Earlier this year an Ohio basketball team was banished from their recreational league for wearing racist jerseys during a game. The members of both basketball teams were high school students from West Clermont High School and Kings High, but they were not affiliated with the school districts other than renting the space hand having players that were students. The members of one of the basketball teams showed up for the game wearing jerseys that read “Wet Dream Team” on the front , while racial slurs were written on the back of the uniforms. One jersey read “Knee Grow”, while another jersey read “Coon”. One parent released a comment stating how shocked he was that many adults and parents condoned the behavior thinking it was only a joke.
When I read about this incident in Ohio, it made me think of when I played sports in high school. I started to realize how common racist acts were at my sporting events and sporting events that I attended. More often than not, if one team has mostly all White players and the other team does not, racism is prevalent. White fans will direct racial slurs at the opposing Black players, and even members of the team comprised of mostly White players will use racial slurs to attempt to bother the opposing team. After these events occur, the school or organization might might punish the perpetrators, but the consequences seem to have little to no effect. White people still feel entitled to say whatever they want, even if they are attending their own child’s sporting event. Allowing parents and other spectators to use that type of language is teaching the children playing the sport that is acceptable to use such derogatory language and behaviors.
What are ways to help combat racism in sports? Many people agree that one of the main benefits of playing sports is inclusivity. Early sports participation can help to address racial biases by allowing children to work alongside teammates of diverse backgrounds. Exposure to diverse authority figures, such as coaches, may also help children understand different beliefs, backgrounds and customs other than their own. However, how do we control the spectators in the audience? Or parents that allow their children to use racial slurs towards other players? Is it realistic to think racist spectators will always be reprimanded and on-field racial abuse will always be reported?