Diary of Systemic Injustices Showcase: Racism in Sports

As a member of the Ohio State University’s men’s fencing team, I spend my time with a wide range of individuals on a daily basis. With teammates from across the world (All across the 50 states, Italy, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Paraguay, and more), I am constantly exposed to differing cultures and points of view. Included in these views are those of black athletes, some of whom are top competitors in my predominantly White/Asian sport. One thing I was not entirely aware of before coming to Ohio State, however, were the struggles that black athletes faced on the international and national stages. 

Speaking to my friend, Edriss, he brought to my attention the challenges he has had to overcome while trying to become a member of the Junior National Team. Competing in foreign countries such as Russia, he explained the deep-seated racism and prejudice in referees from foreign nations that plague his competitive experience, at times even having bouts thrown by the referee so that a white competitor would win. Yet he doesn’t just face these problems abroad. Within US national events, the USFA (United States Fencing Association) often brings in these “top referees” from other nations to assist in the officiating of matches, bringing the problem from overseas back home. 

Looking at other sports such as basketball, we can see racism seeped into refereeing culture and practice once again. In a report titled “Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees,” Central State basketball coach Joseph Price and economist Justin Wolfers found that, “more personal fouls are awarded against players when they are officiated by an opposite-race officiating crew than when they are officiated by an own-race refereeing crew […which were] sufficiently large so that they affect the outcome of an appreciable number of games” (Price). Looking at these findings in a critical manner, we can see that racism is not just found through overseas sports referees but with Americans as well. In a competition of physicality, where the rules are supposed to be fair and applied equally to all players, it is disgusting to see the people enforcing these rules use their bias (whether conscious or not) to one side’s advantage.

The disparity seen between referees of the same/different race as players and number of personal fouls called on those players perfectly highlights the bias and labeling as “One” or “Other” groups that go on continually through our heads. With clear discrimination based on skin color within the NBA, light is shed on the fact that this bias is not isolated to any one sport. Even the NBA, with its high publicity and viewership, experiences racial bias in an era where it has become socially unacceptable to be prejudiced against others for the melanin in their skin. This begs the question of how far racial prejudice seeps into the refereeing of other sports such as football, soccer, or hockey on international stages. 


Works Cited

Price, Joseph, and Justin Wolfers. “RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AMONG NBA REFEREES.” The

 Oxford Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 123, no. 4, Nov. 2010, doi:https://doi.org/10.1162/qjec.2010.125.4.1859. 


Further Reading/Viewing






9 thoughts on “Diary of Systemic Injustices Showcase: Racism in Sports

  1. Thanks for your thread. As an avid participant and viewer of soccer, this post especially hits home when learning that racism still occurs in the everyday sports world. The examples you share are perfect when explaining there is still work to be done and we must continue to state the message through the sports world that we have zero tolerance for discrimination. However, on the bright side, soccer among many other sports as well has made great strides in efforts to combat racism in general and especially on the field.

  2. I really enjoyed your post and the videos you attached were also very engaging and informative to your topic. Sports have always been an important part in my life, a safe space for me, I could never imagine someone taking that away from me because of the color of my skin. I think sports are about evaluating a player based on their skills and how well that can play the game, not about where they come from or what they look like. All players should be treated equally and shouldn’t fear being judged differently. I hope all sports and referees no matter the skill level of the ref find it in themselves to not take away players safe places and let them play the game without having race interfere.

  3. I really enjoyed your post. I’ve never actually thought about what discrimination may happen in sports. It is very unfair to judge someone by what he looks like instead of considering his skill. These biases could cause serious harm to someone’s sporting career. I hope Sports organizations can protect players from outside influences and stop discrimination in a timely manner. Every athlete put a lot of effort into the game and we should be respectful.

  4. Much obliged for your string. As an eager member and watcher of soccer, this post particularly hits home when discovering that prejudice happens in the regular game world. The models you share are unique. While clarifying, there is still work to be done, and we should keep on expressing the message through the game’s world that we have zero capacity to bear the separation. Notwithstanding, on the bright side, soccer, among numerous different games, also has taken incredible steps in endeavors to battle bigotry by and large and particularly on the field.
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