women to push against and break free from these societal boundaries, providing a space for empowerment.

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Mount Gariwang, formerly a protected conservation area, is being developed into a skiing venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo by Liv Yoon.

PyeongChang is a small county in the northeastern province of Gangwon, South Korea, with a population of approximately 43,000. This mountainous region, known for its quaint charm and small-scale agriculture-based economy, will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, and as a result, joins a long list of host-cities that have witnessed turmoil due to sport mega-events. An issue surrounding the PyeongChang Games that has gained some attention – but certainly not enough – is the destruction of Mount Gariwang, a former Class 1 Protected Area for Forest Genetic Resource Conservation, now transformed into the official alpine skiing venue. Because this area had long been protected from any kind of development, public or private, a “Special Act” had to be legislated to pave way for the development.

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