The presence of racism in modern day professional sports


Jalen Alami

Racism affects many sports in the professional and recreational world.

Jalen Alami, Staff Writer

Our sports community has been tied intimately with racism for decades. People of color  have been selectively discriminated against since the creation of the major leagues. However, famous athletes such as Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth have drastically changed this narrative. Today, we recognize the major leagues in our sports community as active advocates for racism, but the sports industry is still far from racial equality.

The NFL attempted to combat racism by enforcing the Rooney Rule. In 2003, the Rooney Rule was a policy passed by Dan Rooney. The Rooney Rule ensures that all NFL teams, when choosing NFL coaches, interview people of color. Some sports fans argue that the Rooney Rule is failing.

“I strongly believe that the Rooney Rule is failing. I think this is due to the fact that out of 32 NFL teams there is only one African American coach,” said Buffalo Bills fan Jaylon Shaghasi (‘23).

Racism still occurs in the NFL today. A popular NFL team, formerly the Washington Redskins, recently changed their name to the Washington Commanders. Many NFL fans felt that this change was necessary because it was offensive to Native Americans.

“The Washington Commanders’ previous logo displayed a stereotypical inaccurate representation of a Native American,” said Matteo Gable (‘24).

Similar to the Washington Commanders, the Cleveland Guardians recently dropped their old name, the Cleveland Indians. Many professional sports fans are glad that the Cleveland Indians changed their name to the Cleveland Guardians. Although these important changes did occur, many sports fans believe that this change should have occurred earlier.

“The term Indian could be used as a racial slur towards indengeous people. Although I am glad that this change occurred, I am extremely disappointed that this change didn’t occur earlier,” said Gable.

A few important figures in professional sports have been involved in controversy as well. This season Joe Gruden, the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, had his emails leaked that contained homophobic and racist messages. He was also called out for calling prior executive director Demarcus Smith racial slurs in 2011.

“It is extremely depressing to see such an important figure for the Las Vegas Raiders program to say such homophobic and racist things,” said Keaton Lai (‘22).

Professional sports are making an effort to put a stop to racism. Throughout the early stages of the pandemic, the NBA chose to continue its league with the NBA Bubble. The NBA Bubble was held in Orlando, Florida where all the remaining NBA teams in the playoffs would isolate themselves from the rest of the world to keep COVID-19 out of the environment. During the NBA bubble, athletes would have inspiring quotes on the back of their jerseys that fight against racism.

“I believe they have done a great job at spreading awareness to their audience. I know that the NBA has allowed players to add inspiring phrases on the back of their jerseys that combat racism. The NBA, along with others, has truly shown that sports are more than just a game,” said Lai.

Although the NBA was trying to fight for equality due to recent hate crimes like the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, it still received negative feedback because NBA players couldn’t create their own statements and had to choose from the statements that the NBA created.

“I would have liked to choose my own message rather than pick from the pre approved list,” said NBA Player Lebron James.

Our major sports leagues today continue to fight for racial equality. With millions of viewers tuning into these events, the message that athletes exhibit on the media impacts a ton of lives. As these professional sports acknowledge their world influence, they are constantly trying to change the old-school narrative of discriminatory and racist actions within team organizations. New movements will strive to eliminate this perspective in the future and change the narrative for the better.