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John Sexton / Gavel Media

Beyond the Scoreboard: Exposing the Search for Equity in Sports

In 2022, the NFL eliminated race-norming in medical testing; however, when I informed my friends, I learned that many do not know what race-norming is, much less the recent effects of it in the NFL. This lack of knowledge surrounding prejudice in sports contributes to ongoing disparities in the representation of sports.

First, it is important to have an understanding of race-norming and its consequences through football. Although the goal of race-norming was to remove racial bias in research, it continues the pattern of race-based science to discriminate against nonwhite populations. Race-norming was used by the NFL for dementia testing by assuming that Black retirees had a lower baseline cognitive score. This resulted in it being more difficult for players to demonstrate a mental decline related to football and receive compensation. In many of the tests, the results found a white retiree positive for dementia but no impairments for black retirees. The use of this race-norming contributed to economic inequity between white and Black players because it allowed the NFL to deny claims for dementia payouts. Although over half of the NFL identifies as black, the racist policies of medical testing allowed the NFL to view Black retirees as inferior and less deserving of compensation. Therefore, the NFL profits off of the pain of Black players but refuses to provide them with sufficient support. 

The system of racism backed with “sciences” creates a standardization of a dominant race in society and contributes to ongoing representation issues in sports. Moving to the East Coast, I found that sports culture, especially hockey culture, is a large part of life. However, hockey’s racist undertones and lack of representation make it mainly associated with white culture. When analyzing staff and players, it was found that 83.6% of the NHL’s workforce is white. A recent documentary, Black Ice, highlights the history of Black hockey players and their influence in the NHL and Canada. Black Ice reveals the ongoing discrimination in the hockey community and connects the sports industry to systemic racism as a whole. 

Recently, nonwhite hockey players have been opening up about their experiences in the sport. Akim Aliu, a former NHL player, stated that the lack of diversity made it so that there were “not really a lot of people to rely on and to lean on when you’re going through these issues.” The discrimination was so present in Aliu’s hockey career that even his coach, Bill Peters, directed racial slurs at him. Aliu is just one of many players that have faced mistreatment in the sport. This treatment often results in a decline in nonwhite players and solidifies hockey as a predominantly white sport. 

This result is seen here at Boston College as the majority of the coaching staff and players of the men’s and women’s hockey teams are white. The hockey culture of the northeast is represented in Boston College in both scope and demographic; Boston College has leading hockey teams emblematic of the Boston Bruins, and the makeup of both teams is largely white.

 This imbalance may be representative of classism seen at Boston College, as economic imbalances lead to the lack of participation in expensive sports such as hockey. Without a large income, sports that require equipment and additional resources are harder to access. Economic imbalances between white and nonwhite populations contribute to the lack of representation in these sports. Additionally, the establishment of a white culture due to racialized economics creates prejudices towards nonwhite populations within the sports. 

The lack of representation within these sports is seen across the nation and is especially present at Boston College. In an interview with an anonymous BC Women’s rower, she stated, “The wealth gap is extremely noticeable in BC sports, and every athlete I have spoken to besides walk-ons went to a private school or rowed in a very rich town.” She goes on to say, “I am not sure that the capitalization of sports and recruitment is BC’s fault or youth athletics in general, but rowing has no representation, which says a lot about the sport as a whole.” Many BC students have witnessed the lack of diversity in their lives both within and outside of college. Maria Leon (‘27) states, “There was one season where I looked at my club lacrosse team, and I was the only girl who wasn’t completely white on it, and I think that a large reason for this is because club sports are so expensive to play for.” 

The lack of representation in sports has been a large issue for years, and it is especially visible at Boston College. Personally, I was unaware of many of the prejudices and racial violence within sports for so long because I was not affected by them; however, this mindset is dangerous and contributes to the ongoing discrepancies between white and nonwhite athletes. Overall, it is important to do research and actively work to reduce the racial divides within sports to create a sports community that is enjoyable and welcoming for all.

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