Structural Racism In Professional Sports

Date of Award


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First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


The major professional sports leagues in America are consisted of Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL). It has certainly been said that sports in America reflect the greater society as a whole. Many people may believe that racial discrimination and segregation is a problem that has ended at the time when slavery ended; but past research says otherwise. This raises the question, is there in fact racial discrimination still occurring in professional sports today? During the time of 1970’s to the early 1990’s evidence shows that there was indeed racial discrimination and segregation in professional sports by the way of unequal employment opportunities and unequal payment of salaries, but this is very out dated data. I conducted my research by interviewing current professional athletes to gain insider knowledge from players that are playing at the professional level and measure discrimination to see if discrimination is occurring in this present era. From this I was able to create a qualitative analysis of the athletes' perceptions of racism in sports; this analysis can be very beneficial when comparing how athletes of different races perceive racism on the job. My findings from these interviews varied from the participants as they expressed that every players view on racism is shaped off of three central things; a player’s perspective, stereotypes that they might have encountered in their lives, and their personal experiences in certain situations. Current quantitative findings show that there is in fact a substantial gap in “central” positions in the NFL and MLB. Central positions can be explained as head coaching positions in management, and the quarterback position among players, which favors white athletes. This gap shows that there is structural discrimination occurring in sports in decision making positions that are hierarchical more powerful.


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