Saturday, June 18, 2011

Racism in Sport

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Racism is the discrimination against certain ethnic minorities to the extent that in sport and society those people do not have equal access in terms of opportunity provision and esteem.

In Britain's society racial discrimination in sport is still very much a problem. Ethnic minorities are poorly represented at decision making levels in most sports. They find themselves excluded from various sports facilities and overlooked by sports development officers and coaches.

Some of the different types of racism are;

- Institutional Racism

Racism also finds institutional form. Patterns of social and racial superiority continue as long as no one asks why they should be taken for granted. People who assume, consciously or unconsciously, that white people are superior create and sustain institutions that privilege people like themselves and habitually ignore the contributions of other peoples and cultures. This "white privilege" often goes undetected because it has become internalised and integrated as part of one's outlook on the world by custom, habit and tradition. It can be seen in most of our institutions Judicial and political systems, social clubs, associations, hospitals, universities, labour unions, small and large businesses, the professions, sports teams and in the arts.


Sometimes with a genuine desire to be more inclusive, one or two black, Asian or native Americans are asked to fill leadership positions in order to change the internal culture of an institution. But the racist disposition of the institution can remain largely unaltered when the non-whites do not acquire full participatory rights. Without rising to levels of influence that can changed the entrenched attitudes, approaches and goals of the institution, they live with and even have to preside over policies, procedures and regulations that leave the institution in a basically racist mode. Often when these select few people of colour exhibit qualities of morality, intelligence and skills, which contradict the low expectations of the racial stereotypes applied to their cultural groups, they are viewed as "exceptional anomalies."

- Individual Racism

Unlike institutionalised racism which is more public in nature, individual racism perpetuates itself quietly when people grow up with a sense of white racial superiority, whether conscious or unconscious. Racist attitudes find expression in racial slurs, in crimes born of racial hatred and in many other subtle and not so subtle ways. People that are horrified by the Ku Klux Klan might quite readily subscribe to racial stereotypes about people of colour.

Poor, middle class and upper class people of all cultural groups often demonstrate feelings of prejudice toward people of a different national, cultural or economic background. Some adopt a "skin colour, racial hierarchy" both within and outside their own cultural group. When individuals automatically award superior status to their own cultural group and inferior status to those outside it, they are acting as racists.

- Ideological Racism

This occurs when people believe that some ethnic groups in society are inferior. It promotes the notion that certain groups are entitled to dominate other groups. It results in denial of the rights of the affected people and causes them to be treated in a negative way. Ideological racism is one of the root cause of all forms of racism.

In August 1, a survey by sporting equals of 6 governing bodies in sport found that they needed more guidance, support and information to help them address racial equality issues within their sport

"Too many governing bodies regard equality management not as an integral part of the process but as an unwelcome additional burden K the ongoing challenge is convincing governing bodies to think of racial equality as an integral component of their strategic planning and development"

Since the early 70s there has been a sense that discrimination no longer occurs in sport; this is based primarily on the large number of blacks in the three major team sports, as well as track. This increased participation began with 'quotas' which contributed to the phrase the 'token black' on a team.

Even today there are many sports in which minorities in general, and blacks in particular are underrepresented, these include hockey, skiing, figure skating, golf, volleyball, softball, swimming, gymnastics, sailing, bowling, badminton, cycling and tennis. Native Americans, with a few exceptions. The issue of nicknames in American sports such as the redskins, the warriors and the savages is very controversial. Chants and tomahawks are seen as a mockery of their culture, further contributing to certain stereotypes and Prejudice. Hispanics have been particularly ignored in sports even though ancestors of Hispanics have been in America since before the Pilgrims arrived.

Historically some deny that blacks participation is limited, but there is no debate that this was in the past.

1) Prior to the 50s whites systematically resisted playing with or against blacks.

2) Since 1950 blacks participation has been limited to a handful of sports.

3) This is especially true for black women, until recently thair participation has been limited to the occasional Olympic medal win in track and field.


Currently it is often pointed out that this trend has been reversed, and now blacks are over-represented in sports. This is because of their dominance in the big team sports, boxing and track and field. However researchers suggest that "If all sports were considered and the percentage of black participants in each were averaged, the overall proportion of top-level black athletes in sports would come close to the proportion of blacks in the US population".

Sport team owners discovered that large profits could be made in baseball football and basketball. They and their coaches abandoned their tradition of racial discrimination in favour of making money. This phenomena started in horseracing and boxing (traditional money making sports) and moved on to the three major American team sports; Blacks were used in boxing because of their high box office appeal, a spectacle effect reminiscent of the so few team members.

If we try to categorise the sports in which blacks excel with regard to the physical or psychological demands of those sports, we quickly get into trouble. Do blacks excel at all ball sports? Yes except that tennis and soccer are ball sports and blacks are not over-represented in those. Do they excel at leaping? Yes, except that they are under-represented at high jumping. If blacks have longer arms as suggested, does that give them a mechanical advantage for throwing? That would be logical and blacks are over-represented as baseball outfielders, but they are under-represented in javelin, discus, shot put, baseball pitching and football quarterbacking. Do blacks excel at team sport? Yes in American football, Basketball and baseball but ice hockey is a team sport and blacks are under-represented there. Do they not do well at individual sports? Boxing is an individual sport, and it is dominated by blacks. Since blacks sprint so well, do they excel at sports involving speed? Yes but cycling and skiing are speed sports, yet blacks are under-represented in each of those.



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