Discrimination in Sports

Discrimination is defined as unequal and unfair treatment of individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex or age which results in denial of opportunities, selection or promotion. Racism, ethnic discrimination and exclusion of migrants and minorities are the most common types of discrimination in sports, along with gender and age discrimination. Women of an ethnic origin, or those coming from ethnic minorities or migrant communities, are particularly under represented in sports and especially in managerial or executive positions in sports organizations.

In professional sports, discrimination may come from managers or owners of teams who treat unfavorably certain individuals and choose to exclude them during selection of players. An example of "employer discrimination" would be the prejudice against black Major League Baseball players in the United States until 1947. Managers and coaches are also responsible for the discriminatory practices connected with wage disparities between individuals of different race, ethnicity or minority and their white local counterparts.

Discrimination coming from inside the team, namely from some or all of the team players, is referred to as "co-worker discrimination." Such was the case with the first black Major League Baseball player, Jackie Robinson, whose selection was subject to attacks and criticisms from his colleagues who protested in front of the management.

In contrast, fans and spectators are the external sources of discrimination and such "customer prejudice" often leads to racist incidents, especially in football. In some cases referees and club officials also take part in discriminatory and racist practices.

The most common discriminatory practice is pay difference for equal work on the grounds of race or sex. During the 1950s in the United States, inexperienced white players were offered higher starting salaries and bonuses than equally qualified blacks. Inequality in hiring standards and opportunities is another type of discrimination because it subjects blacks and whites to different criteria during the selection process. In order to enter the professional league black athletes are subject to higher performance requirements than white athletes.

Additionally, in the United States black athletes experienced hiring discrimination until after World War II because they were refused entry to major professional sports league. Even after they were admitted to the league they were subject to unfair job offers and unequal employment opportunities.

"Positional segregation" is a type of discrimination which refers to under representation of people from ethnic backgrounds or different race, color or non-nationals in designated positions both in sports teams and in sports organization Evidence shows that in the United States, during the 1960s and 1970s, white pitchers and catchers in baseball as well as white quarterbacks in football significantly outnumbered black ones. They were isolated from positions requiring leadership and critical thinking because of racial prejudices against their mental abilities. Positional segregation is also closely connected with co-worker discrimination because white players may refuse to be subordinate to black leaders. According to a 2010 report of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) women from ethnic minorities have low representation in sport across the European Union. It also shows that migrants and minorities rarely hold managerial or executive positions in sports governing bodies and federations, therefore positional segregation is still present and obstructs equal participation in sports. There is also unequal access to services and sports facilities for people with ethnic or religious backgrounds especially in athletics across EU Member States.

"Customer discrimination" is the most prevalent and difficult type to eradicate or limit in comparison with co-worker and employer discrimination. Spectators often shout racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic or anti-Gypsy insults at players, athletes, coaches or referees belonging to ethnic and racial minorities. The FRA report suggests that since the 1980s, successful black football players have been a target of racist abuses coming from football fans, especially during games, in the form of verbal insults or banners and symbols. Such discriminatory behaviors often lead to racist or xenophobic violence at stadiums during and after games.

As a result the EU introduced Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law. It requires that Member States punish all acts and behaviors which lead "to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, color, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin."

Discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin is covered by the Racial Equality Directive which requires equal employment opportunities and access to public goods and services, in particular access to all kinds of sports facilities for all.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Playing with the Boys: Why Separate Is Not Equal in Sports
Eileen McDonagh; Laura Pappano.
Oxford University Press, 2008
Sport and the Color Line: Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-Century America
Patrick B. Miller; David K. Wiggins.
Routledge, 2004
Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL
N. Jeremi Duru.
Oxford University Press, 2011
Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball
Chris Lamb.
University of Nebraska Press, 2012
How Title IX and Proportionality Population Concepts Have Equalized Collegiate Women's Sports Programs with Men's Sports and Allows Spillover Gains for Women in the Workplace
Compton, Nina H.; Compton, J. Douglas.
Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
A Place on the Team: The Triumph and Tragedy of Title IX
Welch Suggs.
Princeton University Press, 2005
"Reverse" Discrimination in Sports
DeMartini, Anne L.
JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, Vol. 84, No. 2, February 2013
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Discriminating Because of "Pizzazz": Why Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation Evidences Sexual Discrimination under the Sex-Stereotyping Doctrine of Title VII
Szwalbnest, Olivia.
Texas Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 20, No. 1, Fall 2010
Saudi Olympic Athlete Hit by Judo Head Scarf Ban: Safety or Discrimination? (+Video)
Sappenfield, Mark.
The Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 2012
'Skierinas' in the Olympics: Gender Justice and Gender Politics at the Local, National and International Level over the Challenge of Women's Ski Jumping
Vertinsky, Patricia; Jette, Shannon; Hoffmann, Annette.
Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies, Vol. 18, Annual 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Discrimination against Europeans in the National Hockey League: Are Players Getting Their Fair Pay?
Bruggink, Thomas H.; Williams, Daniel.
American Economist, Vol. 53, No. 2, Fall 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Title IX and the Evolution of High School Sports
Stevenson, Betsey.
Contemporary Economic Policy, Vol. 25, No. 4, October 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Rhythm Boys of Omaha Central: High School Basketball at the '68 Racial Divide
Steve Marantz.
University of Nebraska Press, 2011
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