Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Sport Issues’ Category

Industry: Forging New Partnerships

NASSM and the Aspen Institute Announce Partnership

by Dr. Brianna Newland, Chair, NASSM Marketing & Communications Committee

The new NASSM strategic plan calls for NASSM to build alliances and partnerships with Aspen1jpegother organizations that share similar foci and goals. One of the first to have been completed is a partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program. You may recall, that Tom Farrey, who heads that program, was the keynote speaker at our recent conference in Denver. As a journalist, Mr. Farrey’s contributions as an ESPN reporter have been thought-provoking and innovative. His book, Game On, numerous articles, and work at the Aspen Institute have explored sport and societal issues and have been used by universities and organizations alike to shape strategy around issues facing sport, especially youth sport. As such, Mr. Farrey founded the Aspen Institute’s Sport and Society program to assemble the industry’s top thought leaders to shape future policy around sport.

The mission of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program is to “convene leaders, foster dialogue, and inspire solutions that help sport serve the public interest, with a focus on the development of healthy children and communities.” An aim of the program is to provide a venue for thought leaders to explore strategies on a range of issues. One such issue is the state of youth sport. In 2013, the program launched Project Play, a multi-year and stage initiative to develop sport for all and inspire lifetime play for our community’s children. Several key leaders have participated in events and a series of roundtables led to the January 2015 publication entitled, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game 

On January 25, the Aspen Institute will kick off a new quarterly “Future of Sports Conversation Series.” The first in the series is the “Future of Football: Reimagining the Game’s Pipeline.” Speakers in this discussion include Chris Borland, former San Francisco 49er linebacker, and Dr. Robert Cantu, co-founder of the CTE Center at Boston University, among others. For more details and to RSVP, click here.

NASSM and the Aspen Institute have agreed to find ways to work together and to promote each other’s work.  Both parties expect this relationship to be of substantial benefit not merely to NASSM, but also to the development of the sport industry. As Dr. Laurence Chalip, NASSM President recently noted, “Project Play has become the most significant policy initiative for sport development that the United States has seen in many years. It demonstrates the leadership that the Aspen Institute and its Sports & Society Program have taken in our field. The partnership we have formed will be good for NASSM, good for our members, and very good for sport.”

Sport Issues: S4D

We look too close, then we overlook

By Laura Coughlin, Development Aid Intern, Sports Charity Mwanza

There is this overarching idea that the western world needs to go to Africa and help, but do we see what we want to see or do we see what is really in front of us? I fell into this mindset after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2017, as I knew I wanted to avoid the corporate world a little longer and decided to travel to Tanzania to work for a sports charity. We worked to provide equipment and training to local teams and clubs. I quickly learned how Western influence is not this rainbow filled picture of volunteerism and help. We assume and judge and try to change what we see because it differs from the way we grew up, and then we overlook the issues we leave behind.

Kids in Tanzania play sport to keep off the streets. They play sport to avoid gang involvement. They play sport with the hope of becoming a professional and being able to provide for their family. They play sport with the hope of receiving an education, which they fail to receive at their local schools. In Eastern Africa, sport is a hope, a dream, and a means of survival.

IMG_2463[8]

Kids in the United States play sport for fun and to be active. They play to get into college. They play to make money; to be rich and famous. Sport in the United States is a pastime, a business, and a way for school kids to make friends.

When westerners enter these rural parts of Africa, we look close and narrow in on the fact that this boy is playing football without any shoes on and a red flag goes off in our mind. We are used to having the latest pair of Nike cleats at our reach, therefore how can this kid properly play sport without similar shoes? Because of instinct, we search and donate shoes to that little boy and some of his friends. They enjoy and show them off and now everyone in the community wants the same nice shoes. Can you blame them? As volunteers, we do what we can but to give a whole community a pair of shoes is just too much. So we leave these few boys now possessing an unnecessary material item, and unknowingly have created a demand that we cannot fill. We look too close at the shoes, and then we overlook the larger picture.

IMG_2462[8]

While the sports industry drives our economy in a positive way, maybe it is driving our values in a negative way. These kids in Tanzania had some of the most impressive football skills I have seen in a youth community, without shoes and without a properly lined field. We need to stop looking at these players as charity cases and begin to see them for what they are, talented youth with the potential to dominate a professional football league. There needs to be a push to get them exposure and the resources they need to have their skills seen, to give them the opportunities to change their lives through sport, the way athletes in the United States can. We cannot expect these opportunities to be identical. They must be relative to the location, such as a chance to escape violence in Tanzania versus the chance to go pro in the United States. These opportunities will vary, but they need to exist.

Don’t get me wrong, donating to a child in need is great and something to smile about. I just hope we can get to the point where we take another step into the investment of these poverty stricken kids. We need to help them take another step towards their future in their new shoes. I hope Western culture doesn’t lose the passion and dedication that is the true key to success in sport, and we do not just remain focused on the money or cool shoes. I hope to focus my future career in sport on community development and athletics that have a direct impact on individuals and their situations. Imagine how many kids from Eastern Africa could out play Ronaldo, but will never get the chance because we only give them shoes instead of a shot.

Issues: Para Sport II

Narratives of Paralympic Sport: Perspectives from Rio and Beyond

Joshua R. Pate, Ph.D., James Madison University

Editors’ note: This post is the second in a series focused on disability sport and the Paralympic Games. The first post in the series, written by Dr. Laura Misener, was published on January 9, 2017.

I always enjoy and hate asking my undergraduate students this question: “How many of you have seen a Paralympic sport before?” The response—or lack of—is disturbing.

Amanda_McGrory_and_1500_wheel_chair_racers_1500m_feminino_categoria_T54_at_Paralimpics_Rio_2016

The 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Students in the United States don’t watch the Paralympic Games because, as simple as it may sound, it’s not something on ESPN’s SportsCenter. It’s not covered by mainstream media. It’s not shoved in our faces as Americans. It’s just not present among U.S. media coverage of sport. When it is, it’s in the Lifestyles section of the newspaper or the Features segment on a nightly news program.

I hate it when I ask that question because I know the response. In a class of 38 students, less than five raise their hand.

I love it when I ask that question because I know we’re about to cover a unit in class where learning is nearly guaranteed.

Such was the case this September when the Paralympics were held in Rio. We were guaranteed a record-breaking 66 hours of coverage here in the States to be shown on NBC Sports Network, which is reportedly available in 71% of U.S. households with a television, according to Sports TV Ratings (2016).

Ratings website Sports Media Watch reported that primetime coverage of the Paralympic Games averaged 143,000 viewers, an increase of 175% from the London Paralympic coverage (Paulsen, 2016). The single broadcast that aired on NBC pulled 651,000 viewers for a 0.4 final rating. Granted, the Rio Games received 60.5 more hours of American televised coverage compared to the mere 5.5 hours of coverage from the London Games.

Yes, we have to start somewhere. Yes, 66 hours is better than 5.5 hours of delayed, commentator-dubbed footage. Yes, we anticipate even more coverage in the future if advertisers jump on board (and see what’s in it for them, such as a demographic of brand-loyal consumers that would rival NASCAR fans).

But if we’re talking narratives following the Rio Paralympics, there were none in the U.S.

I had the occasional student tell me they watched an event. I had the occasional colleague or neighbor tell me they saw something the other day on the Special Olympics. And aside from the few of us in the United States studying Paralympic and disability sport, I question the percentage of sport management courses across the U.S. that spent time on the topic at all this September … or October … or November, whether it would’ve been inclusion-related, facilities, general management, governance, etc.

PATE 2 - Sochi Press Room (3)

The Press Room at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi.

dePauw (1997) referred to the lack of media coverage as “Invisibility of Disability,” where athletes are invisible or excluded from sport altogether. dePauw’s spectrum of disability sport coverage expands to “Visibility of Disability” where athletes are visible but inferior to able-bodied athletes, and finally “(In)Visibility of DisAbility,” where athletes are seen as athletes first and disability is minimized.

In U.S. media coverage, disability sport is invisible. We can draw comparisons to other global sports not covered as prominently in American sports media, such as Premier League soccer. In the technologically-driven age of being able to know the Liverpool-Southampton result instantly, we have no excuse for not knowing how easily the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team breezed through to the gold medal in Rio.

However, we are at a critical time in academia where, as educators, we have the opportunity or perhaps the duty to not just inform students of Paralympic and disability sport but to engage them into a critical discussion of why a global event with more than 4,000 athletes is nowhere on our U.S. sport coverage agenda.

References

dePauw, K. (1997). The (in)visibility of disability: Cultural contexts and ‘sporting bodies.’ Quest, 49, 416-430.

Paulsen. (2016). More ratings: Paralympics, World Cup of Hockey, WNBA on ESPN. Retrieved from http://www.sportsmediawatch.com/2016/09/paralympics-ratings-nbcsn-world-cup-hockey-espn-viewership-wnba/ 

Sports TV Ratings. (2016). How many more homes is ESPN in than FS1 and NBC Sports Network? Retrieved from https://sportstvratings.com/how-many-more-homes-is-espn-in-than-fs1-and-nbc-sports-network-june-2016-edition/5087/

Issues: Para Sport I

Beyond Rio…Accessibility, Elitism and Sport Development

Laura Misener, Ph.D. – Western University

Editors’ note: This post is the first in a series focused on disability sport and the Paralympic Games. The second post, written by Dr. Josh R. Pate, will be published on February 20, 2017.

As a scholar in the realm of disability sport, I must confront my seemingly incongruent position of privilege as a white, able-bodied, former elite athlete with the critical discourses of disability which I interrogate. I was struck by that reality as I spent time in Rio, Brazil in the lead up to and during the 2016 Paralympic Games. I found my time in Rio both a pleasure as a sport fan, and problematic as a conscientious citizen and researcher.

misener_paralympics2

Dr. Laura Misener at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

The question remains, has this event changed anything about Rio or Brazil for the lives of persons with disabilities? This issue remains central to much of the ongoing research about so-called legacies or impacts of the hosting the Paralympic Games. I situate my own scholarly thinking about disability, on what Goodley (2013) and others argue is systemic discrimination based on ableist (i.e. able bodied as ideal) assumptions, institutions, and structures that disadvantage persons with a disability. Spaces of poverty and deprivation abound in Rio and throughout the urban landscapes of Brazil, which presented a stark contrast to the pristine, elite sporting venues of the Games. In terms of accessibility and understanding of disability, I witnessed how far Brazil must go to address some of the basic standards set forth by the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The crumbled pavements, lack of curb cuts, no audible cues in traffic, and inaccessible transportation network are just some of the ongoing physical issues that were to be addressed through the hosting of the Paralympic Games. But the expectation that such an event can meet such a colossal challenge is insurmountable, particularly in the face of such economic and political turmoil. In many ways, my experience of being in and around venues only served to further highlight the inequalities experienced by many Brazilians with a disability.

On the other hand, I felt optimistic about the event being able to highlight inequities and potentially focus on shifting negative attitudes and stereotypes about disability. But as a spectator and fan of sport, they got it all wrong. As I listened to IPC President Sir Philip Craven’s speech during the Opening Ceremony, he framed disability around the problematic inspirational narrative (i.e. supercrip) and missing the mark on the social inequities that disability often produces. Further, the Paralympic flag was brought into the stadium by a group of severely disabled children who will never access the Paralympic movement, literally puppeteered by adults was further demonstrative of the distanced understanding of disability in the everyday life. Yet, the crowd of international elite Sport Managers, Policy Makers, and Dignitaries around me loved it! It is perhaps a call for me as a scholar to work harder from within and without to demonstrate the value and importance of our work.

misener_paralympics1

Photo courtesy of Dr. Laura Misener

My time at the events was brief, but it highlighted further the poor understanding and inequalities of disability sport in this country. At Athletics, I watched a T36 (visual impairment) athlete from Portugal miss his jump time because the crowd was too loud for him to hear the coach to know when to jump. Then, after protesting, he was allowed an additional attempt and foot-faulted – yet the crowd cheered loudly applauding his failed attempt. Certainly, we can chalk this up to different cultural contexts where Brazilian crowds are supportive of all sporting efforts, but athletes know and feel the difference between educated sport fans and piteous encouragement.

I still believe that these Games and similar types of events can be an opportunity for social change. I met volunteers and local citizens from Rio who saw the Paralympic Games as the highlight event. They believed that this was the opportunity to change the way people think, understand, and act towards disability. I am not convinced that sport managers have the solutions about how to appropriately manage sport, disability sport, or mega events but I do see that we have much space as scholars for interesting conversations and the real machinations of political will to see these as social change opportunities.

Knowledge is Power: How Can We Contribute to Social Justice in Divisive Times?

Editors’ note: The following post is intended to be a conversation starter amongst NASSM members and blog readers regarding this timely sport issue. We strongly encourage readers to contribute to a thoughtful and respectful dialogue on this topic by writing your comments on this post. Please check back often to view additional comments and responses!

Christine E. Wegner, Ph.D. – University of Florida
John N. Singer, Ph.D. – Texas A & M University

redskins-protest-signsThe year 2016 has seen a number of events and incidents in organized sport that speak to social injustices in the United States in particular, from Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the systemic racism within the criminal justice system, to the reactions of both the NBA and the NCAA in the wake of North Carolina’s Hb2 law. As more and more perspectives join the conversation about social justice, we should be reminded of George Cunningham’s 2014 Zeigler lecture, calling for ways to support and create social justice both through and in sport. Given the increasing gravity of recent events, sport management scholars and researchers need to become part of the current conversation, offering their knowledge to the intersection between sport and social justice, through immediate action in the community.

We are quick to recall the importance of sport in our lives when we seek to justify our existence as a field. Therefore, when this importance serves as a platform for fighting injustice, we owe it to ourselves to reinforce that platform, a charge we too often have left to sport sociologists. As Wendy Frisby suggested in her 2005 Ziegler lecture, sport management, with a unit of analysis as the organization, can be an important part of the ongoing dialogue. What is happening today is such a force, in part, because of the power of organizations, and specifically the power of organizing in sport. We therefore must find new modes through which to engage with and contribute to the current conversation.

john_carlos_tommie_smith_peter_norman_1968cr

In in a keynote address at the 2016 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) Conference, Harry Edwards talked about the critical difference for scholars and researchers engaging with the activism of athletes in the 1960s and those of today. The pace of the 24-hour news cycle and the actions and perspectives created constantly through social media outlets shrink the temporal window for current scholars and researchers. Writing journal articles about today’s climate, attitudes, and actions are a vital reflection of process, change, and social inquiry. However, those articles, whose contributions are slowed by the submission process, can rarely ever be part of the current dialogue, the crucial discourse that is so fundamental to progress and social change.

Discourse can be hard. It can be painful. It can force us to reflect on our privilege. Our failings. Our humanity and lack thereof. But it is necessary. In a world where ignorance has found a powerful faucet in social media, we as individuals who know history, politics and theory, owe it to the future that we teach to be a part of the immediate discourse as well, and to counter some of this ignorance.

Just as the events of the past few months and even weeks have no doubt found their way into classroom discourse as teachable moments and opportunities for dialogue, we need to continually find ways to engage in the current climate in real time. For example, Joseph Cooper’s Collective Uplift at the University of Connecticut, works to educate and empower student athletes of color directly.  As another example, organizations such as RISE combine managers, athletes, activists, and educators in its efforts toward social progress. And many programs and organizations already rely on our expertise as researchers to assess both their efficacy and understand the sources of change.

icant-breatheBut this is more than a call to join in these efforts.  We also hope to start a dialogue about innovative ways we can be a part of the social justice movement, especially in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign and U.S. election, which has left many emboldened to openly discriminate, and others in fear of their rights and lives. Where are the spaces and opportunities in which we can insert ourselves into the national and international conversation, given the role of sport and sport organizations in our world today? How can we incorporate collective action into our research to make it meaningful immediately, in addition to the knowledge it generates through our studies, manuscripts, and conference presentations?

Please join the conversation and post your thoughts on this topic below!

%d bloggers like this: