Race Issues within Intercollegiate Athletics: African-American versus White Athlete's Perceptions of Athletics and Academic and Community Social Climate

By Stahura, Kurt A.; Brown, Chris et al. | Journal of Contemporary Athletics, July 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Race Issues within Intercollegiate Athletics: African-American versus White Athlete's Perceptions of Athletics and Academic and Community Social Climate


Stahura, Kurt A., Brown, Chris, Choi, Danny, Journal of Contemporary Athletics


INTRODUCTION

Race Issues Within Intercollegiate Athletics: African-American Versus White Athlete's Perceptions of Athletics, Academic and Community Social Climate.

Political and historical factors directly influence the social construction of the sport culture. Media coverage does not encourage the audience to view sports as anything more than pure entertainment. Since sporting events are valued by fans for their entertainment, Americans do not view the sports system or the values and attitudes of the individuals that make up the sport realm as a subculture of American society. Fans and even participants do not realize the extent to which the decision-making bodies have molded the culture of sport currently present in the United States (Sage, 2000). "Americans tend to cherish the illusion that sports are just fun and games, and those who have held the power and influence in sports have vigorously fought any attempt to change this image" (Sage, 2000, p. 1).

Fans are consequently blinded from the reality of modern sport as a powerful social force. Sport is advertised by those in power as untainted and unaffected by social problems that plague the larger society. However, athletic programs are not immune to social, political, and economic influence. The culture of sport must be understood as interrelated within societal and social contexts. Critical issues that inhabit American society can be seen in the realm of American sport when it is viewed more deeply as a cultural practice as opposed to exclusively as an entertainment venue. Perhaps sports mirrors society and, when viewed as a microcosm of the American social structure, the structural racism present in the larger society can also be seen at this level.

To understand student athlete's perceptions of the social climate on campus, within the community and on the team, it is important to operationalize the term "social climate." The social climate within an educational setting is shaped by the relationships between the instructors and the students and among the students themselves. The quality, quantity and directions of these relationships further affect students' self-concept, motivation and performance (Fraser, 1986). Other concepts relevant for the study of social climate in academic environments are self-efficacy, self-concept, trust, goal structures and values, cooperation and competition, participation and exclusion, hierarchy and democracy (Allodi, 2010).

Today there are more opportunities for African-American student-athletes, coaches, and administrators within the hierarchical structure of college sports. However, notions of Black athletic superiority and intellectual inferiority permeate the minds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans citizens (Harrison & Lawrence, 2004). This discrimination is evident in the academic, economic and employment settings. African Americans, more specifically African American men, suffer from long-lasting stress from living in a racist and oppressive society. Institutional racism in college athletics stems from the influence of the history of racism throughout the American experience. Since racism in college athletics is a result of racism within the larger society that surrounds it, cultural understanding must begin with the location of racism in American society.

In a study by Singer (2005), Black student athletes reported that manifestations of racism occurred in terms of 1) not being offered major decision-making roles or not being placed in leadership roles in collegiate and professionals sports; 2) needing to excel more than white counterparts to gain such positions off the field; and 3) sometimes being treated differently than their white counterparts. The exclusion from mainstream activities, access to academic networks, financial support, and isolation, are several themes that continue to be problematic for African-American students (Love, Trammell & Cartner, 2010). In an effort to address these trends, scholars have examined factors related to race issues and social climate at colleges and universities for black male student athletes' (Cureton, 2003; Cooper, 2012; Singer, 2005; Singer; 2009). …

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