Labor and Immigration Issues in Sports

By Borgese, Anthony | The Sport Journal, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Labor and Immigration Issues in Sports


Borgese, Anthony, The Sport Journal


Introduction

American citizens are wary when newly arrived immigrants set forth on American soil with the hopes of getting a job and living the "American Dream." The American Dream, to most people, consists of living in freedom, gainful employment with a high salary, a home, a car and a family. There are many views on recently arrived immigrants and the uneducated person usually argues that these immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens. Citizens get upset because when these immigrants arrive, they have to find jobs in order to survive. Most immigrants take on menial jobs that American citizens do not want, like a bus boy, or a food delivery person. However, most citizens turn the other cheek when the immigrant is a sports star.

Aside from the talent of the sports star, there are various aspects one must consider when trying to attract a non-American citizen to join an American-based sports league or team. Some of those issues include: labor issues, legal ramifications, governmental action, cultural assimilation issues, political wrangling, and unforeseen circumstances that might arise. Labor issues address the feelings of resentment mentioned above where American citizens feel that jobs are being taken away from fellow Americans by immigrants who are willing to work for a lot less. "Workers who had previously protected their wages by agreement not to work for less than their fellow worker were faced with competition from immigrants willing to work for much less" (Carrell and Heavrin, 2004, p.4-5).

There are various legal issues to address. However, it is hard to say with certainty if all of the laws that have been enacted are any serious help to the highly paid athlete. For example, does one think that an athlete is worried about the Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs minimum wage standards, the number of hours in a work week, and overtime pay? This is very doubtful. However, there are legal issues that these foreign born athletes must address and conform. Some of those legal ramifications include immigration status, the payment of taxes and the construction of an enforceable contract. In some cases, child labor laws come into play because the superstar athlete is younger than 18.

The government is a huge factor in labor and immigration issues as well. It is up to the U.S. government to protect its citizens while promoting historical and constitutional ideals. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads, "Send us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses." Immigrants built the United States, and its society. However, the realities of a post 9/11 America must come into play. Security is a huge concern, along with immigration laws. Finally, it would also not be the United States unless economic factors were taken into consideration as well. So, antitrust and political ideologies must be addressed too.

Even after the athlete has arrived, and the political wrangling begins between the country he left and the United States, issues like assimilation come into play. Assimilation, in the context of culture and labor laws, must occur, to some degree, in order for the athlete to be successful in his endeavors. This is where the resentment from Native Americans begins. Xenophobia occurs because the traditional worker arrives with his own cultural values and the American citizens want him to embrace their own cultural values. Assimilation in this context tends to follow historical perspectives. Early immigrants assimilated and molded the concept of what it is to be American. History shows that such is the case.

Regardless, there are many variables one must take into consideration before determining whether or not athletic immigrants deserve to be treated differently. Should their pure talent be the determining factor for being allowed to pursue the American Dream through sports, or should they too be forced to go through the same procedures as any ordinary immigrant? …

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