Presentations text content in Sports in Society:
Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies
Chapter 9Social Class:Do Money and Power Matter in Sports?Slide2
Resources in the form of money and power influence what sports you play and when, where, and how you play them.
These boys know this as they play makeshift tetherball illegally on a city-owned street sign.
Source: John Sutherland)Slide3
Social class =
. . . categories of people who share an economic position in society based on a combination of theirIncomeWealthEducationOccupationSocial connectionsSlide4
Social stratification =
. . . structured forms of economic inequalities that are part of the organization of everyday life. These inequalities influence life chances.Life chances are similar odds for achieving economic success and power in society.Life chances vary from one social class to another in the social stratification system.Slide5
Class relations =
. . . the ways that social class is incorporated into the organization of our everyday lives.Social class differences affect most parts of people’s lives in the U.S.Why do Americans accept the reality of class and class relations without debating it?Because of . . . (next three slides)Slide6
“Society’s winners play golf here.” This is what wealthy
and powerful people want everyone to believe, because it legitimizes their claim to privilege in society.
Class ideology =
. . . interrelated ideas and beliefs that people use toUnderstand economic inequalitiesIdentify their class positionEvaluate the impact of economic inequalities on the organization of social worldsSlide8
Class ideology in the US is based on:
The American DreamA hopeful vision of boundless opportunities for individuals to succeed economically and live a happy live based on consumptionBelief in meritocracyA form of social organization in which rewards go to people who earn them due to their abilities and qualificationsSlide9
Major beliefs that constitute
class ideology in the United States
*Opportunities are available to everyone~A system in which rewards go to those who deserve themSlide10
Class realities in the United States
Exclusive sport clubs are widely perceived as a
legitimate privilege of people in the upper class. This is an outcome of the belief in meritocracy.Slide12
Economic inequality, class relations, and sports
The meaning, organization, and purpose of sports are heavily influenced by money and economic power.Class relations in the U.S. are based on an ideology in which economic success is equated with individual ability, worth, and character.Competitive power and performance sports reaffirm this ideology.Slide13
Sport is frequently a site where the wealthy reaffirm their status and privilegeSlide14
Class relations and power in sports
The most powerful people in sports are white men who control the resources that sponsor sports and represent sports in the media.The most visible sports around the world revolve around the meanings and orientations given priority by people with wealth and power.Slide15
“Power 100” in U.S. sports
Sports Illustrated’s “50 Most Powerful People in Sports” ranks people on their power in and over sports. Rankings change each year, but they consistently show thatPower is based in organizations and rests in the hands of the white men who control them.Athletes and coaches have little or no power to control the organization of sports.Slide16
White men hold nearly 100 percent of the major
power positions in elite sports today—ALL of the top 20 (below). These men have much in common with other economic elites in the United StatesSlide17
According to Antonio Gramsci . . .
Sports and other forms of exciting entertainment are cultural vehicles for establishing “ideological outposts” in the minds of people.These outposts relay into the popular consciousness messages that reaffirm a class ideology that legitimizes current forms of class inequality in society.Slide18
Class relations and cultural ideology
Sports are valuable cultural vehicles fordeveloping ideological “outposts” in theminds of people around the world.This is why transnational corporations spend billions of dollars to be primary providers of popular pleasure and entertainment.Then corporate spokespersons use sports to deliver other messages about what should be important in people’s lives (commercials are just one part of this).Slide19
Young people in
working class families usually play sports in public parks and schools. These activities often are creatively arranged, but they lack the support and consistency characterized by the organized sports played by young people in upper- and upper-middle-class families
Source: © Basia Borzecka)Slide20
Social class and sport participation
Social class and class relations influence who plays sports, who watches sports, who consumes information about sports, and the information that is available.Generally, the higher the social class, the greater the involvement and influence.Sport participation occurs in the context of class-related lifestyles.Slide21
Young people in upper-middle-income households often have the resources and safe places to play sports close to
home—and they have many choices of what sports to play.
Public money and private profits
Sport venues are sites for transferring public money to wealthy individuals and private corporations byUsing sales taxes to build facilities controlled by team owners and private corporationsFunding construction with tax-exempt bonds purchased by wealthy investorsDiscounting property tax rates for sport facilities and development around stadiumsGranting tax deductions for tickets purchased for business purposes (nearly all luxury box and club seats are purchased this way)Slide23
Fans often are segregated by social class in stadiums; people in luxury suites don’t want “unity” and they pay to avoid it.People may cheer for the same team, but this does not mean that social integration existsSlide24
Does a stadium and team create jobs?
Yes, but at a price that far exceeds other forms of job creationA large department store or a university provides many more jobs than a pro sport team and stadiumMost sport stadium jobs are seasonal and low paidJobs from other areas may move to new businesses around the stadium, but the net increase in jobs is smallSlide25
This is a LEED
Gold-certified recreation center with multiple physical activity areas. It is a community meeting place as well as a center emphasizing healthy physical activities. Instead of using public money to build a new stadium for the Denver Broncos and the team’s multi-millionaire owner, the Denver region could have built 44 of these to serve local citizens for nearly 365-days a year—instead of 10-days.
Which would you choose?
Photo by Jay CoakleySlide26
Class and gender relations
Girls and women in low-income households often face the greatest constraints to sport participation.Boys and girls from higher-income families seldom face constraints that interfere with participation in after-school and summer programs, camps, and leagues.Gender-related factors have a greater impact on sport participation patterns in lower-income households.Slide27
Class and gender in men’s lives
Ideas about sports and masculinity vary by social class.Boys from lower-income backgrounds often see sport participation as a means of obtaining “respect.”Early, exclusive commitments to a single sport are more likely among boys from lower-income backgrounds—this is a reflection of life chances.Slide28
Wealth: Median net worth of households Percent change, 2005 2009 2005-09__________________________________________ Whites $134,992 $113,149 -16% Latinos $18,359 $6,325 -66% Blacks $12,124 $5,677 -53% Source: Adapted from Pew Research Center (2011)
The recession in 2007-2009 hit black and Latino families especially hard, cutting their average wealth by 53 percent and 66 percent respectively. This has a dramatic impact on discretionary spending and makes it very difficult to pay for the sport participation of any family members.Slide29
Social class, gender, and race/ethnicity
Research shows that for some low-income, minority men, boxing is an alternative to the violence of the streets.Boxing is a refuge from the violence, hopelessness, and indignity created by racism and poverty.Many of these men know they would not be boxers if other opportunities existed for them.Slide30
Boxing may be a refuge for young men from low-income households, but it also exacts a price among the boxers.
Source: © RD/
If you want to know who’s in the lowest social class, just look at who is boxing. U.S. boxers since the 1880s have been Irish, Italian, Jews, African Americans, and Latinos—as each ethnic group migrated to the U.S. and was at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.Slide32
Class relations in action
Cuts in publicly funded sport programs disproportionately affect people with few economic resources (e.g., school programs).Tickets to pro sports events are too expensive for many people today.Ticket prices increase about 30% after new facilities are constructed (even when regressive sales taxes provide the capital).Slide33
Between 1991 and 2012 ticket prices to the major men’s spectator sports increased nearly three times more than the rate of inflation.
Ticket prices are driven up by corporations that can deduct from their income taxes a portion of ticket costs. Also, wealthy people are willing to pay high prices so they can separate themselves from those with lower status. Unless you are relatively wealthy, you sit close to the rafters.Slide34
Global inequalities and sports
People in the U.S. have (on average) $60/day to live; in 39 less-developed nations, people have 58¢ per day to live.Nearly 50% of the world’s population live on less than $2/day.Example: In 2008 Tiger Woods made as much money as 200,000 people in less-developed nations used to live for the entire year.Sports and sport participation is a luxury for over half the world’s population.Slide35
Global inequities: The Olympics & Paralympics
Wealthy nations are the medal winners at the Olympic Games. Going into the 2012 Games in London80 of the 204 participating nations had never won an Olympic medal51 had won fewer than five medals in Olympic historyMany nations had not won a medal for at least 40 yearsThe United States, with its wealth and population size, had won 2,549 medals—many more than any other nation.Training for elite competition is now so expensive that about 80-percent of the global population has no realistic chance of winning a medal—unless they find a way to train in the U.S. or another wealthy nation. This pattern is even more pronounced in the ParalympicsSlide36
The annual Homeless World Cup is a site for initiating and sustaining political strategies advocating the rights of homeless people
worldwide.But it hasn’t been effective in changing national policies on homelessness.
Photo by Jay CoakleySlide37
Photo by Kevin Young
Young people in poor and developing nations are required to work, and they have little time and few resources to play sports.Slide38
When they do play, their facilities and equipment are makeshift and inconsistent over time. Access to coaches, medical care, and other things taken-for-granted in
the U.S. are in short supply if they exist at all.
Photo by Kevin YoungSlide39
Economic and career opportunities in sports
Career opportunities are limited and, for athletes, they are short term.The odds of making big money as an athlete are so low that nobody should bet much on them, and bets should be hedged with other career goals!Opportunities for women are growing but remain limited.Opportunities for African Americans and other ethnic minorities are growing but remain limited.Slide40
The data in this table do not reflect that college and professional
sports now recruit athletes worldwide. U.S. high school and college students now compete against age peers from around the world.
Estimated probability of competing in athletics beyond the HS levelSlide41
Most pro athletes make less than teachers in the U.S.Slide42
Careers for women
Careers as pro athletes for women have existed primarily in tennis and golf.Other pro sports have been formed recently, but they generate little revenue, and careers are insecure.Other job opportunities in sports remain limited by traditional gender ideology.The characteristics associated with being a woman are not seen as fitting many job qualifications in sports.Slide43
Careers for ethnic minorities
There are 28 times more African Americans working as doctors, lawyers, and college teachers than there are black athletes in top-level professional sports.Ethnic minority athletes have faced entry and retention barriers in the past.Employment barriers for ethnic minorities remain in many sports, especially in off-the-field positions of power in sport organizations.Slide44
Sports are organized so that
Members of ethnic minorities are more likely than whites to be defined as unqualified for off-the-field jobs.Job candidates most likely to be hired have values and orientations matching those of people in positions of power.The values and orientations of ethnic minorities are seldom part of the culture of sport organizations.Slide45
This photo provides a misleading picture of diversity in
U.S. tennis, because there are the only three black women who play regularly on the WTA tour, and only one Latina.
A rare exception in sports! An African American woman coaching a boys’ high school football team in Washington DC
: © Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Corbis)Slide47
Occupational careers among former athletes
Former athletes experience career benefits from playing sports if:They learn interpersonal skills that carry over to off-the-field jobs.People with power and influence define them as good job prospects because they were athletes.They can use their sport reputations to create the publicity needed to achieve career success.They are well connected with others who can provide opportunities or advocate their interests.Slide48
Only the top professional athletes make enough money to retire comfortably.Slide49
These data are a few years old. The inequality gap illustrated
here has become even wider today. This pattern is causing concern among players on some professional sport teams.Slide50
Research suggests that playing sports may be related to success when it
Enables people to complete degrees and gain knowledge about the world apart from sportsIncreases support from others who foster overall development, not just sport developmentProvides opportunities to develop social networks reaching beyond sportsProvides material resources and guidance on how to use themExpands experiences, identities, and abilities unrelated to sportsDoes not lead to serious injuriesSlide51
Changes that have increased the likelihood of athletes’ career success
Increased salaries for many professional athletes (after the 1970s)Increased visibility and name recognition that has value as a form of social capitalIncreased awareness among athletes that resources must be managed carefully to maximize opportunities in the futureSlide52
Major challenges faced by retiring athletes
Reconstructing identities in terms of activities, abilities, and relationships unrelated to sport participationRenegotiating relationships with others so as to gain feedback and support for new identities Do sport organizations have the responsibility to facilitate these processes?Slide53
Athletic scholarships and occupational success
The perceived number of full athletic scholarships is greatly exaggerated.One third of 1% of all students in NCAA universities receive full athletic scholarships.Athletic scholarships are awarded year to year, but athletes are obligated for 4 years.Class and race/ethnicity is related to who receives scholarships in what sportsMany students with athletic scholarships would attend college without such aid.Slide54
Most college athletes play without any athletic aidSlide55
Discuss: Social class & college sports
According to ESPN’s Tom Farrey, “beneath the thin layer of sport entertainment . . . are the bulk of college athletes: Well-off and white.”The college sports offering the best odds for scholarships are played primarily by young people from upper-middle-class families.The revenues generated by black male athletes often pay for the scholarships received by white athletes from well-to-do families.Slide56Slide57Slide58Slide59