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Tackling Bias in Sport: Recognizing the Impact of Identities

Posted by on Thursday, January 18, 2024 in Articles, Volume 26, Volume 26, Issue 2.

Meg Hancock | 26 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 329 (2024)

Studies suggest participation in organized sports—from childhood to adulthood—promotes positive physical, social, emotional, and intellectual benefits that impact individuals and their communities over a lifetime. Sports participation in early childhood and adolescence also leads to higher self-esteem, greater wage-earning potential, lower health costs, reduced chronic disease, and lower levels of depression. In adulthood, participating in sports provides social connection, personal enjoyment, and improved health. In US society, sports are often viewed as a popular, viable, and sustainable avenue for social mobility. While the benefits of sports participation are unequivocal, the visibility and influence of star athletes, along with the way sports are embedded in US culture, may perpetuate the impression that sports—and their benefits— are broadly accessible to all people. While this is true for some, access to organized sports and associated benefits vary widely by sex, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. More specifically, women, persons of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community may be less likely to participate in organized sports due to discrimination and harassment experienced in various settings. This Article illustrates the intersectionality of social identities, institutions, and law as they inhibit a person or group’s access to sports based on race, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation and explores how existing legal antidiscrimination frameworks might help promote access to sports, particularly for historically disadvantaged groups.

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