The author highlights the different social struggles that have taken place in the United States. Zirin highlights the purpose of professional and amateur sports in the depiction of the greater issues that are present in commercialism, politics and bias. It is evident that there is an existence of an Athletic Industrial Complex that discriminates against some of the athletes that are competent due to racial issues. The detailed account that is offered in the text presents on of the most controversial aspects currently. The author offers a wake-up call in reference to the existing policies and behaviors that are unjust against different minority communities and the athletes themselves. While politics and resistance have influenced the sports world, it is important for athletes in the international and national scene to protest and air their views on race relations in the sports world without fear.
As much as people try to act as if racism is no longer a big issue, it is evident that racism is at a very high level now. Unlike in the past where racism was freely expressed, the world now is dealing with silent racists. Racists comments are said behind closed doors and in the real life, these people pretend that they are okay with people of different races. Racism is not a challenge that only African Americans face, other people such as Asians, Indians and Hispanic people also go through a lot of these similar discriminations. The sports industry represents an increasing profitability as a result of the popularity of professional sports in different parts of the world. However, the author notes that the profitability that has been obtained from professional sports has been employed in benefitting the financial and politically elite individuals in the society. Zirin notes that athletes are not given the recognition and compensation that they deserve “. . . eating free press box sushi while the rest of us are paying $9.00 for a hotdog” (Zirin, Dave 306).
When it comes to sport, many people think of it as a safe haven. A place where all the ill of the world does not reach. Needless to say, this is just but a misconception. The actions of the societies in regards to race is reflected even in the sports world. It is alarming to discover that racism acts in the United States are increasing especially in sports. According to research sports racism, acts are seen to have tripled in 2016 compared with the number of cases in 2015. This is troubling news because it means that even as the society grows some of the negativity in the society grows with it. Mohammed Ali was observed to employ his social conscience to resist war and fight the oppression of African Americans in the 1960s. Consequently, his actions encouraged different athletes to participate in opposing different sports and inspire athletes to oppose and challenge the present power brokers that are present in sports and society. After Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay to Mohammed Ali, he represented an embodiment of expression through presenting his ideas and opinions in the public eye. Moreover, the action represented protest against oppression and control by the financial and politically elite individuals in the professional sports industry.
Mohammed Ali refused to go to war in Vietnam when he was called by the military in the 1960s. This brought about a lot of backlash from people who thought that the boxers’ decision was not profound. Ali claimed that he had no interest in killing Vietnamese people on behalf of a country that still oppressed his people. He claimed that if the fight would give freedom to all the African Americans in oppression then he would have no trouble fighting. Ali also said that joining the war went against his beliefs and he was not willing to sell his soul or lose his life for a course that he did not believe in. For Ali, the life that people of color were living was already similar to life in prison and he felt that he had nothing else to lose because he was already living in a society prison. Ali was jailed for five years and stripped off all of his championship titles. This only made him more beloved by the society and even after his release, Ali managed to get back his status and expanded his influence fighting for equality (Escobar, Natalie). Ali’s fight was not just for sports but for racism in the society in general and it revolutionized the human rights awareness in the world of athletics (Lartey, Jamiles). His actions motivated other athletes such as Tommie Smith and John Carlos to engage in protests due to the confidence he had demonstrated in protesting against racial issues and war in the international setting.
Zirin elaborates that some individuals have neglected sports despite having the required talent to prosper in the different athletic fields. Moreover, numerous press reporters and editors have failed to cover the different incidents that show discrimination against players from their high school years. The mass media seems to pass the message of “grow up” and “deal with it” to the different sports athletes that have been oppressed in the professional sports industry. Professional athletes command a significant following due to their influence and admiration in different parts of the world. As Zirin notes “. . . the very passion we invest in sports can transform it from a kind of mindless escape into a site of resistance. It can become an arena where the ideas of our society are not only presented but also challenged” (Zirin, Dave xxiii) Consequently, it is important for professional athletes to utilize the world stage to air their grievances against the financial and political elite. Race relations present a pressing issue in the contemporary world, which has been disregarded leading to the oppression of minority races. The involvement of professional athletes in offering a critique against race relations is bound to improve the racial relations not only in professional athletics but also in the society.
Racism can be seen in both team sports such as soccer and individual sports such as racing or boxing. When some of the racism in sports is caught on by the media, rage spreads through the society with people condemning the acts while others secretly condone it. The fact is that the sport itself is never the cause of the racism. The participants in sports such as the players, managers, sponsors and even fans are responsible for bringing racism into sports (Marlin, Kynan). However, no sport can survive without all these parties, hence people need to realize that the sport only works if the society comes together. Putting differences asides means working a team which means better goals are achieved. Because sports are a part of the society, this small unit reflects on the whole society at large.
Racism has had a lot of negative impacts on society. Even though most people do not see it, fighting against each other has never been any good. Most team sports should not condone any racism from any parties. Being a team means that the success of the unit depends on every single person in the team. By discriminating other parties, the teams risk losing their stand hence becoming a weaker unit. Weak units do not win games, teams with fighting members do not get victory (Eke, Onyedikachi). Losing games also means losing a lot of financial income. Teams with racist players also risk the loss of sponsors and funding from outside. Discriminations in sports only tear down the society and make it hard for people to grow.
As racism continues to become an epidemic in today’s world, more and more sportsmen and women are rising up to fight against it. More media attention is also giving a platform for those willing to speak out against the discrimination in hopes that the world would change for better. The sports world started from a point where African Americans and other races were not allowed to participate in sports. As the world progressed this changed but even though they had a chance to get in the field, they still did not get the same treatment as white players. In today’s world, the players have to deal with backlash from fans from time to time. Some players have even gone as far as fighting with each other or fighting with fans. Other players, on the other hand, have taken a more serious stand and boycotted games. As racism in sports continues to rise the fight for equality should also get stronger to ensure that the sporting world is a racism free society.
- Eke, Onyedikachi. “Final: Effects of Racism on Sports | Fall 2016 – Matthew Unangst | Washington State University.” History.Libraries.Wsu.Edu, 2017, https://history.libraries.wsu.edu/fall2016-unangst/2016/12/13/final-effects-of-racism-on-sports/.
- Escobar, Natalie. “The Ties That Bind Muhammad Ali To the NFL Protests.” Smithsonian, 2017, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/connections-between-muhammad-ali-and-nfl-protests-180965310/.
- Lartey, Jamiles. “The ‘Ali Summit’: A Turning Point in Sports’ Fight Against Injustice.” The Guardian, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/23/colin-kaepernick-muhammad-ali-summit-sports-activism.
- Marlin, Kynan. “Racism Still Exists in The World of Sports.” Statepress.Com, 2017, http://www.statepress.com/article/2017/03/spopinion-racism-is-still-alive-in-sports-fans-athletes-fight.
- Zirin, Dave. What’s My Name, Fool?. Richmond, BC, Readhowyouwant.Com Ltd, 2011,.