By Alex Paris, Guest Contributor, Sports+Fitness Network, and
Lisa Miller, Ph.D., Editor of Global Sport Management News
The advancements in sport uniforms signify cultural and contemporary change. These transformations align with other changes in society. The skyrocketing cost and vast array of colors and materials boggle the mind. However, some aspects still remain constant, and one unwavering fact still remains about team uniforms. No matter the color of the jersey, the color of the skin still makes a difference in how each person feels on the team. In the sport and fitness industry, some may say that racism represents an overcome societal issue of the past. Avoidance of the topic may feel more comfortable.
Industrial terms such as fair play and teamwork, that are recognizable in languages around the globe, are still plagued with awareness of prejudice based solely on the color of a player’s skin. Societal norms have changed over the years with progress on race relations, but the historical elements of struggle for equality cannot be erased or overlooked. Those same elements still impact thoughts, motives, emotions, and actions today. Racial inequality and racial fear still exist despite the progress. To deny this is to deny significant history and the need for continued improvements. Not so long ago, the black coaches in professional sports were an extremely rare exception. Tiger Woods still encountered all-white courses in his recent golf career. Improvements have been achieved, but improvements need to continue into the future.
In 1903, 87 years before the Augusta National Golf Club changed its membership rules, W.E.B. Du Bois a former slave and the first black person to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University wrote a book called “The Souls of Black Folk.” The book explained Du Bois’ views of cultural relations and his strong belief in a distinct and definite color line. To this day, 112 years after the book was released, a definite color line still exists, and mutual trust remains low across the line. According to an ESPN article, racism in international soccer has become a more popular topic than the actual game. Games have been cancelled due to fears of fans bellowing racial and anti-Semitic chants (Lapchick, 2014). Reports occurred of people throwing bananas onto the field or directly at black players. During the 2014 football season, forty soccer players and one entire team were reportedly racially abused by fans and spectators (Lapchick, 2014).
For those interested in a sports sociology perspective, Dr. Harry Edwards’ research material dates back to his beginnings in the racial unrest of the 1960s with observations that cover international race relations in sports. Edwards supported African-American athletes participating in the 1968 Mexico Olympics to peacefully protest in some form without boycotting the event. The protest served the purpose of bringing attention to the deteriorating racial relations at that time. The Olympic games often serve as a platform to stimulate discussion about racial issues.
As the 2016 Rio Olympics approaches, this article proposes a positive sport psychology perspective. The term prospection refers to contemplating, generating, and evaluating possible future scenarios (Seligman, Railton, Baumeister, & Sripada, 2013). Prospection includes human thoughts, emotions, and motives to create images of future goals. Mutual trust in race relations is one hopeful prospection requiring much difficult psychological and sociological underlying struggle, discussion, authenticity, listening, acceptance, and action. As Frederick Douglass once advised, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” All perspectives require a commitment to peaceful and respectful struggle toward positive progress. Mutual trust and trustworthiness evolve when altruistic motives dominate our efforts together with the mutual goal to create secure and equal opportunity for everyone’s health and happiness. This hopeful prospection of mutual trust transcends the color of the uniform in sports and the color of the skin. The importance placed on competition is recognized as an outdated and harmful mentality replaced by more peaceful representations of the mutual agreement that everyone wants to play together equally. Everyone wants to appreciate every person’s diverse contribution to the game. One color is not better than the other, and each color is mutually valued for being a unique part of the whole. As long as one strives to be “better than” rather than “appreciative of” each other, grateful peace and expanded wellness will never be achieved.
Edward, D. H. (n.d.). Sociology of Sports Origin. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ipyAYsb5Bg&feature=youtu.be
Lapchick, R. (2014, 12 31). ESPN. Retrieved from ESPN FC Coverage: http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/12093538/the-year-racism-sport
Seligman, M. E. P.; Railton, P.; Baumeister, R. F.; Sripada, C. (27 February 2013). Navigating the future driven by the past. Perspectives on Psychological Science 8 (2): 119–141
Alex Paris is a black coach and former player in the sport of rugby. With his parents being of two different races, he experienced racism from both sides of the color line in the United States and abroad.