Week 2: Sports
This week, we are going to focus on the histories of injustices and resulting activism in sports. Today, you will learn about the history of racial inequality in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB). While these American sports leagues are not alone in perpetuating racism, their histories are instructive because of their popularity in American culture and the more recent efforts at progress in each of their respective sports. Understanding the legacies of these leagues allows us to understand better the current reality of racial inequities in American sports.
- Read this article about Pittsburgh Pirate Roberte Clemente and his stance against segregation. (8 mins – NY Times)
- Read this article to learn about the history of the Negro Leagues and the ways in which the museum represents the past and present struggles for equality. (13 mins – Kauffman Foundation)
- Read this article and inspired by Olympian Wilma Rudolph’s many victories over racial and gender discrimination. (8 mins – Timeline)
- Watch this video about the Negro Leagues and the recent inclusion of the Negro League statistics in the records of the MLB. (6 mins – PBS NewsHour)
Continuing on yesterday’s discussion of historical racism in American sports, you will now dig into the continuing realities of racism in sports today. In particular, you will watch a video that covers the last fifty years of racism in American sports, from the Olympics in 1968 through the National Football League (NFL) and Colin Kaepernick in 2016. Following this video, you will read two articles about the current and enduring legacies of racism in both the NFL and the MLB.
- Watch this video to learn about the history of Black athletes in America and the racial barriers that continue to inhibit equity in sports today. (14 mins – The New Yorker)
- Read this article about how the label of “owner” in the NFL reflects a subtle yet persistent form of racism and inequity in the American football. (9 mins – Medium)
- Watch this video about Serena Williams and the racist/sexist reactions to her success. (2 mins – Vox)
Just as with our study of reparations, the inclusion of the history of Native American racism is essential in understanding the ongoing injustices in American sports. More specifically, the use of Native American imagery (commonly as sports team mascots) is an inappropriate and offensive practice that must end. As you will learn today, the use of such imagery has an emotional and psychological effect on Indigenous Peoples, which makes the decision to remove these offensive symbols not a superficial changing of logos but rather a moral choice with real consequences.
- Watch this video about the offensiveness of using Native American imagery as sports mascots and why such mascots should no longer exist. (4 mins – PBS)
- Read this article about Charlene Teters challenging the deeply-entrenched racism of using Native images as college mascots. (5 mins – Native Sun News Today)
- Listen to this podcast about the psychological impact of Native American mascots on Indigenous children in the United States. (17 mins, NPR)
Now that we have discussed some of the histories of racism in sports, you will now explore the past and present efforts of athletes to shed light on these injustices and push for change. In sports leagues in the United States and England, players have spoken out about their experiences in their sports and advocated for equality within their leagues and in their countries as well. From Premier League Soccer to the NFL to Major League Lacrosse to the NBA, athletes across these leagues have utilized their platforms to bring to light the issues of race and racism that they see and demand true progress.
- Read this article to learn about the history of athlete activism in the United States and England. (8 mins – The Guardian)
- Watch this video about the recent push in women’s soccer for pay equity with men’s sports. (5 mins – Huffington Post)
- Watch the video of the event “Dear Black Athlete” to hear testimonials about racism in American sports and the need for athlete activism in the face of such hate and discrimination. (14 mins – The Undefeated)
- Read this article about a Native American lacrosse player who turned racist heckling into a moment to educate and bring awareness to Native history within his sport community. (5 mins – Sports Illustrated)
To close out our week on sports, you will study the intersection between racism and gender discrimination in sports. The resources today will unpack the importance of understanding intersectionality in sports and the ways in which “sex testing” evidences these compounding forms of oppression and injustice. In addition, you will read about the discrimination against transgender women and watch a video about the pay equity gap in sports.
- Read this article about intersectionality in sports and the ways in which being both Black and female increases societal barriers to visibility and equity. (4 mins – Minnesota Spokesman Recorder)
- Watch this video to learn about why “sex testing” in sports is unjust and discriminatory–particularly against women of color–and how measuring testosterone is an incomplete measure of performance capacity and emblematic of how drawing artificial lines between the sexes is biologically and morally wrong. (12 mins – Vox)
- Read this article about how transgender girls face unjust and illegal discrimination in sports and how exclusion from playing sports can have a detrimental physical and mental impact on girls and women. (4 mins – ACLU)
Prompts and action items to inspire meaningful thought and conversation and effect change.
- What was the most challenging thing you learned this week?
- Why has sports become a medium for social justice activism? In what ways is the world of sports a microcosm of society at large?
- Ensure that your local schools or organizations do not have Native American imagery as a sports mascot and allows all genders to participate equally in sports.