Racism, whether in jobs, housing, or the health sector, is a phenomenon that is still prevalent in the United States, even after undergoing many institutional reforms. But one sector where this racism goes unnoticed is sports. Sports racism is gaining ground in the United States in various forms.
Sports leagues have a history of violent racial encounters
Whenever people think of sports, they are likely to be nostalgic for nail-biter contests that they see on or off the grounds. However, the oppression against Black people in sports is often overlooked when it has developed over the years.
Take baseball, for example. It is one of the sports famous for racial segregation in the United States. The “color line” of baseball disallowed African American players from taking part in major leagues and their associated minor leagues.
When this line was established in the late 1890s, a few Black players used to play the game, but the establishment of the so-called “color line” disenfranchised them altogether.
This line was nullified when Jackie Robinson became the first Black player to play baseball and broke the racial barrier in the sport on paper. But this racism continued.
Even though he was a man of exceptional caliber in baseball, Robinson got an anonymous letter that threatened to murder him and perpetuate violence against his wife and son. But fans were not the only ones who furthered this racism in the game.
Manager and players of the Philadelphia Phillies shouted racial slurs against him when he used to bat, and the players of the St. Louis Cardinals threatened to strike should Black Americans be allowed to play baseball.
While mediocre players continued thriving in sports, Robinson had to prove his loyalties for the game through his exceptional performance.
Despite the fact that this racism does not exist today on paper, only eight percent of Major League players are Black today.
In the whole MLB, Derek Jeter was the only Black manager a couple of years ago, and now he is one of the few chief executives of a club belonging to a mixed race. But this representation dilemma is not limited to MLB. Different sports leagues are facing this representation issue along the same lines.
While you can see the NHL running a campaign “Hockey is for Everyone,” you can see that the league has a history of racial purity. Willie O’Ree was the first Black person to step on the ice in the NHL, even though the league was established more than four decades ago.
But even his late inclusion in the game did not stop fans and stakeholders of the game from remaining silent against his color. He continued facing racial slogans all over his career, which marred his career with racial abuses.
He put down his experience of playing the game and suggested in an interview that whenever he used to step on the ice, racial slurs used to go up against him.
Sports racism is not a thing of the past
Just one decade ago, i.e., in 2011, a fan threw a banana at Wayne Simmonds of Philadelphia Flyers. Similarly, when Joek Ward won a close contest for his team, he was thrown by racial abuse.
Stories along these lines are countless, with each and every one of them continuing to disturb the legacy of different sports.
Sports Racism has been supported by political parties
When athletes try to protest against racism, they face discrimination even then. For instance, Donald Trump criticized sportsmen for kneeling down and asked them to keep politics out of sports.
How can protecting against racism and racial purity be considered political at a time when racism can be felt across the nation in various domains.
The issue of lack of representation of Black sports players has to be addressed immediately if sports discrimination has to be thrown away out of the games.
Otherwise, sports will just be another area where people are judged by their color, not their ability to get the work done.