An Administrative Lens for the Modern Sport Leader

Craig P. DeAngelis, Ed.D., C.S.C.S. is a faculty member at Manhattanville College. He has an academic focus on organizational behavior and leadership. Please feel free to reach out to him via email at craigdeangelis@yahoo.com.

An interesting shift has taken place on the bottom “scroll” of cable sports networks. Scores and brief stat lines are still a fixture, but new content has been added. Information about leagues and players referencing politics or other social happenings are now present along with competition results. For example, during one week, there was a scroll topic related to the head coach of the Minnesota Lynx and one of her players calling on the NCAA to take action in response to legislative measures that they feel is restrictive for transgender athletes (Barnes, 2021). Another scroll topic was about Major League Baseball’s decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Georgia. This move emulated the National Basketball Association’s decision to move their All-Star Game out of North Carolina in 2016 due to legislative action (Anderson, Fatsis, & Levin, 2021).

As fans process this new scroll content, they have the opportunity to form opinions based on personal beliefs. However, sport practitioners are not able to participate in the same individualistic thinking. People who are active in sports must be able to differentiate between their personal feelings and professional stance. Perhaps no group is more heavily impacted by this phenomenon than Athletic Administrators. These decision-makers are responsible for making timely decisions that are representative of their respective stakeholder groups. Undoubtedly, this is a daunting task. 

Recently, Southeastern Conference (SEC) Commissioner Greg Sankey reflected on a whirlwind of hypotheticals associated with the 2020 season, and in regards to the 2021 season stated “We will be prepared to play the season as scheduled and I can pivot off that approach” (Wilson, 2021). The “we” in his statement is not accidental, as he is speaking on behalf of the SEC. The “I” in his statement is in relation to how he will respond professionally but is not necessarily indicative of his personal beliefs.  

At no point in modern history have the minds of sport practitioners been so strenuously conflicted. Societal issues have burst through the sport-life divide in a way that has demanded the keen attention of all Athletic Administrators. While the most pressing matters have been championed by politicians and proclaimed in the media, this has not aided sport-based decision-makers. The determination of how to best balance personal enthusiasms with professional obligation remains largely unchecked.

Contrary to daily itineraries, Athletic Administrators do have “life” beyond sport. The availability to pursue personal passions away from the job are somewhat limited, but it is of the utmost importance for practitioners to foster personal passions and hone individual beliefs. Sport leadership is taxing and requires dynamic individuals to operate at peak performance. It is true that long work hours are coupled with expectations for winning, revenue generation, media scrutiny, and unsettled fan bases (Hancock, Balkin, Reiner, Williams, Hunter, Powell, & Juhnke, 2019; Daughters, 2013). But, no Athletic Administrator, regardless of trait composition, can truly perform at their best if the whole person is not addressed.

This is a point of tension in the modern climate. In their personal life, Athletic Administrators have been forced to wrestle with matters that elicit feelings of intense fervor. Their stance on current circumstances must be explored while potential steps of action are keenly considered. Simultaneously, in their professional life, a massive overhaul of typical function has been mandatory. Typically, added time spent on the job would alleviate this tension (Hancock, et al., 2019) However, current circumstances cannot be eased with additional on-the-job efforts. Therefore, on both fronts, there is no available timetable for completion. Consequently, the only clear path forward must be blazed by, a likely conflicted, Administrator.

The personality and stylistic leadership qualities of appointed Athletic Administrators inevitably mark organizational function. Athletic Leaders tend to be admired and extolled for their uncanny ability to motivate people and cause positive change (Powers, Judge, Makela, McKenna, & Voight, 2016). In some spaces, the “finger prints” of leadership are an asset, while in others they are a detriment. Regardless of outcome, Athletic Administrators must be cognizant of their overarching influence. As such, Administrative practitioners must be able to isolate personal preferences in contrast to organizational duty. A key challenge for Administrators is to balance decisions and satisfaction rewards (Hancock, et al., 2019). The sport-setting carries unique demands and should not be leveraged by leadership for personal gain. In the same vein, the Administrator must accurately determine the most appropriate steps independent of personal passions.

Mounting societal issues weigh heavily on Athletic Administrators. History would suggest that the incorporation of sport as a part of the solution is appropriate. Due to an increase of interaction between athletic departments and community organizations, research confirms there to be positive local outcomes (Svensson, Huml, & Hancock, 2014).  However, current cultural issues are not as easily discernable as the topics of yesteryear. Some matters may be close to the heart, but the Athletic Department as a whole might be unable to support large-scale change. The personal beliefs of the Athletic Administrator might not be shared in corporate magnitude. This may leave the Athletic Administrator feeling compromised as they sense that something should be done, also knowing that in the guise of the organization it may not be representative of best practice. 

There is a wise old Proverb that states “as a person thinks, so they are…”. It is in the cognitive, not the emotive where the Athletic Administrator must consider their actions. Internal tension can be alleviated if practical processing is accomplished. In order to do so, a perceptive filter is required. Using the context of their specific sport setting, matters should be classified in four distinct areas. These areas are defined as:

Capacity – the actual ability of an Athletic Department to realize a benchmark. Competency – the actual ability of the stakeholders involved in the Athletic Department.
Community – the impactful characteristics and expectations of the local area setting.
Competition – the demonstrated quality and/or outcomes of Athletic participation.

This classification system aids the Administrator in achieving operational success. As issues arise that ignite personal passion through individual held beliefs, the Athletic Administrator can rely on this structure for immediate lucidity. By categorizing where an issue applies, clarity can be gained on how it is best addressed. In applying this type of thinking the Athletic Administrator is forced to be intentional and true to their beliefs, regardless of organizational outcome. However, the cycle does not end here. Initial classification must be progressively aided by:

Diagnosis – identifying areas of needed improvement.
&
Development – making improvements on areas of needed improvement

Not all societal inquiries are equal. For some, action will be warranted within the Athletic Department and for others simple acknowledgement will suffice. It is vital for Athletic Administrators to carefully consider their actions despite the often-insurmountable external pressure. Modern culture has made a clear plea for change. Change should be embraced as a positive step for all sport-settings. However, Athletic Administrators cannot be held captive by events, social media trends, and narratives. Instead, to assure equitable movement at a meaningful pace, there must be a separation between personal desire and sport-organization needs. While the former might influence the latter, it can only be sustained with coordinated rationale and an eye on sustainable growth.

References
Anderson, J., Fatsis, S., & Levin, J. (April 7, 2021). Why Major League Baseball is Boycotting Georgia. Retrieved on April 10, 2021 from http://www.slate.com, https://slate.com/culture/2021/04/mlb-all-star-game-moved-atlanta-georgia-voting-law-sb202.html

Barnes, K. (April 9, 2021). Cheryl Reeve, Napheesa Collier of Minnesota Lynx call on NCAA to take action for transgender athletes. Retrieved on April 10, 2021 from http://www.espn.com, https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/31222466/cheryl-reeve-napheesa-collier-minnesota-lynx-call-ncaa-take-action-transgender-athletes

Hancock, M. G., Balkin, R. S., Reiner, S. M., Williams, S., Hunter, Q., Powell, B., & Juhnke, G. A. (2019). Life balance and work addiction among NCAA administrators and coaches. Career Development Quarterly, 67(3), 264–270. https://doi.org/10.1002/cdq.12195

Powers, S., Judge, L. W., Makela, C., McKenna, J., & Voight, M. (2016). An investigation of destructive leadership in a Division I intercollegiate athletic department: Follower perceptions and reactions. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 11(3), 297–311.

Svensson, P. G., Huml, M. R., & Hancock, M. G. (2014). Exploring intercollegiate athletic department-community partnerships through the lens of community service Organizations. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 18(4), 97–128.

Wilson, M. (March 1, 2021). SEC preparing to play 2021 football season as scheduled, commissioner Greg Sankey says. Retrieved on April 10, 2021 from http://www.azcentral.com, https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/college/university-of-tennessee/mens-basketball/2021/03/01/sec-football-season-schedule-2021-greg-sankey/6870079002/

Has sport had its #MeToo moment? Women’s experiences of sexism and sexual harassment in the sport industry

By: Lauren Hindman lhindman@umass.edu | @laurenhindman

Lauren is a doctoral candidate at the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst, where she studies gender and other diversity-related topics in sport organizations. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., she spent nine seasons working in professional sports.

Following both the January 2021 firing of New York Mets general manager Jared Porter over sexually explicit text messages he sent to a woman reporter and the July 2020 reporting of the sexism and sexual harassment experienced by women working with the Washington Football Team, women working in sport organizations took to social media to share their own stories. Moments such as this highlight how common sexism and harassment are for women in the industry, yet their stories quickly fade to the background until the next big scoop arrives, exposing a singular sport organization and attributing the problem to internal issues of organizational culture and leadership (see also: The Dallas Mavericks circa 2018). 

The issue of sexism in and around the sport industry is widespread—“commonly overt yet simultaneously unnoticed,” as Dr. Janet Fink said in her acceptance address for Earle F. Zeigler Lecture Award at the 2015 NASSM conference (Fink, 2016, p. 2). Recent research in sport management reveals how women managers, athletes, coaches, journalists, and educators experience sexism and harassment. Some highlights from these studies include: 

Administration: Women sport managers working for men’s professional sport organizations face both intellectual diminishment and physical objectification, causing emotional and professional consequences. Women adopt several strategies, such a minimization and reframing of their experiences, in order to continue working in the industry (Hindman & Walker, 2020).

Athletes: An analysis of media coverage and academic literature demonstrated how these sources subject women athletes in the United States to gendered microaggressions, a subtle form of bias, through assuming that they are inferior to men, objectifying their bodies, and restricting them to certain roles based on their gender (Kaskan & Ho, 2016). Another study deemed media coverage of women’s sports “gender-bland” sexism, avoiding overt sexism while still presenting women’s sports as “lackluster” compared to men’s (Musto et al., 2017).

Coaches: A recent study found that women swimming coaches in the NCAA face sexism that limits their career mobility, creates job dissatisfaction, and contributes to women’s underrepresentation by pushing them to leave the field (Siegele et al., 2020). In addition, research reveals how women of color coaches must navigate multiple barriers created by the intersectional issues of racism and sexism (Carter-Francique & Olushola, 2016).

Journalists:  Research has shown that sexist views lead people to judge women sport journalists as less credible (Mudrick et al., 2017). Meanwhile, women journalists are pressured by their employers to wear revealing clothing to appeal to male audiences, but then face “slut-shaming” for dressing too provocatively (Harrison, 2019).

Academics: Women faculty members in sport management programs too report sexism and sexual harassment from both men and women colleagues, ranging from subtle discrimination to hostile harassment (Taylor et al., 2018). Women faculty members also experience “contrapower” harassment (harassment from individuals in positions of less power), facing comments about their appearance and assumptions that they don’t know anything about sports (Taylor et al., 2017).

Studies such as these and others demonstrate the wide-reaching effects of sexism and sexual harassment across sport. Industry leaders should be proactive in addressing this issue, as our recent Journal of Sport Management study revealed that women often do not report sexism to supervisors or human resources personnel (Hindman & Walker, 2020). Instead, leaders should be cognizant of watching for such issues and focus on promoting inclusive organizational cultures, rather that simply striving to increase gender diversity and waiting to respond when crises emerge. While women in our study reframed their experiences with sexism as a demonstration of their personal strength, they also reported leaving jobs—and considering leaving the industry—due to sexism. In order for the sport industry to achieve sustained gender diversity, then, leaders must confront the need to eliminate sexism and sexual harassment from their organizations.

References/Further Reading:

Carter-Francique, A. R., & Olushola, J. (2016). Women coaches of color: Examining the effects of intersectionality. In Women in sports coaching (pp. 81-94). Routledge.

Fink, J. S. (2016). Hiding in plain sight: The embedded nature of sexism in sport. Journal of Sport Management30(1), 1-7.

Harrison, G. (2019). “We want to see you sex it up and be slutty:” post-feminism and sports media’s appearance double standard. Critical Studies in Media Communication36(2), 140-155.

Hindman, L. C., & Walker, N. A. (2020). Sexism in professional sports: How women managers experience and survive sport organizational culture. Journal of Sport Management34(1), 64-76.

Kaskan, E. R., & Ho, I. K. (2016). Microaggressions and female athletes. Sex Roles74(7-8), 275-287.

Mudrick, M., Burton, L., & Lin, C. A. (2017). Pervasively offside: An examination of sexism, stereotypes, and sportscaster credibility. Communication & Sport5(6), 669-688.

Musto, M., Cooky, C., & Messner, M. A. (2017). “From Fizzle to Sizzle!” Televised sports news and the production of gender-bland sexism. Gender & Society31(5), 573-596.

Siegele, J. L., Hardin, R., Taylor, E. A., & Smith, A. B. (2020). ” She is the Best Female Coach”: NCAA Division I Swimming Coaches’ Experiences of Sexism. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport13(1).

Taylor, E. A., Smith, A. B., Rode, C. R., & Hardin, R. (2017). Women don’t know anything about sports: Contrapower harassment in the sport management classroom. Sport management education journal11(2), 61-71.

Taylor, E. A., Smith, A. B., Welch, N. M., & Hardin, R. (2018). “You should be flattered!”: Female sport management faculty experiences of sexual harassment and sexism. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal26(1), 43-53.

Sticking Together as We Move Forward

Ehren R. GreenLinkedIN

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Ehren is a second-year doctoral student at the University of Louisville. Before returning to school for her PhD, Ehren worked in intercollegiate athletics for ten years as well as in training and development in both the private and public sector. 

The challenges of Covid-19 have pushed us out of our personal and professional comfort zones. We have learned a lot about ourselves and about others during this time. As we enter 2021, we face the challenge of helping lead our industry through the transition – from the way things were, to the way things are, and to who we want to be moving forward. To be successful in this transition, a continued investment in ourselves and in each other is necessary. We can no longer just be experts in our field, but need to invest in ourselves, as people leaders, to build productive and healthy teams. 

In the sports industry we rely on other people, from faculty members collaborating on research projects to practitioners working together to make sure a game happens. However, how do we ensure we are effective team members? As contrary as it sounds, it starts with self-understanding. We must be grounded in who we are and understand what we bring to the team. There are numerous self-assessments and personality profiles available, including CliftonStrengths, DiSC, and Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to name a few. While there are differences in the assessments, what each of them brings is a level of self-awareness for individuals and an understanding of differences in others. As a certified MBTI practitioner, I’ve learned a lot about myself through the MBTI. For example, I know that I innately need to see the big picture in projects (this is identified as the intuition preference for MBTI). I also recognize that others see projects as steps in a sequential order (this is the sensing preference in the MBTI). This difference can be a major source of conflict when not understood. Team members can talk around each other, not understanding what the other is explaining, leading to frustration and a negative emotional response. However, when teams know each other’s preferences it becomes shared language and a strategy for utilizing each other’s strengths. By using a tool like the MBTI we can gain self-awareness and create a unified understanding of others as a first step in creating successful teams. 

Considering most events in the sport industry occur under high stress, it’s important that we recognize the role of emotions, both in ourselves, and in our interactions with others. Emotional intelligence is an important skill required for productive teamwork. Defined as, “the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p. 189), emotional intelligence recognizes the behavioral element of human interactions and the role emotions play in those interactions. Goleman and Boyatzis (2017) developed an emotional and social intelligence leadership competency model that identifies four domains of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. The table below defines each domain and lists strategies to develop competencies in each. 

EI DomainDefinitionStrategy
Self-awareness“Here is what is going on”Tune into your senses
Recognize your triggers
Get feedback
Self-management“This is what I need to do”Count to ten
Pause before you respond
Social awareness“Accurately recognizing other’s emotions”Practice empathy
Be present
Relationship management“Utilizing my awareness to build relationships”Have the tough conversations
Acknowledge individual strengths

One of the simplest and most effective emotional intelligence strategies is the power of pausing before responding. Pausing engages our thinking brain, forcing us to respond consciously rather than emotionally. Additionally, pausing increases your ability to recognize your triggers and your emotional responses to those triggers. To build effective teams, we must acknowledge the role of emotions in our environments.  

As an industry we will continue to face new challenges in 2021, but one constant will be the need for effective teamwork. Self-understanding (e.g., MBTI, etc.) and emotional intelligence can guide our industry as we continue to build effective teams. 

References: 
Goleman, D., & Boyatzis, R.E. (2017, February 6). Emotional intelligence has 12 elements. Which do you need to work on? Harvard Business Review, 2-5
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J.D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.

Eliminating Organizational Sport Checks and Balances to Promote Societal Change

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By Barry Person, Jr.

The current demand for civil and social justice has never been higher nor more justified. One of the driving forces behind the active and hopefully push towards societal change is sport. Athletes of all genders, sexual orientations, performance levels, and sports continue to speak out regarding the need for reform, joining them in these efforts are many sporting organizations as well. However, what is missing from these calls for justice is the fact that until we see these changes within sporting organizations, society itself will continue to lag behind. For sport is the ultimate microcosm of society and much of how we here in North America function is driven by what we see in sport. Cooper, Macaulay, and Rodriguez (2019) supported this claim stating that the institution of sport does not operate in isolation from broader society. Instead sport serves as a site where societal inequities such as racism, sexism, economic stratification, and other forms of oppression are reproduced, exacerbated, and/or ignored (Cooper, Macaulay, & Rodriguez, 2019). While sport itself is not geared to be systematically racist, the consistent organizational practices and regulations (checks and balances) uphold various restrictions to equality. This essay will take a look at the recent attention given to Mike Gundy, the Rooney Rule, and NASCAR, to highlight how to really change society we must first change sport itself.

Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy has taken on some heat lately for being caught in a photo wearing an OAN network t-shirt. Almost immediately upon being discovered, Oklahoma State star running back Chuba Hubbard spoke out against the image. Now, it has come to light the potential use of the N word by Gundy during a football game back in 1989. While Gundy remains on his image restoration path, he also still holds his job and support of his athletic administration and football team. While Gundy states his regrets and vows to provide positive change, the real message is being missed. The fact at any point that a leader of a diverse sporting organization would feel comfortable to use such language and/or wear such potentially offensive attire is the true issue. Let us not forget back in 2007, Mike Gundy is the same coach who went on a tirade during a press conference ripping the media for writing articles which attacked his players. Worth noting is that his response was driven by the attention drawn to the article by a parent of one of the football athletes. Also, worth noting is that within that press conference Gundy demands that if the media were to come after anyone, they should come after him because he is a man and that such articles are what’s wrong with society today. Funny how the tide has turned as Gundy now has to call upon the same players he once stood up for, in order to be saved from the very things he demanded be turned his way. Now that the tables have turned, why is the true manly thing to do (stepping down) not being put on the table by Gundy himself, or his administration? Many will state because of the money pulled in by the football program, but in reality, it is the structure of the sporting system. The checks and balances of sport strongly support the blind following of fault and regret of coaches by star athletes who seldom look like their coach, given that ultimately it is the coach who holds the power. Instead of battling and sustaining power within the coaching athlete relationship, why not just key in on doing what is right or should we say the manly/womanly thing to do (take accountability and remove yourself).

Continuing on with coaching and football one cannot ignore the recent amendments and rejections of the NFL’s Rooney Rule. In May, the NFL expanded the guidelines of the Rooney Rule to require all teams to now include more interviews of minority candidates for coaching, senior football operations, and general manager vacancies. The idea to improve draft positioning or total picks for the hiring of minority candidates for these positions, was also discussed but ultimately rejected and rightfully so. While the advancement of potential opportunities for minority coaching and leadership positions within the NFL is overall a positive thing, such rules in any organization further illustrate the inherent checks and balances with sport. The need to require any organization to merely interview minorities is a travesty, such things should just be normal practice. Brighter alternatives to these practices are not rooted in racism or even disrespect but yet again administrative power. African Americans have been withheld from holding coaching and higher administrative positions simply because it would upend the checks and balances put in place. The check is to make sure that players stay in their lane and continue to focus on playing the sport, while the balance is to make sure that those who most often times do not look like the majority of athletes are given oversight. The need for diversity and equality within sporting administration should not be labeled by administrative rules as if things are to be done out of pity and/or submission, but instead initiatives should be done to show and express unity amongst all who contribute to sport. As long as the imagery remains that minority hires, interviews, and opportunities are merely suggested proper practice over actual willingness, the suppressive checks and balances of sport will continue to prevail.

On my final lap around the track, I cannot pass on the opportunity to address the recent Confederate flag ban by NASCAR. First, I must admit that never in my wildest imagination did I see this moment coming, even as a completely uninterested NASCAR fan to begin with. However, to see the ultimate sport check and balance come crashing down does provide a clear vision as to how sport can right itself and society at the same time. I will not waste time to discuss the stereotypes of the typical NASCAR fan prior to this ruling, as that is what the internet is for. However, I will discuss the potential future of the new NASCAR moving forward. For the new NASCAR has the opportunity to be the shining star of the power and potential sport has to promote diversity, unity, and justice. NASCAR for the longest time has been dominated by one particular grouping of individuals from fan, driver, owner, and employee. And at no time was this norm ever questioned, which was made even more evident by the religious flying of the Confederate flag in some fashion during any and all events. While the eternal debate of what the Confederate flag represents might never end, I will take the higher road and assume that we can all intellectually agree on the sour roots that the flag is best associated with. The Confederate flag and NASCAR of old, in relation to sport checks and balances was quite clear: enter at your own risk. That was until Bubba Wallace spoke up as the first full-time African American stock car racer on the injustice of the checks and balances within NASCAR. The trick now is getting society to give the same love to NASCAR as it does its other leagues. NASCAR has struggled with viewership as of late but this can and should quickly change, given its attempt to join mainstream sport society. As more minority and non-stereotypical NASCAR fans begin to express interest and support for the sport the more the call for the removal of the Confederate flag will be valued by society at large.

Sport has the unique ability to serve as a universal language across the globe. But the language of sport is strongest here in North America, the same country in which the call for social and racial reform is also the loudest. The problem is that the language of sport in North America is one that currently supports the restriction and classification of African Americans through its institutional checks and balances. Checks and balances that allow Mike Gundy, Drew Brees, Curt Schilling, and Kyle Larson to openly express opinions on anything without the fear of their careers ending, unlike their minority counterparts (Colin Kaepernick). Yet while athletes of all races have spoken out and vow to fight for change, it is sport itself which we must change for these proclamations to become a reality. Removing the checks and balances which silently hold the racial rank and order of sporting organization structure, is the most prominent way for America to hear the societal demand that enough is enough. Until sport embraces equality for all at every level of its organizations, then the reminder to society to continue to hold on to what has worked in the past will remain.

References
Cooper, J. N., Macaulay, C., & Rodriguez, S. H. (2019). Race and resistence: A typology of African American sport activism. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 54 (2), 151-181. doi: 10.1177/1012690217718170.

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Barry Person Jr.
Assistant Professor
Sport and Recreation Management
SUNY Delhi
personbb@delhi.edu 

Sport Management Degrees: Teaching So Much More Than Sport

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By Barry Person, Jr. Assistant Professor, Sport and Recreation Management
SUNY Delhi

3EBA0F76-8495-4B60-B080-14C5502D29D8As a Sport Management professor, I am always asked what can my child/I do with a Sport Management degree, the answer is change the world. Bradbury and O’Boyle (2017) stated that sport management has come a long way in the past 20 years; the sport management environment has now evolved into a legitimate professional and commercial sector and continues to grow in size and scope in many nations throughout the world. Yet, the power and applicability of the Sport Management degree fails to garner enough attention. This blog aims to highlight the universal application a Sport Management degree can have within the global economy and society to generate both change and recovery.

The COVID-19 pandemic and current civil justice unrest has provided the unique opportunity for the value and importance of the Sport Management degree to address these issues, not only in academia but also within larger society, to be broadcasted. The notion that sport is a microcosm of society is no secret, but the truth and sustainability of this statement is now being tested. Pending global and societal changes, and advancements which arise from the world’s current situation, can highlight how sport is not only a microcosm of society, but a tool for societal change. Sport is one of the few things in the world that can serve as a universal language and bond. Touchdowns, goals, slam dunks, and home runs are terms that almost anyone in the world can comprehend the meaning of, regardless of their interest in the given sport for which the term is associated. The same can be said for fans who see others with the same jersey, alma mater, or sporting t-shirt; a special bond is instantly created no matter the race, gender, or religion of the individuals involved. So, seeing that sport has become one of the focal points to help stimulate economic recovery, civil unity, and support social justice is no surprise.

However, what is not being highlighted enough is the educational foundation which frames the future of the sport industry. Sport Management degrees hold the power to inspire and spur change within all aspects of sports and society. More importantly, such a degree serves as the foundation from which the push for equality within all levels of sporting administration can truly be achieved. The more sporting organizations become united and equally diverse, so will the society in which we live. The more that the world is shown equality amongst sport ownership, upper management, and coaching/leadership, the more society will embrace the same principles. The realization that Sport Management degrees go beyond coaching and training, but also deal with functioning in the global marketplace and all the social issues that arise within it, should no longer be ignored. To best understand how and why sport has been called upon to kickstart efforts for social justice and diverse equality, one must be well versed in the principles of sport management itself. So as sport continues to be the shining star in the road to global and social recovery, let us not forget the Sport Management degree in this process as well.

The same can be said for the eventual economic recovery for many countries. We regularly see the impact that geopolitics has on the sport management environment through the selection of countries to host mega sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup (Bradbury & O’Boyle, 2017). The current push by the entire world to get their sporting leagues back in action, speaks directly to this statement. While sports may not look the same in terms of fans in the stands and/or the postponement of the Olympics, it does not take away from a sporting event’s ability to be an economic stimulant. As restaurants, bars, and clubs continue to reopen, so do the opportunities for sports fans to gather and support these businesses. Being able to identify, create, adjust to, and market such opportunities are core principles within Sport Management studies regardless of institution. So be it in North America, England, Korea, or Italy, Sport Management studies are intertwined in some fashion with all that we do and will be vital to change and recovery. So, to restate what can be done with a Sport Management degree, in a nutshell whatever one chooses to do in order to impact the world, society, and/or economy through sport. The broad applicability and unique perspective which can be developed through sport management studies, offers a one of a kind educational experience that thanks to COVID-19 and current civil unrest, will no longer be cast into the secondary programming tier at institutions of higher learning.

References
Bradbury, T., & O’Boyle. (2017). Understanding sport management international perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge.

Empirical Investigation of Sport Trademark Dilution Using Contingent Valuation Method

By Sungho Cho, J. Lucy Lee, June Won, and Jong Kwan (Jake) Lee (all authors are affiliated with Bowling Green State University)

TM Dilution_Graphics.pngWould any unauthorized use of sport trademarks be harmful to the brand equity of the marks? What if a sport trademark is extremely strong like Nike or Adidas? What if an unauthorized use has happened in a product category totally not related to sport (such as Manchester Moo United milk and butter)?

Without trademark law, people would need to pay attention on so many things when they want to buy sneakers or gym membership. Trademarks help consumers find desirable goods and services without evaluating product attributes in detail. Thus, trademark law protects owners of legally protected marks from unauthorized use that would likely confuse general consumers as to the sources of goods and services. The legal claim is based on the theory of infringement that focuses on trademarks’ crucial function of information delivery in the market. Since the claim mainly intends to protect general consumers rather than mark owners, plaintiffs must show that people would likely be confused between the marks at issue (e.g., Nike v. Nikee).

In addition to the infringement theory, owners of famous marks can bring lawsuits against unauthorized users under the theory of trademark dilution. Dilution is a legal concept designed to protect intellectual property rights of mark owners. Trademark dilution claims do not require plaintiffs to prove that people are likely confused. Therefore, owners of famous marks such as Nike or Adidas may sue some “noncompetitive” users even if the junior marks would not likely confuse anyone. For instance, Nike successfully brought a lawsuit against Nikepal who was selling biochemical lab supplies even though people might not likely be confused between the sport merchandising brand and Nikepal’s business due to their irrelevant product categories. Studies investigated whether noncompetitive use of famous marks would result in serious damage to the them, but empirical results have been inconsistent.

The current study examined four different situations to see if noncompetitive use of sport trademarks would have harmful effects to them: (1) when two marks sound similar (Nike v. Nikepal); (2) when their logos look similar (Adidas v. Herbalife); (3) when one is a service mark while the other is a trademark (Manchester United v. Manchester Moo United); and (4) when marks are used in an exactly same product category, i.e., sport merchandise (Under Armour v. Uncle Martian). 140 participants were assigned to four subgroups where they tried to purchase goods of the famous sport trademarks online. While participants searched product of their interest, junior marks’ popup ads appear frequently and interrupted their virtual shopping. The perceived financial values of the famous sport trademarks were measured before and after the online shopping experience in conjunction with control group settings.

Nikepal and Herbalife did not negatively affect the brand equity of the exceptionally famous sport trademarks, Nike and Adidas, respectively. But Manchester Moo United (against Manchester United) and Uncle Martian (against Under Armour) resulted in harmful effects on the moderately famous trademarks in terms of their decreased brand equity in financial terms.

For academics, it is notable that exceptionally famous sport trademarks (Nike and Adidas) were immune to trademark dilution. The finding affirms that strong schematic properties of the famous marks would not be easily weakened by the introduction of the cognitively dissonant information (Nikepal and Herbalife). Presumably, the junior marks created information processing that just confirmed the extremely strong brand schemata associated with Nike and Adidas in the minds of participants. Future studies may conduct a series of follow-up inquiries relating to this result in the context of brand management as well as consumer behavior.

For practitioners, the findings suggest that owners of exceptionally famous sport trademarks may need to focus on traditional infringement claim in the enforcement of their trademark rights rather than engage catch-all legal actions that would waste various resources for seemingly insignificant harm. In addition, parties in trademark litigation may use the findings to attack the constitutionality of the federal trademark dilution statute on the ground that the regulation of commercial speech under the law might be unnecessarily restrictive under the First Amendment.

Click here for full research article in Journal of Sport Management Vol 34 Issue 3.

Considering Taking Up A Cause? Here are some lessons

When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos experienced and observed the plight of Black Americans, they knew they had to do something. So, on October 16, 1968, Smith and Carlos, winning gold and bronze in the men’s 200 meters, respectively, each wore black socks without shoes to the medal podium. They proceeded to extend one black-gloved fist over their bowed heads during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the U.S. “The boos were about as profound as the silence was when we raised our fists and bowed our heads in prayer,” Smith recalled (Zacardi, 2018, para. 36).

Disruption is hard. Some people succeed, able to transform their organizations or institutions in which they operate. Others are not so effective, incapable of unsettling the current situation that exists within their environment. One reason for such “failure” is because people often tend to oppose change that disrupts the status quo. We saw this in 1968. Interested in this story of disruption, we recently set out to better understand this essential yet poorly understood aspect of social change. We gathered and analyzed interviews with 59 members of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team concerning their reactions (see Agyemang, Berg, & Fuller, 2018).

In general, and as you may imagine, Smith and Carlos’ teammates did not approve of the protest. Based on the interviews, we identified four main reasons why teammates disliked their activism: (1) the sacred spirit of competition should supersede all else; (2) the Olympics should be apolitical; (3) the Olympics should be cherished as an entertainment spectacle; and (4) nationalism and representing the U.S. team is more important than any sociopolitical viewpoint. Building on this and other research, I address the following question: how do change leaders harness and manage the negative perceptions they encounter concerning their disruptive activity? Here are some takeaways and how they may apply to people working for change:

Become an expert in the area which you seek social change.

At the end of the day, change leaders cannot force people to believe in the same social causes they do. This is why people working for social change should focus on the things they can control. One way is to be an expert in the area in which you intend to disrupt and desire social change. Occasionally groups resisting may lack essential information and not understand the social cause. In other cases, those opposing the social change frequently attempt to obscure a change leader’s message. Based on reading and observation, sometimes this is easier to do because change leaders do not fully understand what they’re doing. As a result, they are unable to generate empathy from the broader public because their message is unclear. For instance, Colin Kaepernick said that he had considered taking a stand for a while, but before he did, he wanted to make sure he was well read on the subject matter. Though he has faced criticism for his actions and his beliefs, it is clear he is strong in his convictions and is able to back them up given his understanding of the issues.

Not all causes are seen the same.

In 2016, I spoke with a renowned sports journalist about the current wave of athlete protests. Comparing the likes of LeBron James to Colin Kaepernick, the journalist noted how there is a fundamental difference between calling for an end to gun violence (i.e., James at ESPY Awards) and calling for systemic change to social institutions that have historically wronged racial and ethnic minorities. He contended that the former is much more likely to gain consensus (or at least close to it) from the public than the latter, which is much more divisive. Regarding the latter, opposition may even dispute the social issue even exist. The biggest challenge here is to articulate how and why the change you are calling for will benefit those who are not yet onboard. Human nature is to operate from a “what’s in it for me?” mentality. If change leaders desire commitment from others, they should consider what these groups want and need.

Anticipate resistance.

Related to the point above, I think one of the more obvious takeaways is that change leaders should always anticipate resistance. This occurs for many reasons, including dominant groups are more prone to uphold the status quo and not champion change, because they benefit from societal norms. Contrasting to that, peripheral actors who are often less privileged members of society and are less favored by the status quo are more to desire change. We saw this in 1968 during Smith and Carlos’ time, and we see similar scenes today. For example, Colin Kaepernick’s silent gestures beginning in 2016 has received backlash both for his tactics (i.e., kneeling during the national anthem) and the causes he’s bringing attention to (i.e., police brutality against Black people).

Embrace the challenge.

Sure, people resisting a social cause you believe strongly in can be a frustrating and oftentimes agonizing experience. However, as cliché as it may be, it is important for change leaders to not withdraw from the resistance, but embrace it. One piece of advice I received was to think of resistance as strength training. We use resistance (e.g., dumbbells) to build muscle and endurance so that we can gain strength. The same could be said for the opposition change leaders face when attempting to bring attention to a social cause. So, keenly listen. Attempt to understand why they are resisting. This seems to be a lost art in today’s divided political climate. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to concur with every single criticism; but listening to opposition criticisms can open your eyes to blind spots you may have not considered, and serve to ultimately strengthen your cause when you respond to these blind spots.

Social position matters.

A person’s social position is based on various social groups they belong to (e.g., profession, gender, race, culture, relationships) and provides them consent to perform certain actions and enter certain spaces. One of the more interesting observations from the study is that Smith and Carlos’ protest may have been viewed differently if they had the support of their teammates and people in positions of power. Based on this, it would behoove change leaders to seek ties with people with access to resources and “clout” they need to make change. For instance, recently, professional athletes have established relationships and met with Congressional leaders about issues related to race and policing, among others. These relationships could provide your change effort more legitimacy.

Final remarks

When we consider what is necessary for social change to take place, it regularly demands some type of disruptive act. Change leaders can play an integral role in this process. The challenge is this is often complex, and will often entail resistance to both the change and the tactics a change leader will use. Yet, I’m reminded of what John Carlos recently told me: If anyone ever calls you a troublemaker, rest assured you’re in damn good company. Don’t let them [opposition] intimidate you and scare you away from doing what you feel is right.”

Click here for full research article in Journal of Sport Management Vol. 32, Issue 6.

 

 

Author note: another version of this blog appears at: https://kwameagyemang.com/considering-taking-up-a-cause/

Agyemang, K. J. A., Berg, B. K., & Fuller, R. D. (2018). Disrupting the disruptor: Perceptions as institutional maintenance work at the 1968 Olympic Games. Journal of Sport Management, 32(6), 567-580.

Zacardi, N. (2018, October 3). Tommie Smith, John Carlos remember Olympic protest on 50th anniversary. NBC Sports. Retrieved from https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2018/10/03/tommie-smith-john-carlos-black-power-salute/

Observations from the WWC Part 2: Interview with Current Sky Blue FC GM

By Dr. Natalie L. Smith (@NatalieLSmith)

Natalie is an Assistant Professor at East Tennessee State University, a former Sky Blue FC & MLS employee, and is currently recruiting a Graduate Assistant for Fall 2020.

A continuation from last week, we followed up with someone who has been dedicated to women’s sport, and women’s soccer specifically, for years. In a practitioner insight interview to compliment last week’s blog, I interviewed a long-time friend, Alyse LaHue. She is the current Sky Blue FC General Manager & Adjunct Instructor at East Tennessee State University. Here’s the interview:

How has the WWC in France impacted Sky Blue FC attendance, media and sponsorship interest?

I would suggest it’s less so the general World Cup and more so the USWNT’s success during it that has driven this interest. It always seems to become a national cultural moment when the USWNT plays in the World Cup. You see media coverage on all outlets: online, tv news, newspapers. Everyone covers it and with that comes enhanced interest in women’s soccer in general. The victory is the major icing on the cake in that you then have a long extension of the WWC through parades, talk shows, and general ongoing appearances via everything you could imagine.

We’ve certainly seen a surge in attendance with two sellouts and a third on the horizon out of our 6 post-WWC games. We even just moved one to Red Bull Arena to accommodate demand. Sky Blue has never played there before. It allows us to engage more media and sponsors by playing in a venue like that, a bit closer to NYC.

What questions do you and others who work in women’s soccer have that you can’t answer right now?

A major item for me is the measurables. There has been an instinct that women’s sports in general have that intangible emotional connection with fans, which I won’t deny. But as front offices we have to operate on data and numbers. Sponsorship ROI and impressions are areas that we typically have not been able to afford on the teams I’ve worked for. Those analyses can be very expensive but it’s something that would be intriguing to me. How many impressions on average does the jersey front get during the course of a season? How can we further measure the actual ROI for our partners instead of just treating their sponsorship like a donation?

What role do you see academics playing in women’s soccer? Have you collaborated with academia in your organizations?

I wish we had more collaborations! During my time in Chicago we had a group of students from Canada work on a semester-long project then come down and present it to us. It included many outside-the-box marketing ideas, many of which we actually ended up exploring

 

In conclusion, so many questions remain about how our current management theories relate to the realities of women’s soccer, and perhaps women’s sport more generally. Fortunately, this seems to be a growing area of interest for scholars. In the past year alone, we have seen a book published on the business of women’s sport (co-edited by Drs. Nancy Lough and Andrea Geurin), and a call for papers with the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing for a special issue on marketing in women’s sports (submissions due in December). This increased academic focus on women’s sport is needed and welcomed. Clearly those in the women’s sports space want more collaboration with academics, what an opportunity for us to provide much needed research.

Observations from the FIFA Women’s World Cup – Part 1

For many former and current sports business professionals and academics, attending sporting events are often simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating. Here are a few academic-professional observations from my 5th live Women’s World Cup, and suggestions for research.

By Dr. Natalie L. Smith (@NatalieLSmith)

Natalie is an Assistant Professor at East Tennessee State University, a former Sky Blue FC & MLS employee, and is currently recruiting a Graduate Assistant for Fall 2020.

For many former and current sports business professionals and academics, attending sporting events are often simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating. Here are a few academic-professional observations from my 5th live Women’s World Cup, and suggestions for research. Watch for Part 2, an interview with interim GM of Sky Blue FC, Alyse LaHue.

Creation of liminal spaces

Many fans I spoke to felt a lack of atmosphere in most of the French cities, something I also felt in Winnipeg 4 years earlier. They strongly desired a feeling of togetherness, celebrating women’s soccer as a group. While there were fan zones, most whom I spoke to thought they were solely children focused. This may not be what the event organizers intended, but it is how many people felt. Once finally inside the stadium however, the feelings of community and atmosphere were different. USA-France was a magical combination of European fan culture and USA supporters. It was the best sporting event I’ve ever attended. Exploring women’s sporting events as liminal experiences may be a wonderful opportunity for academic-organizer collaboration.

Understanding your fan base

Regarding the 2011 WWC, Hallmann (2011) is a good read. I wonder do those findings apply to France? Or those who travel internationally? Thanks to a summer research grant from Clemmer College at my university, East TN State University, I conducted a small exploratory project regarding coaches who traveled to the WWC, and an interesting point came up: It isn’t just about the sport. These individuals who have dedicated their lives to soccer, also spoke of seeing the cultural sites, drinking good wine, and spending time with friends and/or family in a foreign country. It also included a focus on learning, it was about conversation with each other during games. Similarly, in my informal conversations with fans across the English-speaking spectrum, I noticed while they came for a variety of reasons, none of them traveled alone. Those who research this space are probably thinking, “yeah duh, Natalie,” but is that research translating to organizer decision-making?

Level of play differences

For all the press the 13-0 game received, no one seemed to notice that on average, the level of play has improved dramatically since 1999. While there is a great deal of Uncertainty of Outcome research related to various aspects of men’s sports, works such as Valenti et al. (2019), only recently published, addresses the dearth of generalizability for women’s sports. What will happen when the women’s game moves to 32 teams?

Sponsorship bundling

IMG-4623
WWC Commemorative Cup Collection

Some of the conversations around the games this summer was the “value” of women’s soccer, and finally someone pointed out what I’ve known since working at Soccer United Marketing, women’s soccer national teams are mostly bundled with their male counterparts. Anecdotally, there are vastly different approaches to this bundling paradox. Most of my supervisors in business development could’ve cared less about women’s soccer back in 2010 and sold it as an afterthought, however I’ve seen this bundling used intelligently to provide value for the whole National Team or international federation brand. Exploring those differences, a hybrid sponsorship-organizational behavior research exploration could provide valuable insight for sport organizations seeking to maximize all their properties.

 

Effect on domestic situations & leagues

Some previous work (Feng et al., 2018) in Chinese men’s soccer found Chinese Super League attendance actually went down after the men’s World Cup. However, the presence of star players can positively impact attendance after an event like the men’s World Cup. Indeed, an entire issue of Soccer & Society considered this issue, but as the editors themselves note the issue was entirely about men’s events. For the 2011 WWC, research indicated attendance improved dramatically at Women’s Professional Soccer games, however the league folding that year left many unanswered questions. The appearance of stability for the NWSL and other domestic leagues around the globe could provide a better opportunity to understand this relationship. Which is why I asked a current NWSL GM to update us on the situation, which you can read about in Part 2 next week…

In conclusion, so many questions remain about how our current management theories relate to the realities of women’s soccer, and perhaps women’s sport more generally. Fortunately, this seems to be a growing area of interest for scholars. In the past year alone, we have seen a book published on the business of women’s sport (co-edited by Drs. Nancy Lough and Andrea Geurin), and a call for papers with the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing for a special issue on marketing in women’s sports (submissions due in December). This increased academic focus on women’s sport is needed and welcomed. Clearly those in the women’s sports space want more collaboration with academics, what an opportunity for us to provide much needed research.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, right here at nassmblog.com…

Diversifying the Face of the U.S. Sport Industry – A Call to Educators

by Dr. Jörg Vianden (University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse) and Dr. Liz A. Gregg (University of North Florida)

Sport is a white, male-dominated, multibillion-dollar industry characterized by a severe lack of racial and gender diversity among its leaders. In all levels of collegiate and professional sports, white men represent the upper echelon in leadership, front office, and coaching positions.

The lack of diverse sport management undergraduates and alums perpetuates the underrepresentation of diverse sport industry leaders. Among sport management majors, women typically represent fewer than one third of all students, while African Americans represent one tenth (Hancock & Hums, 2011). Faculty in sport management are also overwhelmingly white and male (Jones, Brooks & Mak, 2008). This may negatively affect racially minoritized students who struggle to connect with the program’s exclusively white faculty.

Diverse environments in sport organizations and academic programs prepare future professionals for the workforce, reduce stereotypes, and encourage collaboration and cultural understanding (Brooks, Harrison, Norris, & Norwood, 2013). Yet, women and people of color struggle to advance in the sport industry because of dubious hiring practices, sexual and racial harassment, work-life balance constraints, a lack of role models, and the tight network of white men who limit the advancement of minoritized sport industry professionals. (Click here for full references)

The Straight White College Men Project

The Straight White College Men Project is a qualitative study sampling 180 college students with traditionally privileged and oppressed identities at 13 institutions of higher education around the country. The study explores how participants view their own campus diversity efforts, how they conceptualize privilege and oppression relative to race, gender, and sexual orientation, and how they articulate their own perceived responsibility to enact social change. For the purposes of the Sport Management Education Journal article (Vianden & Gregg, 2017), we asked 22 heterosexual white male participants at a Southeastern university about their thoughts on how they could foster diversity in the sport industry.

Emerging Themes

  1. Perceived barriers: Toxic masculinity, male dominated culture, resistant or racist team owners
  2. Roles of women in managing sport: Women should fit specific roles in the sport industry, such as marketing
  3. Hiring policies in sport: Meritocratic ideals about who should be hired, affirmative action rules, increased competition for positions if more women or people of color were recruited
  4. Responsibility for change: Advocacy easier by current sport leaders versus those professionals fresh out of college, remaining open minded to learn about diversity without concrete commitment to enacting social change

Key Takeaways: First, participants sensed a bit of resignation about fostering diversity initiatives. Comments such as “that’s just the way it is” or “not much will change” speak to this resignation, but also to privilege and acceptance of the status quo. Second, participants painted a narrow view of diversity in sport. To them, diversity meant women and African Americans and some participants held stereotypical views specifically about women. Third, participants could not articulate or commit to having individual or collective responsibility to make sport more diverse.

Tips for Sport Management Educators

  1. Name White Male Privilege in Sport

Use white male hegemony in the sport industry as points of departure for classroom discussions. Interrogating white male privilege in sport helps both students and instructors raise critical awareness and foster commitment to social justice and equity.

  1. Infuse Diversity in Sport Management Curricula

Sport management as a major program of study has a captive audience of students who need to learn about diversity, but who seldom select such coursework unless required. Sport management programs have the ability, perhaps the obligation, to offer more diversity content in its curricula. Start with one required course, or establish learning outcomes in each course that target the understanding and application of issues of power, privilege, and oppression in sport.

  1. Inspire Responsibility in White Men to Stand up for Diversity

White male sport management students will one day hold the leadership roles in which they could affect sweeping change. Given this context, sport management educators must inspire white men to express their understanding of the roles they play in a fast-changing U.S. and global social environment. White men in sport must recognize how their privileges have the potential of keeping their peers from minoritized social groups without the opportunity to advance in the field.

Additional References
Brooks, D.D., Harrison, Jr., L., Norris, M. & Norwood, D. (2013). Why we should care about diversity in kinesiology. Kinesiology Review, 2, 145–155. doi: 10.1123/krj.2.3.145
Jones, D. F., Brooks, D. D. & Mak, J. Y. (2008). Examining sport management programs in the United States. Sports Management Review, 11(1), 77–91. doi:10.1016/S1441-3523(08)70104-9
Hancock, M. G. & Hums, M.A. (2011). If you build it, will they come? Proceedings of the North American Society for Sport Management Twenty-Sixth Annual Conference, London, Ontario.