Racism in the Delivery of Professional Sport – Critical Response Blog

Chapter 9, “I’m not your child” in the text highlights the prevalence of racism in professional sport. The chapter opens with a fallacy: “the sport sector is considered one of the ‘least racist sectors in our society”. Throughout the chapter, it becomes increasingly clear that the author, Zirin, attacks this point. To shape the argument, he points to the wholesome nature of sport, saying sportsmanship on the court (field, or rink) outbalances any whelming notions of racism in sport. More prevalent human aspects like comradery, companionship and respect can and perhaps do largely outplay racism; “after the final buzzer, we are all equals”, he notes to conclude the chapter, a point that holds true in all cases of racism.

A number of sport-specific examples are referred to throughout the chapter. For instance, HBO’s Real Sports program uttered a racist remark about David Stern’s position as a ‘plantation overseer’, triggering images of racism in the minds of the public. He also refers to the NBA’s Jeremy Lin hype as racially motivated, and the internet at large as a monolithic, never-ending source of perpetual racist provocations.

The most provoking tidbit from this chapter I found was Zirin noting that basketball suffers from racism more so than the other big 3 league because of the unique situation to market a largely African American talent base to an overwhelmingly white, middle class consumer base. On a world scale, professional sport is almost always presented and offered to this demographic… so I wonder are there ramifications to this? Is it or should it be unspoken in the world of sport? Zirin makes clear that “if reflections of racism are acknowledged as reality in the realm of sport, then how racism is challenged by (all constituents in the sport product) can have a positive…effect in challenging racism everywhere”. In other words, any action taken within the walls of pro sport to uphold or enforce strong expectation for nonracial behaviour for all constituents involved (owners, players, fans, etc.) can go a long way in curing the issue on a grander scale.

In the end, Zirin refutes his opening point, saying “racism is a reality in sports, as in life. We can choose to ignore it, but that only guarantees that it will continue, both inside of sports and outside”. It is my opinion that since racism is a current issue worldwide, those responsible for the delivery of professional sport must enact strict punishment to those participating in racist action. Policy should be made to advocate for an anti-racist environment in the consumption space of professional sport, even though the scope of the issue is, indeed, daunting. It is important to continue to quell racism as it happens in sport, meaning exacting punishments such as suspension, expulsion and fines. However, it is more important to act when racism is not occurring in order to build a strong base of understanding among consumers: if one wishes to enjoy and consume or participate in the product of pro sport, they must advocate against racism. Perhaps those athletes who feel strongly about the issue not wait until a trigger situation, and actively campaign for change within society through means of their celebrity status.


Zirin, D. (2013). Game Over: How Politics Has Turned The Sports World Upside Down. (p. 163-183). New York, United States of America: The New Press.

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One Response to Racism in the Delivery of Professional Sport – Critical Response Blog

  1. pw10wo says:

    After reading this post, I also find it interesting that Zirin considers the NBA to suffer from the most racism between the three major leagues in North America. Considering the history of the NBA, I can fully understand where Zirin is coming from. If one was to watch the HBO documentary on Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, it is clear that in the early 1980s the popularity of the NBA was suffering due to the lack of support for teams consisting of mostly African-American athletes. I am not as informed about the NFL, so it would be interesting to compare the prevalence of racism in the two leagues, especially during the 1980s.

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