American Sports: A Vehicle for Progressive Change?

Picture© Southern Spaces Journal

NY Times Op-Ed contributor Timothy Egan offers an interesting perspective on the power of sport to be a catalyst for progressive attitudes and change in American Society. He contends that historically, the athletic arena has often been the most powerful in showing tolerance and integration that contradicted traditional custom. 

He cites the example of Paul Di Pasquale’s statue of Arthur Ashe, erected on Monument Avenue in Virginia. Not only was this the first non-Confederate statue in the city center, it is also the only statue of a black native Richmonder- quite a contrast. Egan also cites the significance of Jackie Robinson’s entry into the (then) all white arena of Major League Baseball; Muhammad Ali and Richard Sherman using their fame and celebrity status to comment on social justice and racial issues outside the world of sports; and, most recently, the NBA’s lifetime ban of Donald Sterling for his racist remarks.

Of course, Egan’s piece is not intended to serve as a fool-proof theory, and, as many subsequent comments note, there remain a great deal of inequalities and prejudices in professional sport. Nonetheless, these examples serve as reasons to celebrate progress toward tolerance and equality, and should be treated as such. What do you think?

Click here for Egan’s full op-ed piece.


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