Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in British Basketball

Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in British Basketball

Article excerpt


The main purpose of this study was to investigate the ethnic and racial composition of male and female basketball players in the First Division of the English National Basketball League during the 1996/97 season. The secondary purpose was to compare the racial composition of players by playing position. Finally, a subsidiary purpose was to describe the racial and gender composition of coaches and assistant coaches in the women's National Basketball League. Data were collated from team rosters of all teams comprising the First Division of the women's and men's National Basketball League in the 1996/97 season. The ethnic and racial designation of players (N = 270) and coaches (N = 23) was established from information supplied by each club or from individual players. There were significant differences in participation rates for British male and female players; there was an over-representation of black females in the forward position, and an over-representation of white male coaches in women's teams. The present findings reflect the limited participation rates of females in general, and more specifically, the limited participation rates of women from ethnic minority groups.


Since the black protest movement and the increased prominence of black athletes in major team games in the United States of America (US), "no single issue in the sociology of American sport has generated greater interest among scholars and journalists than the dynamics of race" (Berghorn, Yetman, & Hanna, 1988, p. 107). Most of these investigations have been US-based with interest in the subject proliferating after black athletes had become disproportionately represented in the major team sports (Curtis & Loy, 1978; Eitzen & Furst, 1989; Leonard, 1978; Lavoie, 1989; Loy & McElvogue, 1970; McPherson, 1975; Smith & Leonard, 1997; Yetman & Eitzen, 1972). Yetman and Berghorn (1993) showed that in basketball, for example, approximately 80% of players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) were black; 70% of US professional boxers were black; 65% of players in the National Football League were black, and 25% of US track and field athletes were black. Recently Margolis and Piliavin (1999) reported that in the 1992 Major League Baseball season, 29.2% were African-American. These figures are an indication that there exists some differences in the representation of black people across American sports with basketball having the highest representation from the black population.

Leonard (1998) maintains that blacks are concentrated in relatively few sports such as basketball, baseball, track and field and boxing, and are poorly represented in other sports such as skating, gymnastics, sailing, horse-riding, swimming, golf, tennis, and hockey. He also reports that if all sports are considered, and the percentage of black participants in each averaged, the overall proportion of top-level black athletes would be approximate to the proportion of black people in the US population. Given that black people comprise 12% of the total population in the US (Leonard, 1998), black basketball players in the NBA were significantly over-represented in proportion to the total population. Similar trends were evident in Britain where 60.2% of the British players in the English National Basketball League during the 1993/94 season were black (Chappell, Jones, & Burden, 1996). This percentage contrasts sharply with the 1.6% of the total population accounted for by blacks in Britain (Owen, 1994).

A dimension of racial integration of significant interest to sociologists is the assignment of playing positions on the basis of racial stereotypes; a phenomenon known as "stacking". It has been suggested that in sports such as basketball, black players were more suited to certain positions (Eitzen & Tessendorf, 1978; Loy & McElvogue, 1970). This was based on stereotyping of white and black players by coaches in terms of perceived skills and ability. …

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