Racism in sport

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Racism in sports happens. This is seen this in the NFL and other modern sports.[1] Sport can raise awareness that adheres to the nation of fair play.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) released a report[2] claiming that racial abuse and vilification is commonplace in Australian sport.[3]

Controversial incidents

The following incorporates of racism in sports all were considered controversial.

1936 Summer Olympics

From the start of the 1936 Olympics, there was an opposition to the Olympic Games being held in Germany; "neither Americans nor the representatives of other countries can take part in the Games in Nazi Germany without at least acquiescing in the contempt of the Nazis for fair play and their sordid exploitation of the Games." Despite this resentment, the Olympic Games continued.[4]

The bidding for the 1936 Olympic Games was the first to be contested by IOC members, who cast their votes for their favorite host city. The vote occurred in 1931 during the Weimar Republic era, before Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933. By allowing only members of the "Aryan race" to compete for Nazi-controlled Germany, Hitler further promoted his ideological belief of racial supremacy.

Other nations debated boycotting, with Spain and the Soviet Union going through with a full boycott. The Amateur Athletic Union led newspaper editors and anti-Nazi groups to protest against American participation, contesting that racial discrimination was a violation of Olympic rules and creed and that participation in the Games was tantamount to support for the Third Reich. Most African-American newspapers supported participation in the Olympics. The Philadelphia Tribune and the Chicago Defender both agreed that black victories would undermine Nazi views of Aryan supremacy and spark renewed African-American pride. American Jewish organizations, meanwhile, largely opposed the Olympics. The American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee staged rallies and supported the boycott of German goods to show their disdain for American participation. The 1936 Summer Olympics ultimately boasted the largest number of participating nations of any Olympics to that point. However, some individual athletes, including Jewish Americans Milton Green and Norman Cahners, chose to boycott the Games.

During these Olympics, Margaret Bergmann Lambert was excluded in the 1936 German Olympic team because she was Jewish.[5] She had to withhold her anger and frustration in regard to Hitler's unequal and unfair ruling in Germany. Even though Lambert had equaled the German national record in the high jump a month before the Olympic Games, she was denied the opportunity to participate in the games.[5] In addition, the Nazi Press described African Americans as "black auxiliaries" and eventually called for their exclusion from the Olympics. Also, Hitler's Nazis created rules and restrictions within Germany that prohibited Jews from being able to use local facilities and playgrounds for appropriate training, occurring as early as March 1933. This gave Jews and other "non Aryan" people unequal training methods.[4]

Great achievements by African Americans, such as Jesse Owens, challenged the "Aryan" ideal, or a Caucasian person without Jewish descent. Owens won four gold medals: one in 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4x100 meter relay. His achievements conveyed both the notions of "interracial education" as well as "muscular assimilation" to help promote sportsmanship towards African-Americans on and off the Olympic stage. However, these achievements of interracial awareness and racial cohesion also solidified traditional social hierarchies through the guise of "scientific" discoveries in physiology and anatomy.[4]

This racism was not limited to Germans, as Americans observed racism as well. American Track and Field coach Dean Cromwell stated "It was not long ago that his [the black athlete's] ability to sprint and jump was a life-and-death matter to him in the jungle. His muscles are pliable, and his easy-going disposition is a valuable aid to the mental and physical relaxation that a runner and jumper must have." These thoughts percolated throughout the Olympics, and made discrimination commonplace in many aspects of the games.[4]

  • American sprinters Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman were pulled from the 4 × 100 relay team the day before the competition, leading to speculation that U.S. Olympic committee did not want to add to the embarrassment of Hitler by having two Jews win gold medals.
  • Hitler called for a rematch of the quarterfinals match to discount Peru's 4–2 win over Austria. The Peruvian national Olympic team refused to play the match again and withdrew from the games.
  • During the games, the Nazis demoted Captain Wolfgang Fürstner, the half-Jewish commandant of the Olympic Village, and replaced him with Werner von Gilsa. After the games' conclusion, Fürstner, a career officer, committed suicide when he learned that the Nuremberg Laws classified him as a Jew, and, as such, he was to be expelled from the Wehrmacht.

Negro Leagues and Jackie Robinson

As sports progressed, race relations progressed at a comparable rate. In baseball for instance, African Americans were barred from participation in the National Association of Baseball Players because of regional prejudice and unofficial color bans dating back to the 1890s.[6] Due to this segregation, blacks worked together to create the Negro Leagues. These leagues comprised mostly all African-American teams. As a whole, the Negro Leagues overtime became one of the largest and most successful enterprises run by African Americans. Their birth and resilient growth stood as a testament to the determination and drive of African-Americans to battle the imposing racial segregation and social disadvantage.[6] After years of playing in an association for blacks, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by participating in the Dodgers' organization. His excellence at this level opened the gates for other African Americans to be accepted into a less segregated Major League Baseball, and in 1949 the Negro Leagues disbanded. Soon after Robinson's inclusion into organized baseball, Roy Campanella, Joe Black, Don Newcombe, and Larry Doby all joined Robinson as significant black players that helped foil the racial divide. By 1952, 150 black players were in organized baseball.[6]

Association football

Association football has a history of racism events. Some players may be targeted because of their association with an opposing team. However, there have been instances of individuals being targeted by their own fans.[7][8][9]

Some policies aimed at reducing racism in association football include Football Against Racism in Europe, Show Racism The Red Card, and Rasismul strică fotbalul in Romania; not all passed.

Australian football

Australian Football has a history of racism, including some significant events, however the Australian Football League's racial vilification code has gone some way to reducing racism in the sport.



Only a few minority players, such as Tiger Woods, have dominated professional golf. Woods is of African American and Asian-American descent. With 83 percent of golf participants being white, a white majority dominates golf.[10] Tiger Woods, a multiracial individual, has the second most major wins of any individual in golf's history with 14.[11] His excellence was well recognized as he became one of the most marketable players in the world. Woods helped tear down the imposing racial discrepancies in golf by not only competing with golf's current best, but also by challenging other accomplished golfers for being the best of all time. In 1997, Woods became the first African-American to win a Men's major golf championship at just 21 years of age. After winning the 1997 Masters Tournament, Woods faced ridicule from Fuzzy Zoeller, who won this championship in 1979. Zoeller responded to Woods' win by stating "That little boy is driving well and he's putting well. He's doing everything it takes to win. So you know what you guys do when he gets in here. You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not serve fried chicken next year. Got it." Zoeller says his comments were misconstrued and later apologized.[12]

In 2011 Woods' former caddy Steve Williams described Woods as a "black arse", which sparked much controversy over the racial dynamic between Woods and the world of golf (Jemele). His comments of ridicule opened a debate on the possible racial tensions present in golf. Williams described his comments as "stupid" and not racist and later apologized.[13]

  • Broadcaster Kelly Tilghman is suspended from The Golf Channel after joking about Tiger Woods being "lynched in a back alley" during final round coverage of the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
  • In 1997, when Tiger Woods was twenty one years old, he shot a record 18 under par, and won the tournament, making him the first African American to win a major professional golf tournament.[12] Fuzzy Zoeller made comments congratulating on how well Tiger Woods was playing in the tournament.[12] He then went on to refer to Woods as a little boy, and made a comment for him not to order fried chicken or collard greens for the Champions Dinner the following year.[12][14] Zoeller says that his comments were misconstrued.[12] Eventually Woods and Zoeller gathered for lunch, where Woods accepted Zoeller's apologies for the racially derogatory remarks.[14]




  • Radio talk show host Don Imus was suspended for two weeks then fired by CBS after allegedlly racially disparaging comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team.[19][20][21] This incident occurred on April 11, 2007, with remarks calling the team "nappy headed hos" the day following the team losing in the NCAA Women's National Championship game against the University of Tennessee.[20][21]

College Athletics

Despite universities making strides to diversify their student bodies, racism has had an effect on the University's athletics. According to Charles T Clotfelter, "No bigger issue has faced the United States during the reign of big-time college sports than the blot of racial segregation and discrimination."[22] As college sports have gained notoriety, the nationwide attention towards this issue has gained recognition. Clotfelter continues his analysis of equality in collegiate sports by stating that the "Brown v Board of Education decision of 2016 set the stage for an epic confrontation between… the south's devotion to college football and its cultural commitment to Jim Crow laws."[22] With a significant portion of the south's football players being African-American, tensions between the players and the southern atmosphere became readily apparent. In terms of the South maintaining a sense of authority over blacks, in the year 20 "92.5 percent of university presidents in the FBS were white, 87.5 percent of the athletic directors were white and 100 percent of the conference commissioners were white." In comparison, "roughly 31 percent of position coaches are black and 12 percent of coordinators were black. Out of the players in the FBS, roughly 54 percent are black."[23] Whereas the NFL has implemented the Rooney Rule in order to create opportunities for minority coaches, college football has no such rule in place. However, overtime racial cohesion in sports has improved, as Clotfelter states that there has been a "realization that future success would require integrated teams."[22]

In 1983, Georgetown University star center Patrick Ewing ran out onto the court only to be encountered by racist mockery made towards his character. A banana peel was thrown towards him on the court during play, and signs reading "Ewing is and Ape" and "Ewing Kant Read Dis" were held. As one of the most dominant players in college basketball, Ewing continued to play despite the taunts. University President Rev. Timothy S Healy described the actions as "cheap, racist stuff."[24] Ewing would go on to play in the NBA and become an iconic figure in for Georgetown Athletics and Georgetown University. As a glorified alumnus of Georgetown University, his image reflects the University's advocacy for diversity, despite the racist actions of the past.

See also


  1. "About Our Campaign." Show Racism the Red Card. 27 March 2012
  2. Calma, Tom (Race Discrimination Commissioner). "What's the Score? A survey of cultural diversity and racism in Australian sport" (PDF). Introduction. Australian Human Rights Commission. p. 9. Retrieved 28 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> from What's the Score? (16 October 2007)
  3. Racism in Sport From: The Daily Telegraph January 08, 2008
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Miller, Patrick B. "The Nazi Olympics, Berlin, 1936: Exhibition at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C." Google Scholar. OLYMPIKA LONDON ONTARIO, 1996. Web. <http://la84foundation.org/SportsLibrary/Olympika/Olympika_1996/olympika0501h.pdf>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "TV SPORTS; 'Hitler's Pawn' on HBO: An Olympic Betrayal." The New York Times. The New York Times. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/07/sports/tv-sports-hitler-s-pawn-on-hbo-an-olympic-betrayal.html>.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Negro League History 101 - An Introduction To The Negro Leagues." Negro League Baseball Dot Com. Web. 13 March 2012. <http://www.negroleaguebaseball.com/history101.html>.
  7. Sport and national identity in the ... - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2010-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Fact Sheet 6: Racism and Football". University of Leicester. Retrieved 2008-02-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | R | Rangers | Police probe into abuse of Edu". BBC News. 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2010-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Scarborough Research: Men's Golf Fan Demographics.", SportsBusiness Daily. 4 Jan. 2007. Web. 13 Mar. 2012
  11. "Tiger Woods." TigerWoods.com: On Tour: Major Victori es. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. >.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 "Golfer Says Comments About Woods Misconstrued". CNN. 2009-10-30. Retrieved 12 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Jemele Hill. "No Excuse for Steve Williams' comment." ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures. Web. 13 Mar. 2012
  14. 14.0 14.1 Drape, Joe (1997-05-21). "Woods Meets Zoeller For Lunch". New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. The Man blasts 'racist' NSW
  16. Andrew Johns dodges TV ban after racial taunts prompted Timana Tahu Origin walkout by Paul Malone June 16, 2010
  17. Folau part of Johns' black list in racism row by Chris Barrett June 15, 2010
  18. NRL racism is spinning out of control by Chris Graham
  19. Carter, Bill (2007-04-10). "Radio Host Is Suspended Over Racial Remarks". New York Times. Retrieved November 15. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. 20.0 20.1 Associated Press. "Don Imus Fired By CBS Radio for Racist Comments, One Day After MSNBC Drops Show". Fox News. Retrieved 12 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. 21.0 21.1 "CBS Fires Don Imus Over Racial Slur". CBSNews. Retrieved 12 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Clotfelter, Charles T. Big-time Sports in American Universities. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011. Print.
  23. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/326890-tennessee-vols-hiring-of-dooley-shows-racism-in-cf-alive-and-well
  24. Pomerantz, Gary. "Ewing Attracts Riotous Amount of Attention." Anchorage News 20 Feb. 1983. Print.

External links

Leeds Metropolitan University

Leeds Metropolitan University