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.

Applying Career Construction Theory to Female National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Conference Commissioners

by Elizabeth A. Taylor (Temple University), Jessica L. Siegele (UNC-Pembroke), Allison B. Smith (University of New Mexico), and Robin Hardin (University of Tennessee)

Member institutions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) began sponsoring sports for women in the 1970s soon after the passage of Title IX, and the NCAA then began offering championships for women in the early 1980s. Both of these changes led to the dissolution of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) which was providing governance for women’s collegiate athletics. Women’s athletics were eventually fully integrated into the governance structure of the NCAA which led to increased funding, participation, and scholarship opportunities for women. All positive developments. A negative aspect of women’s athletics coming under the purview of the NCAA though was the reduction in leadership and coaching opportunities for women.

Women hold fewer than 25% of the athletic director positions in the NCAA, and 11% of athletic departments do not have a woman in an administrative position in any capacity. Women also only hold approximately 25% of the head coaching positions in the NCAA. There has been a plethora of research examining career mobility issues for women in sport and in collegiate athletics. Common themes that have emerged from this line inquiry are gender normalcy, homologous reproduction, organizational barriers, lack of mentors, and issues associated with work-life balance.

One place where women have seen more success securing senior level positions is that as conference commissioners. Eleven of the 32 NCAA Division I conference commissioners were women at the time of this study with one women serving as commissioner of two conferences. A much higher percentage than other leadership positions. The purpose of the project was to examine the experiences of women who are NCAA Division I conference commissioners and how they were able to ascend to these positions of leadership using career construction theory (CCT) as a theoretical framework. The study consisted of semi-structured interviews with 8 of the women who held the position at the time of study. Career construction theory was utilized for its ability to examine how and why specific events or experiences as well as education and training influence an individual’s career choices.

Findings:

Women may experience increased success in leadership positions at conference offices, compared with on-campus athletic departments, due to limited direct interaction with football and donors.

Findings revealed participants constantly negotiate time spent on personal and professional obligations, and relationships created in the workplace turned into organic mentorship relationships. The experiences and challenges of negotiating the space between work and family are not specific to collegiate athletics, but may be more prevalent in an industry with high time demands, a nontraditional work schedule, and pressure to perform at a high level.
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Women from the study indicated they engaged in very personal, professional relationships with other female conference commissioners around the country. They would often extend work trips to create opportunities for female-to-female bonding. These types of experiences are common practice for male employees, however, this is one of the first times a population of female employees within the sport industry has described these behaviors and events. Participants felt that there were limited amounts of sexism in the workplace, but all discussed experiencing instances of sexism, indicating a culture of gender normalcy. Many of the participants discussed these experiences while appearing to “laugh them off,” however sexism was still prevalent. These women may have learned the sexism and discrimination is part of the job and to be successful they must learn to accept it.

For Industry:

  1. Model Good Behavior: Practically speaking, more senior level employees can model better work-life balance to show entry-level employees it is acceptable to take time for family or outside interests. It is important this behavior is modeled otherwise entry-level and newly-hired employees will believe they must be in the office for extended periods of time and weekends in order to be successful.
  2. Build Strong Networks: Additionally, athletic departments can utilize this information to help women build strong networks within the field of collegiate athletics. Encouraging women to engage networking that is both personal and professional may be beneficial for women in the industry.
  3. Build Culture Against Sexism: Finally, creating a culture that is not tolerant of sexist behavior is critical to increase the presence of women within the collegiate athletics industry. Although more senior level female employees may “put up” with sexist behavior because they have become accustomed to it that does not mean it is accepted behavior that should be tolerated.

 

To read the original article from Journal of Sport Management, click here.

Leading With Vision and Values: An Interview With Richard Peddie, Former President & CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

By Frederik Ehlen, Dr. Jess Dixon, and Dr. Todd Loughead (University of Windsor)

Richard Peddie is the former president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and Toronto Football Club. We had the privilege of chatting with Peddie, where he shared some valuable leadership and career lessons that he learned along his journey.

“I managed to get my ticket punched in every area of professional sports, except for running a team itself.”

Peddie’s journey started with an honors bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Windsor and a dream of leading a professional basketball team. In our interview, he listed branding, market research, sales, general management, and financial management as attributes that he had developed during his time as a student and throughout the early part of his career in the consumer packaged goods industry. Joining SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) in 1989 was his first step into the sport and entertainment realm. Peddie credits his experience in selling hospitality suites and sponsorships, as well as running food and beverage operations to his time with SkyDome. Next, Peddie joined Labatt Communications, which later became NetStar Communications, as President and COO. While there, he oversaw the operations of TSN, among other specialty Canadian cable television channels, and the launch of TSN.ca—one of the first online sports media websites in Canada. Adding television and digital media expertise helped make his case to be hired as President of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors in 1996.

Throughout the interview, Peddie drew clear examples of how his experience in these various roles helped him as president and CEO of MLSE – his learnings from SkyDome when overseeing the construction of Air Canada Centre (now Scotiabank Arena) and Maple Leaf Square, as well as his digital media knowledge from NetStar Communications when launching Leafs TV and NBA Raptors TV and acquiring GolTV. Although his pathway cannot be seen as a blueprint to success, indeed there are many different avenues to achieving a senior leadership position within professional sports, it reinforces the importance of developing a broad set of skills and experience.

 “So, do I believe vision and values work? Absolutely, but only if you are committed to them, only if you make your decisions based on them, only if you constantly reinforce them.”

Peddie, who retired from MLSE in 2012, has always been invested in leadership and leadership education. When we met with Peddie, he shared insights and personal experiences with his approach of choice – leading by vision and values. Having spent the early part of his career in the consumer packaged goods industry, he offered a prime example of his company’s commitment to vision and values. Specifically, he followed the advice of a young brand manager, who was living the company’s values, to discard a low-grade batch of creamed corn rather than distribute it to the retailers – leaving shelf space unused for nine months. This commitment to the company’s value that ‘quality is essential’ paid off for the company in the long term. Peddie also told us how he defined and implemented his vision and values approach to leadership with MLSE, and how he ensured staff buy-in.

Asked about his leadership style and approach to running an organization, Peddie acknowledged meritocracy as a principle that he practiced throughout his career. He explained how Jack and Suzy Welch’s (2005) Winning inspired him to focus on the growth of the top-performing 20% of employees, while parting with the bottom 10%. He drew the natural comparison to sports where players get cut and unsuccessful coaches are fired.

Closing the interview, Peddie emphasized that leadership is a lifelong journey that never ends. He believes that “the moment you stay still as a leader, you are going to fall by the wayside.” For him, the only way to become a great leader is to keep learning and developing.

To read the entire interview, check out to the April 2018 edition of Sport Management Education Journal

Sport, Twitter Hashtags, and the Public Sphere: Curt Schilling Case Study

Instantly, the hashtag #CurtSchilling became a flashpoint for debate about the issue on Twitter. Thousands of users deployed the hashtag over the following 24 hours, either criticizing Schilling for his homophobia, or castigating ESPN for political correctness. Capturing 10,000 of those hashtags revealed fascinating findings.

By Dr. Brendan O’Hallarn (Old Dominion University)

“Twitter is Destroying America”

This stark headline greeted readers of current affairs and politics website The Week early in 2017, after a particularly ugly Presidential election campaign. The piece joined others with similarly bleak prognoses in The Atlantic and Medium as the popular social media site faced a rash of criticism over the prevalence of bad behaviors by its users.

For me, unabashed Twitter enthusiast, the critique represented a challenge. Can the enlightened, pro-democratic discourse Twitter promised during its hopeful early days

NASSM Blog Habermas
 Jürgen Habermas

as a vital organizing tool used by Arab Spring protesters still be realized? Can it still offer the potential to create dialogue akin to Jürgen Habermas’ public sphere?

The passion and consumption pattern of sport fans, along with specific aspects of Twitter architecture—notably the nimble hashtag—could spur the type of online discourse that Habermas termed deliberative democracy. Of course, barriers exist to that construct, notably the limitation on the length of tweets and the Online Disinhibition Effect, the tendency for online interactions to turn angry and negative.

On April 20, 2016, a former World Series-winning pitcher decided to make his political views very public.

The Military Child Education Coalition 17th National Seminar
Curt Schilling

Schilling was fired after sharing a meme on his Facebook wall about HB2, the North Carolina law which prohibits transgender people from choosing which bathrooms to use. It featured a picture of a large man in ill-fitting women’s clothing and the caption: “Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you are a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” Schilling was swiftly fired by ESPN.

Clearly, two “teams” of Twitter users materialized—with pro-Schilling and pro-firing tweets appearing in abundance. Analyzing the conversation patterns demonstrated there was very little interaction between the “poles”—the two sides were almost exclusively talking past each other.

However, an online questionnaire given to users of #CurtSchilling in the time interval of the study revealed three interesting things:

  1. The users themselves felt a tremendous kinship with other users of the hashtag, feeling like they were part of a collective conversation;
  2. Almost universally, they had no interest in communicating with the other “side” in the debate, feeling like everyone’s mind was already made up; however,
  3. Despite the lack of interactions, hashtag users knew all of the arguments being put forward by the other side. Even though they weren’t discussing the issue actively with them, they were consuming the alternative viewpoints.

Why This Matters:

The general fulfillment from users of the hashtag and the awareness of differing viewpoints (even if not commented upon) suggest some behavior approaching the Habermasian public sphere is present in the interactions.

For #Sportsbiz Professionals:

If they are running an active Twitter feed for their organization, the feeling that “engagement” with followers is the only way to feel like your feed is making an impact. Sometimes it’s worth simply knowing that even if they don’t voice their opinions, people are listening.

 

For those interested in reading in more detail, find the full research article here.

Challenge accepted: Why women play fantasy football

As expected, women play fantasy football for similar reasons as men, but also play for unique reasons. A total of five motivation factors were uncovered.

Three factors (Enjoy, Enhance, and Socialize) are similar to motives previously found by sport management and communications scholars, and two factors (Challenge and Connect) are unique to female participants.

By Brendan Dwyer (Virginia Commonwealth University), Joshua M. Lupinek (University of Alaska-Fairbanks), & Rebecca Achen (Illinois State University)

Women dominate the consumer economy. Some estimate that they control over 75% of all discretionary purchases and represent a growth market larger than China and India combined. Yet, our marketing strategies for this lucrative population are often stuck in the 1950s. Spectator sport marketing provides a harrowing example of this, as we often engage women’s sports fans through the “Pink it and Shrink it” strategy. That is, we take a product initially marketed toward men, like a football jersey and make it pink and smaller. While strategy may reach some women, it fails to fully represent the unique needs and wants of this important demographic.

fantasyfootball_infographic
Credit: Julia Gilbert (www.juliagilbertart.com)

In the context of fantasy football, women make up nearly 38% of participants and represent the fastest growing demographic for the activity. This is unique phenomenon, as fantasy football has been portrayed as a highly masculine domain. In the sport management and communications literature, most of the research on fantasy football has focused on why people participate. The resulting motives vary from one study to the next, but consistency between the studies exists in that nearly all of them surveyed or interviewed male participants only. A few studies have then taken the motive instruments developed through male samples and applied them to female samples.

This provides some utility; however, similar to the above “Pink it and Shrink it” strategy, it misses the opportunity to understand the unique motives of female fantasy participants. Certainly women play for the same reasons as men, but they may also play for reasons that have never been measured. The current study aimed to explore this phenomenon.

The current study explored why women play fantasy football through a scale development research design. We conducted multi-stage, mixed methods study where women fantasy football participants and sports fans were inductively interviewed, motives were then developed, refined, and retested on two larger samples of female fantasy football participants. In total, 450 participants were studied.

As expected, women play fantasy football for similar reasons as men, but also play for unique reasons. A total of five motivation factors were uncovered.

Three factors (Enjoy, Enhance, and Socialize) are similar to motives previously found by sport management and communications scholars, and two factors (Challenge and Connect) are unique to female participants. These factors include:

  • Enjoy: playing for fun and entertainment
  • Enhance: to improve the time spent engage in NFL-related activities
  • Socialize: to bond, compete, and stay in contact with friends, family, and coworkers Two factors, however, represent new motives for the fantasy sport knowledge base.
  • Challenge: The first unique motive. It represents the opportunity to engage and defeat male opponents in a male-dominated environment.
  • Connect: The second motive signified the drive to connect with individual NFL players on a deeper level through fantasy participation.

Validity testing found that the Enjoy and Enhance factors predicted NFL viewership, the Connect factor predicted social media use, and the Challenge factor negatively predicted enjoyment with the activity and positively predicted frustration. In general, the findings provide a number of takeaways for both academics and practitioners.

For academics, there remains a need for understanding the unique attitudes and behaviors of female sports fans. The current study is evidence that similarities obviously exist with males, but there are also distinct aspects to being a female sports fan.

For practitioners, the Challenge factor may represent an opportunity for more empowerment-related marketing tactics for female fantasy football participants and potentially female sports fans, in general. Empowerment marketing has grown recently, since its inception in the late 1960s. Companies like Under Armor and Dick’s Sporting Goods have utilized empowerment messages directly with sports equipment and apparel. Fantasy football may represent another platform for this marketing strategy. Similar to the female consumers, in general, female sports fans are powerful, and more empirical research in this area is advised.

Interested in learning more? Read the full article here.

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