Center on Race and Social Problems

Race and Perceptions of Sportsmanship

Principal Investigator(s): 
January 1, 2004 to January 1, 2011

Previously, Herbert D. Simons argued in the International Review For the Sociology of Sport (2003) that the sportsmanship code contains inherent racial biases that place African American athletes at a disadvantage relative to whites. Often penalties for action or behaviors that are considered “unsportsmanlike” are inconsistently applied across racial groups. Both verbal as well as non-verbal behaviors in a sports context are interpreted within the prevailing social context. Actions labeled as taunting, trash-talking, excessive celebration, dunking, and inciting spectators are both external to the focus of competition within the specific sport (e.g., basketball, football) and judgments of these behaviors are quite subjective. This project will test Simons’ assertion that the sportsmanship code is racially biased. This phenomenon not only impacts the effectiveness of an individual athlete’s performance during a game, but also the evaluation of that player as a “leader,” “role model,” or “team player.” These types of biased judgments can impact drafting position and especially revenue generated from product endorsement.