Sport unites millions of people of all ages, sexes, colours, genders, nationalities and religions and, therefore, plays an important role to unite the society. Sport activities from local to international level, including leisure as well as competitive sport, can support the integration of migrants and representatives of minorities into society as a whole. Sport events could be a perfect platform to develop inclusion, accept the diversity and mutual respect. The educational charitable organization “Show racism the red card” helps to integrate ethnic minorities in sport and, the same time, to combat racism, exclusion, and discrimination.
Although people of ethnic and racial minorities make a career in sports and often succeed in this sphere (for example, footballer Laurie Cunningham, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and jumper Ashia Hansen ), athletes of non-white origin are still underrepresented in the majority of sports because of racism, discrimination, cultural and economic reasons.
The concept of “race” has a long history and, according to Goldberg, it appeared in European languages in the 15th century. Armstrong and Ng define race as “the social construction, but the act and effect of this construction have produced actual divisions between people”.Therefore, the concept of race is used more often in a cultural sense meaning people’s physical and mental characteristics. Race defines appearance and physiognomy of people rather than their origin. There are not many examples of this distinction that just identify people by skin colour, hair colour, and facial features. Guillaumin declares that since the time this concept appeared, it was changed several times. However, nowadays, for the first time, humanity tries to destroy this concept. The attempt to reject it, Guillaumin compares with the break with “one of the most sacred cows of our time”.
There is a popular stereotype in athletics that our genes and partially our cultural background dictate the excellence of an athlete. This consideration of advantage and of course disadvantage in sport is inevitably reduced to “harmless” racial variations. This subjection, however, suggests a more sinister connotation: “race” logic, racial discourse, and racialization.
Defining "Black" and "Asian"
It is quite problematic to distinguish “black” and “Asian” people as if they comprise definite ethnic groups with their own cultural features, relationships, and traditions. It is problematic to identify people as belonging to a particular race because, according to physical characteristics, there are not many “pure races”. Black people may belong to different ethnic groups and can be of different cultural background. Asian people are not a homogeneous group either. They originate from various parts of the Indian subcontinent, and some from Africa.
The Notion of "Whiteness"
In sports, some notions and ideas could be dominant while others are marginalized; blackness is controversial and always the object of “race” debates while the whiteness has the privilege to remain invisible. Word combinations like “black” crime, black sportsmen and
sportswomen can often be met in mass media while their “white” equivalents remain unremarked. Sports newspapers never write: “the white football player David Beckham….” In some kinds of sports, there are athletes who have become noticeable because of their racialized persona where white participants were left unnoticed. Examples of such sportsmen of colour appear in golf with Tiger Woods and Nanc?? Lopez, Formula One racing has Lewis Hamilton and tennis has Serena and Venus Williams.
Despite all the exceptional achievements of black sportspeople such as winning of the Formula One Championship by Lewis Hamilton, it seems that the society still has some problems with accepting them. Lewis Hamilton is British driver of black origin who won the Formula One Championship twice, has not become a favourite sportsman of the British. He was not chosen the BBC sports personality of the year and one of the reasons given by the public is that “he is not British enough”. But, after all, if coloured sportsmen would not get the acceptance of the public, it will say more about the society than about them.
Women in Sports
When people are talking about women in sports, as a rule, they tend to see the generalized image of all women. Moreover, sporting femininity is almost always associated with of bourgeois, heterosexual, Western, and white women. Sometimes this image may be substituted by black or Asian women who have become totally assimilated and westernized. Otherwise, black women are called “black,” and Asian women are referred to as “Asian.” The white stereotype lies in the fact that black and Asian women are treated as a deviation from the “norm” in certain ways. Nowadays, people tend to discuss problems “of being black” or the “problems of being Asian,” but it does not usually occur to them that “problems of gender and relations between gender and ethnicity” are more vital, and things should be viewed at this angle. There is a stereotype that black women are “more suitable” for sports by nature, and Asian women are more influenced by negative attitudes that can explain low participation rates. While the achievements of white women in sports are thought to be the result of hard training and self-sacrifice, a great number of successful black sportswomen are assumed to be genetically predisposed to be successful athletes. This prejudice may be the reason of encouraging black girls to take part in school sports rather than to be involved in intellectual work. Black sportswomen usually predominate in athletics and take part in a number of certain team sports, such as volleyball and basketball. To compare, there are not many black sportswomen who take part in swimming and tennis, that are two of the most popular sports among women. Nonetheless, the fact that a few black sportswomen succeeded in a small range of sports lead to the wrong conclusion that sports provide equal opportunities for all women. In fact, in multiracial countries, for example, the UK and the United States, a small number of women from ethnic minority groups achieve success in sports. Often many conditions like ethnicity and class make it impossible to prepare and participate in sports contests. Measures should be taken to allow women of different classes and ethnicities build their sports career. Moreover, racism has deep sociological roots in British and other societies, and it has a continual and mostly negative effect on the participation of women from ethnic minorities.
The "One Drop" Rule
The “one drop” rule that is also called a rule of hypodescent, states that if someone is even partially black African and look more black than white this person is considered to be 100% black African According to Hemings, one drop of African blood makes a person totally black because if one’s appearance, in some way, resembles the appearance of African person, he or she will be considered black. For centuries of slavery and class inequality, the world has been divided into black people and white people. To be considered as white, a person should have a pure white European appearance. People of colour see the differences between light-skinned and dark-skinned black people, but the majority of white people do not. To most white people, black is black. This is what the “one drop” rule declares.
According to “one drop” rule, a famous golf player, Tiger Woods, should be considered black. But there are no more pure races; Tiger Woods, for example, is 25% African American, 25% Thai, 25% Chinese, and 25% Native American and White European. His mother is of Thai, Chinese and Dutch origin and father is of Native American and African American ancestry. Therefore, he is Asian, as well as black, but “one drop” rule is not based on one’s family tree, it is based mostly on one’s appearance.
Racial Prejudices in Sport
There are a lot of innocent and not so innocent racial prejudices and stereotypes that exist in sport. For example, there exists an opinion that black sports people become successful track athletes, boxers and basketball players. Correspondingly, white sportsmen are thought to be more likely to succeed in swimming, tennis and middle-distance running. When a “black” golf player, Tiger Woods, achieved success for the first time, the attention of media was all pointed at him. This example shows how a sportsman of mixed origin who was considered by a public media as “black” became successful in a predominantly “white” kind of sport.
Race and Ethnicity
Race and ethnicity could be thought of as social constructions and these concepts are very important for sociological studying of sport. Social differentiation is an essential part of every society. Modern life has created distinctive features of inequality, and because of the increased ethnic diversity, race and ethnicity are among these features. Intolerance of cultural difference and racism remain a concern for many communities across the UK, USA and Europe because people from ethnic minorities may experience discrimination almost everywhere. If governments are striving for transcultural or intercultural consensus, then sport has an important role to play in this social and cultural transformation by uniting sport supporters and athletes. Race and ethnicity become powerful signs of discrimination and distinction.
There is an opinion that white sportsmen have greater mental abilities than black sportsmen do. This opinion is explained by the fact that white football players often tend to be found in central positions on the field and there is an emphasis that they have more organizational skills than black footballers do. In such a case, the over-representation of black sportsmen in boxing is due to the lower level of thinking and education necessary for success in boxing. In terms of dangerous nature of sport, there is an obvious benefit when the person on the ring does not think too much beyond the contest’s objective.
Natural characteristics and mental issues support the argument that short sport events require a different approach from long-distance events. For sprinting events, a sportsman is required to have natural physical strength and the ability to become less tense and put all thoughts aside (those who are oppressed by thoughts become stressed and are not able to relax). Long-distance runners are accepted to require a particular way of thinking that lies in an ability to plan a “good” or “strategic” race. In an everyday life, people use terms such as “Black”, “White” and “Asian” by habit. These terms, in fact, are useless because they are not able to define precisely a particular racial group – the notion of race is a cultural construction. When someone is identified as a “black sportsman”, it merely determines the tone of skin and facial features of someone who is involved in sports activity. It does not specify by itself any potential of an individual to succeed in some kind of sport. Skin colour has become a kind of measure (mostly for “white people”), that explains the athletic potential.
Representing Ethnic and Racial Minorities in Sport
Black sportsmen have achieved impressive results in certain kinds of sports, such as football (as around a quarter of successive players in the English Leagues are men of colour), athletics (more than half the British Team are black), and boxing (90% of world champions are considered to be black). This has led to an opinion that kinds of sport that require strength and power give opportunities for black sportsmen to show their “natural” sporting qualities. Thus, this racist supposition is not proved by facts. In NFL 68% of players are African Americans. In NBA in 2015, more than 74% of players were black, 23% were white and 1,8% were from Latino origin and 1,2% were Asian.
Asian people are underrepresented in sports at the professional level. This can be explained by their physical characteristics, for example, physical size, and non-aggressiveness or some cultural features (Asian parents may not consider sport to be a reliable carrier, even if their child is a talented sportsman). The absence of role model of sportsmen for Asian youth may also be a significant reason of underrepresentation of Asian people in sport.
In sport, as a whole, 89% of people who take part are white, and 11% from non-white origins (88% of the English people are from the white origin). However, this percentage is different in specific sports. For example, in basketball and cricket, more than 30% are from non-white origins; badminton and football also have a greater than average number of players of non-white origin. However, there is a small number of non-white people among cyclists and golfers.
There is not much information available on the representation of ethnic minorities in different kinds of sport. On the basis of given information, it seems that many spheres of sport, except men’s football and, some kinds of athletics, are marked by an underrepresentation of ethnic minorities. Sportsmen of colour are underrepresented, as well as fans, and most notably, non-white people on leadership positions or sports journalists. Mostly, those kinds of sport that are considered to be “national sports” can be seen as “problem sports” because of almost total absence of ethnic minorities in them. Specifically, ethnic minority girls and women are the most underrepresented group.
The issue of equity in sport is also of paramount importance. The goal is to create a society, where all cultural and religious groups are treated equitably. The first thing to do is to present an image of a society in which no culture is dominant.
The sports system conveys thoughts that can be dated back to the nineteenth century - and many of its values and traditions are unfitting to a contemporary, multiracial society. British way of thinking and sports policies are parts of “white” culture that advocate individualism and promote a false sense of free will. That is why, the problem of racism in sports is not usually discussed openly. Black or Asian people rarely hold powerful decision-making positions in sports and are not able to directly influence policies and cause a re-examination of existing values and traditions in sport. Women are especially underrepresented in sports administration. However, those few women who hold managerial positions in sport reflect the model of typical sportswoman: white, middleclass, and heterosexual.
Sport, in general, performs the function of a bridge or a gap in relations between races that give our society a feeling of unification between different ethnic groups. This gap has become very fragile during past years, but the humanity is now on its way, it is moving in the right direction. One of the best consequences of sport activity for the society is a sense of unity. For example, people that cannot coexist in ordinary life such as fascists and anarchists could be supporters of the same football team. Discrimination and prejudice can still be met everywhere, but, nowadays, society pays more attention to moral values of people, than just the tone of their skin.