The United States Women’s National Soccer Team will take the field on March 1 for the SheBelieves Cup. With no upcoming major international tournaments, these matches will be the team’s most publicized events of 2017. Though the team’s success has been rightly celebrated as an achievement for women in sports, there has been far less analysis about the racial and ethnic diversity of the players. Prior to the 2015 World Cup, several journalists noted the team’s overwhelming whiteness, but this discussion largely took a back seat to female empowerment narratives and Title IX salutes that followed their victory, celebratory parade, and subsequent time in the spotlight.
*Cross posted on Hockey in Society*
The media conversation surrounding sport’s ongoing “concussion crisis” took an interesting turn in early December 2016. In spite of the wide assortment of sophisticated technologies heralded as providing the next big breakthrough in protecting athletes from the effects of brain trauma, the debates around how to best diagnose a concussion revolved around a pair of human eyeballs.
Sexual violence in college sport represents an important problem that coaches and administrators must address. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the government has conducted 365 investigations of colleges for possibly mishandling reports of sexual violence since 2011. A simple search in the Chronicle’s Title IX database using the terms “football” and “sexual assault” yields around 250 matches for currently open investigations and 49 matches for cases that have been resolved. Further, roughly half of the student athletes surveyed in a recent study admitted to committing coercive sexual behaviors. Scholars have been investigating the relationship between college football and sexual violence for a long time, and the problem has not gone unnoticed by journalists, critics, and higher education administrators.
The migration of professional athletes has entered the news once more in recent weeks. In Chinese association football (soccer), quotas on the number of foreign athletes permitted on the pitch have been implemented to curb the boom in spending which has attracted players such as Carlos Tevez, Oscar, Hulk, Asamoah Gyan and Graziano Pellè to the Chinese Super League. In further high profile news, freshly inaugurated President Donald Trump’s use of executive orders to restrict the movement of people from predominantly Muslim countries could affect the movement of athletes into the North American territory.
Recently, organizers of the professional cycling event the Tour Down Under made the decision to eliminate “podium girls” and replace them with male junior riders on the men’s tour, thereby breaking from the tradition of other major professional cycling events like the Tour De France, Vuelta a Espana and Giro D’Italia. Podium girls are a highly visible component of the awards ceremony at the conclusion of bike races. The women are often impeccably dressed in matching outfits while presenting winners with prizes, flowers and kisses on the cheek. The role of podium girls and, in some instances, podium boys provides a snapshot of the ways in which traditional gender norms are reinforced in sport.
Six months ago, the world watched on in wonder as the 2016 Olympic Games opened with a colourful ceremony in Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracanã stadium. Just over two weeks of heart-stopping drama, superhuman performances, incredible feats of power and precision and one lying swimmer later, it was all over. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, closed the Rio 2016 Olympic Games claiming that “history will talk about a Rio de Janeiro before and a much better Rio de Janeiro after the Olympic Games”.
As NFL fans gear up for Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, some fans are apt to feel more included in the broadcast than others. Advertisers, as critics have long noted, tend to assume that American football fans are straight men. Many long-awaited and expensive Super Bowl ads tend to be, well, pretty sexist. While the most egregious examples of sexism in Super Bowl broadcasts and advertisements seem to be decreasing as the NFL tries to acknowledge the presence of women fans (at minimum as a new marketing demographic), many women continue to feel left out of the Super Bowl spectacle.
Each year, universities in the United States spend millions of dollars and college football coaches invest countless hours in an effort to lure top players to their schools. The recruiting process culminates with “National Signing Day,” on which high school seniors are officially able to sign National Letters of Intent that bind them to attend a particular university. As National Signing Day 2017 approaches this Wednesday (Feb. 1), millions of people will visit recruiting websites, such as rivals.com and scout.com, to follow who signs with which school. College football fans will alternately experience joy when a top prospect commits to their favorite team and devastation when a recruit goes elsewhere (this is often how I’ve felt as a fan, at least).
As Donald Trump assumes his new role as President of the United States after a bitterly divisive campaign, it is increasingly relevant to examine the ways in which politics intersect with sport. While much attention has been given to the proliferation of national anthem protests by athletes and spectators, and the modest group of NBA coaches speaking out against Trump’s rhetoric, no examination of politics and sport would be complete without discussing how this intersection is brought to bear on those who report and/or comment on sporting news for a living.
Although sports journalism has long been viewed as the “toy department” of the mass media, rarely reporting on serious topics such as political corruption or healthcare reform, sports journalists play an important role in society, working to meet the demands of a seemingly insatiable appetite for sports news. In spite of this appetite, sports journalists and sports media personalities are increasingly discovering that some of their patrons don’t want the extra side of politics that sometimes comes with the sports news entrée.
President Obama knows the importance of sports in American culture. After all, he’s married to a Princeton University sociology major. This was evident on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 16th) when the Chicago Cubs were the 86th and last championship or elite sport team to visit the Obama White House.
After acknowledging the significance of Martin Luther King Jr. and the community service and charitable activities of people in the Cubs’ organization, Obama highlighted the ways that sports can create unity amidst diversity—a connection he also mentioned in his final press conference. Choosing his words carefully, Obama made sociological observations about sports:
“. . . throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together, even when our country is divided. Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle, but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we are. It is a game and a celebration, but there is a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here. . . . And sports has a way, sometimes, of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t. And sometimes it’s just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us. And when you see this group of folks of different shades and different backgrounds, and coming from different communities and neighborhoods all across the country, and then playing as one team, and . . . celebrating each other and being joyous in that, that tells us a little something about what America is and what America can be. So it is entirely appropriate that we celebrate the Cubs today, here in this White House, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday because it helps direct us in terms of what this country has been and what it can be in the future.”