Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Interracial Contact Experience during Recreational Basketball and Soccer: Korean American Males' Perspectives

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Interracial Contact Experience during Recreational Basketball and Soccer: Korean American Males' Perspectives

Article excerpt

When guys like Liu [an Asian American recreational basketball player] walk into a gym, eyes often move past them, and black and white players of similar height and build get picked before them. Then other teams start trying fancy behind-the-back passes and going for every steal, Asian Americans can tell the competition isn't taking them seriously. (Gregory, 2012, p. 45)

The history of the United States has been marked by acute racial conflict since its inception. It has undergone intense bloodshed, including lynching, riots, and hate crimes, due to racism and racial hostility (Feagin & Feagin, 2008; Jaspin, 2007; Perry, 2001). Although the enactment of civil rights legislation in 1964 was a significant turning point for improving racial relations in the U.S., racial hostility persists and threatens social harmony (Feagin, 2001; 2006). For social scientists, finding ways to eradicate or alleviate racial discord and prejudice has been the subject of decades of social science inquiry.

One of the most Influential approaches to reducing intergroup conflict was proposed by Allport (1954). He posited that the best way to alleviate conflict and hostility between different groups is to place them in contact with each other under four specific conditions: (1) equal status of participants, (2) achievement of common goals, (3) cooperative interaction, and (4) support of authorities. Since the contact hypothesis was introduced, intergroup contact has been believed to be one of the most effective strategies for improving intergroup relations (Dovidio, Gaertner, & Kawakami, 2003; Pettigrew, 1998).

Some researchers believe that intergroup contact within organized sports is particularly helpful for facilitating intergroup harmony because the context tends to satisfy the four optimal conditions (Brown, Brown, Jackson, Sellers, & Manuel, 2003; Slavin, 1985; Slavin & Madden, 1979). For example, Brown et al. (2003) argued that athletes have equal status in sport settings because they can be ranked on the basis of their skills as opposed to skin color. Athletes also pursue victory as a common goal and cooperate to achieve this end. Moreover, team coaches occupy significant authoritative roles and (often) foster an environment of inclusion.

In contrast, other researchers assert that organized athletics do not automatically fulfill the optimal conditions (Chu & Griffey, 1985; Miracle, 1981; McClendon & Eitzen, 1975; Rees & Miracle, 1984; Rees & Segal, 1984; Thirer & Wieczorek, 1984). For instance, Rees and Segal (1984) stressed that equal status among athletes is not met because a coach's assessment of athletes' performance creates a status hierarchy within a team. Athletes compete not only with opposing teams but also with teammates to acquire more playing time which ascribes a higher status to starting players than substitute players.

Although researchers have presented mixed opinions about the existence of optimal conditions in athletic team settings, extant studies contain several limitations. First, researchers have focused only on organized athletic teams and have not tested the contact hypothesis in recreational sport settingsUnlike organized athletics, participation in recreational sport is voluntary and participants are less likely to compete against their teammates to obtain more playing time. Moreover, the recreational sport context does not have coaches or authoritative figures that evaluate participants' skills. Thus, there Is the potential for greater equality among participants in recreational sports compared to organized athletics. Second, in past studies of organized sports, the existence of the four optimal conditions has not been examined from the point of view of participants. Researchers presumed the optimal conditions were present or not present. Researchers have argued that it is important to understand whether or not participants themselves believe the four optimal conditions are being met (Cohen, 1982; Cohen & Lotan, 1995; Riordan & Ruggiero, 1980). …

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