Racism in Sports


One of the most controversial and debated topics in our current society is racism. While racism is nothing new and has always been discussed, the powerful new faces in politics have unfortunately helped people with racist ideologies bring out their hateful ideas even more than before. One of the biggest platforms where racism is debated is in professional sports. From Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem to LeBron James being told to “Shut up and dribble” by Fox reporter Laura Ingraham, race in sports has become a topic that is being debated more than it has been ever before.

For people of color, professional sports has always been a mirror of America’s attitude toward race. As long as African-Americans were restricted from playing professional basketball or taking the field, then other people of color would not be considered equal or given equal educational and economic opportunities. Today, while some of the most successful professional athletes are African-American and they are some of the most well-known people in the world, they are at times still not given the respect and honor they deserve. People outside of professional sports are not the only ones who have discriminated against black athletes. In 2014, former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was fined $2.5 million dollars and got a lifetime ban from the NBA after private recordings of him making racist comments were made public. Even NBA owners have discriminated against their own players just because they are African-American. There’s no room for Donald Sterling or any other person like him in the NBA or in the world of professional sports in general.

Even in 2018, multiple African-American athletes were discriminated against and were either called traitors of the US or were told to not give their political opinions. While these athletes are very respected and looked up to by millions around the globe, when they speak on their political views, they immediately become traitors and are told that they do not belong in politics because they are not smart enough and don’t know what they are talking about. This type of behavior towards black athletes are not just negative for them, it is also bad for the millions of African-American youth who instead of becoming professional athletes, aspire to be lawyers or doctors. However, when young people of color see people saying that black athletes don’t have a place in politics or other government jobs, they are forced to focus on playing sports as their only way out of poverty and violence. While some kids do succeed at being professional athletes, there is such a slim chance of being a professional athlete that most kids are much better off wanting to gain a college degree and becoming a doctor rather than wanting to become the next Steph Curry or LeBron James.

While it does seem like racism especially is occurring much less than before, acts of racism in sports are still very high and have increased. Racist acts increased from 31 to 41 from 2016 to 2017. The only positive part about this was the amount of athletes that risked their names and careers in order to make their voices heard and become activists in order to stop these racist acts from occurring. Athletes used their popularity as a platform to talk about social issues and help people outside of sports understand how big of an issue racism is in the world of sports.

In order to gain a wider perspective and obtain ideas from different people, I interviewed multiple Terra Linda students about what their ideas were on this controversial topic and how their ideas differed from mine. Most of the students I interviewed had similar views about how racist the world of sports really is. When I asked fellow Senior Ivan Pianzola about his thoughts, he told me “I believe racism plays a huge factor in sports. Certain races gravitate to certain sports because it is ingrained in their culture and they are exposed to those sports.” Ivan also told me that “When white people speak on their political views, it is seen as support and positive whereas when black and brown athletes do it, it is seen as negative. I think athletes, much like everyone else, have the right to use their platform and speak their mind.” Other students I interviewed had similar views. Senior Mario Garcia and Sev Gallegos said that “Pro athletes should be looked at as anybody else. While they do have bigger platforms and more popularity, the reaction people have to their political views or statements should be no different than anyone else.” Sev also mentioned that, “Racism in sports definitely correlates with society. I believe that sports and society go together because even fans are racist to certain players because of their race. Mario Balotelli had racial slurs yelled at him during a soccer game because he was a black Italian and that’s something that people are not used to seeing. The reason racism exists is because people are not used to things that are different and are resistant to change.”

While racism in sports is possibly the most difficult part to figure out and eliminate, many athletes in many of the top professional leagues across all sports continue to speak up and fight to end racism because they know how much racism in sports is related to racism and segregation in the real world.


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