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There are many different aspects that define the culture of a group of people. Whether it is the food or the music or the traditions, every single person in this world lives based on the culture that surrounds them. One vital part of a culture is sports. Games are a source of revenue, income, careers and entertainment. They create bonds between people who would otherwise have nothing in common, whether fans, athletes or administrators. A chance of healthy competition between individuals of a society is the basis for the games in which a select few participate and millions watch. Especially for the population of the United States, sports are so ingrained into the culture that it would be hard to imagine a country without them.
Sports have been praised for their ability to be a melting pot (Lumpkin), an idea easily understood by the United States, which holds the same nickname. They are considered to be the "great equalizer" because more attention is given to the abilities of a person than to who they actually are (Humara). Most people believe that sports provide equal opportunities for both majorities and minorities alike (Kahn). But what if this is not true? Just as minorities are discriminated against in everyday society, there is speculation and debate that discrimination occurs in sporting institutes as well.
Economists and the general public have become more interested in the issue of discrimination against minorities in professional sports (Kahn). This topic is easily pursued and assessed considering statistics are readily available for the public, such as the gender, age, race, ethnicity and salary of players in professional sports such as baseball, football and basketball (Kahn). A growing number of sports sociologists are focusing on these inequalities and trying to discover if there is an actual problem and if so how it can be corrected (Eisen 127).
The general issue of discrimination in institutions was addressed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This article prohibits employment discrimination based on "race, color, religion, sex and national origin" (Hanna). Some people argue that there is still evidence of racial discrimination in sports today, though. Despite laws, the situation becomes sticky when it comes to racial discrimination. Is it really possible to prove that someone was not hired based on their race? In some cases, yes, but in others, no. The government cannot force people to hire certain candidates, but their ability to punish institutions for denying a position to a candidate based on race is limited (Hanna).
Within the institution of sports, there are several ways that a person can be discriminated against, such as during the hiring process, what position he or she is allocated, or how much he or she is paid in salary (Kahn). Discrimination can come from employers, coworkers, customers, and people who hold prominent positions such as sportscasters, Hall-of-Fame selection committees, sports executives and franchise owners (Leonard). Discrimination not only affects if someone is able to be a part of a team, but how they are treated while on that team.
Minorities are said to experience discrimination during the hiring process simply based on their origin and the fact that those in decision-making positions are more inclined to hire those who are similar to themselves. Since several administrators are white males, they are more likely to hire white males when given the chose between several well-qualified candidates. Those who are hired could possibly experience discrimination through the allocation of their positions; minorities may be given less-prominent leadership and critical-thinking positions such as pitchers and quarterbacks (Kahn). Salary is a difficult area to determine discrimination due to the fact that numbers may be biased, figures may be omitted, players perform different positions at different skill levels, veterans are paid more than rookies, and contracts may differ based on the number of years and the salary to be paid (Kahn). Customers may show their own form of discrimination by refusing to attend games or purchase certain merchandise, as well as racial slurs said during taunting or trash talking (Lumpkin).
The three sports that are voted as the most popular in the United States are baseball, basketball and football. These three only offer a handful of positions: 737 in Major League Baseball (MLB), 245 in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and 1400 in the National Football League (NFL) (Eisen 230). The chances of someone securing a position on a team in these institutions is miniscule, with four out of every 100,000 Caucasians, two out of every 100,000 African Americans and three out of every 100,000 Hispanics successfully doing so (Egendorf 95).
Professional sports organizations are required to submit a Racial and Gender Report Card to "assess the hiring practices of women and people of color" in each organization. These assessments ensure that minorities are justly represented in such prominent organizations by considering the composition of the players, coaches and administration. For example, if African-Americans represent twenty-four percent of the population then twenty-four percent of the positions held in a sports organization must be held by African-Americans. In the 2010 Racial and Gender Report Cards, the MLB, NBA and NFL each scored an "A" in racial hiring practices, with the MLB and NFL improving from an "A-" and the NBA dropping from an "A+" in 2009 ("CBA").
The color barrier in baseball was broken by Jackie Robinson in 1947 when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and ended segregation in professional baseball (Kahn). At the start of the 2010 season, minorities composed over forty percent of the players in the MBL, including African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans. Nine people of color (three African-Americans, five Latinos and the first Asian-American) hold the title of manager in the MLB, bringing the total managers of color to thirty percent. Thirty-two percent of coaching positions are held by minorities, and they are also well represented in administration positions as well ("CBA").
The National Basketball Association employs the highest percentage of minorities with eighty-two percent of their players being African-American, Latinos and Asian-Americans. Seventy-seven percent of those players are African-American. International players hold eighteen percent of positions on NBA teams. Michael Jordan is the only African-American majority owner of a professional sports team, but there are four African-American presidents in the NBA. Thirty percent of the head coaches are of a minority, with one American-Asian and eight African-Americans holding positions, while forty-one percent of the assistant coaches are of color ("CBA").
Administration in the National Football League hosts many positions for minorities as well, with twenty-five percent of the positions being held by African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans, but no person of color has ever held majority ownership of an NFL team. The representation of minorities is relatively high for African-Americans at sixty-seven percent, but Latinos and Asian-Americans are only represented with one and two percent, respectively. Out of all of the professional sports organizations, the NFL has the smallest percentage of international players with two percent. The coaching staff of the NFL boasts six African-American coaches and one hundred fifty seven assistant coaches of color ("CBA").
Based on the data collected from the Racial and Gender Report cards of Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League, minority representation fares well in these professional sports. Certain measures, such as this report card, have been taken to ensure that minorities are represented in sporting institutes ("CBA"). One such measure is the Rooney Rule, enacted by the NFL in 2002. The Rooney Rule was headed by Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers and states that "any NFL team seeking to hire a head coach must interview one or more minority applicants" (Hanna). This rule is most likely accountable for the fact that one fourth of NFL teams have a minority coach. Measures like these enable minorities to have an equal opportunity to be represented in the sporting organizations in the country in which they reside.
While the numbers show that discrimination is very low, if not nonexistent, in sporting organizations in the United States, they can only go so far. Discrimination is not just about how many players of color are on a sporting team, but what they had to do in order to achieve their position and how they are treated once they are a part of the team. Blacks were excluded from professional sports all together until the 1940s, after World War II (Kahn). Before this time, African-Americans began their own "black leagues" that mirrored the white-only versions of the sport. For example, Rube Foster founded the National Negro Baseball League in 1920 that "offered an alternative for black athletes excluded from the major leagues" (Eisen 138). These leagues were a chance for African-Americans and other minorities to play sports they loved, although they were far from equal to their white counterparts.
Once minority players were allowed to become a part of professional sports alongside white people, it was an uphill battle. African-Americans were striving for success in institutions that were controlled and defined by white standards (Eisen 135). They had to face the fact that they were both black and American playing "white" sports (Eisen 133). They wanted to be classified equally with their teammates, but they were defined by their color and not their ability (Eisen 138). These players strove to gain acceptance but never completely broke away from being defined by their race (Eisen 136). Wins symbolized "symbolic nails in the coffin of racial inferiority" but losses were evidence of their limits as minorities (Eisen 133). Many prominent minority athletes used their social status to help those in their race that were less fortunate while they pursued their careers (Eisen 136).
Some may argue that discrimination exists in sporting organizations in the United States today. Qualifications and abilities may be overlooked because of the race of the applicant (Egendorf 103). Since many controlling positions in both professional and collegiate sports are held by white males, minorities have less of a chance of being hired due to the fact that the employer is more likely to hire someone similar to themselves (Egendorf 99). Athletes who have played the sport should be awarded leadership positions, but more often than not whites are hired over minorities (Egendorf 98). Minority athletes, many of whom grow up in lower-income areas, are denied equal training facilities during high school and are therefore at a disadvantage compared to their white counterparts when it comes to trying out for spots on professional sports teams (Kahn).
Others do not see discrimination present in organizations such as the MLB, NBA and NFL. These people look at the statistics and notice that minorities are represented more in sports than they are in the entire population (Kahn). They also notice trends, such as the fact that the NBA is representative of more minorities than whites and that the NFL is increasingly composed of Pacific Islanders and Latinos (Egendorf 97). Since white players have more opportunities in society after retirement, they are more likely to retire earlier and therefore will not be as valuable as a minority who will play for a longer amount of time (Kahn).
Either way the situation is looked at, minorities are "fast becoming a majority" (Justice Reader 2). Since the United States have been considered a melting pot for people from so many cultures and the country offers so many more opportunities, more and more people are immigrating in search of a better life. Although America has been defined as "white", that is slowly beginning to change (Justice Reader 2). So how is justice ensured to minorities wishing to pursue a career in professional sports? The principle of distributive justice should be followed, or "rewards, rights, opportunities, services and treatments because of who that person is, what he or she has done or to which group he or she belongs" (Justice Reader 40). If an African-American athlete and a white athlete train equally for a position on a team, they should be given an equal opportunity to try out for that position. Their chances should be fair and consistent. Justice should be understood as "merit focused on what is owed a person by virtue of his or her actions, efforts and impacts" (Justice Reader 49).
In the Old Testament of the Bible, we are told that God loves justice (Isaiah 61:8). The sin of humanity creates injustice in the world, yet we are called to live just and righteous lives (Micah 6:8). A reoccurring theme in the Old Testament is the law that God calls His people to live by. When the law is followed, we are able to live in harmony with God and other humans. This law has been broken, though, creating the injustices that we are dealing with in our day and age.
One of the main focuses of the New Testament is the teachings of Jesus. In these teachings, He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). By treating our brothers and sisters in just ways, we are loving them as we love ourselves and treating them how we would want to be treated. The New Testament also tells us that we are all one body of Christ and therefore everyone is equal (Galatians 3:28). Why should some have privileges over others or be treated with injustice?
Sporting organizations are very prevalent in the culture and society of the United States. The issue of minority representation has always been a controversy in the sporting world due to the fact that a successful career in athletics leads to success away from the athletic world (Eisen 221). Not only is minority representation important since they are a large part of the culture, but minorities are given more opportunities through a career in sports. Creating a system that gives equal opportunities and treatments to both majorities and minorities is one way to solve injustices in sporting organizations. Some actions to begin this system have been started, such as the Rooney Rule in the NFL. Individuals can voice their opinions when it comes to sporting organizations, such as protesting unjust actions and treatments. One voice may not be a lot, but many voices together can make a loud sound.