Prejudice in sports resurfaces

Despite our many differences, sports have usually been there as a common thread. Differences in ethnic backgrounds and gender have been rightfully forgotten for the shared love of shooting hoops on a basketball court, playing catch on the baseball diamond, or tossing a ball on the football field.?

Reading two of the latest headlines relating to the sports world, I can come to the conclusion that the keyword in the previous paragraph is ‘usually’. Because usually means ‘not always’, even though ‘always’ would be ideal in this particular case. It’d be nice if the only attributes that mattered were ones relevant to the sport, but that’s not always the instance.?

When a girl gets kicked off a football team because of her unique gender on the squad, and when the LPGA mandates that all of its members must speak English or get out, it’s safe to say that prejudice exists in sports, always has, and likely always will.?

The first headline I read was: ‘Kicker dismissed by Georgia team for being a girl.’?

I didn’t believe what my eyes were seeing so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being victim of some sort of misprint. Sadly, it was no mistake. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was indeed reporting that the administration of the Georgia Football League, the association for private-school teams in the state, said that 14-year-old freshman Kacy Stuart couldn’t play because she’s a girl.

But Stuart has all the makings to be an effective and worthy kicker for a football team, so what’s the deal??Stuart’s gender wasn’t an issue when she played football at her public middle school. In fact, Union Grove Middle School went to the state finals.

It was when she reached the high school level that being a girl football player became an issue. The Stuarts moved from Henry County in Georgia to Spalding County and Kacy enrolled in Skipstone Academy. The only problem was that the school was too small to field a football team and Stuart loved the sport too much to stay there.

So Kacy moved to the New Creation Center in McDonough, a city located 30 miles southeast of Atlanta, to play for the private Christian academy. It’s the story of a girl with a true passion for a sport. But that was until authorities still living in the 20th century got involved and said ‘No, you can’t play. You’re a girl’.

Let’s be realistic. The explanation as to why Stuart was kicked off the football team would be a simple one if her talents weren’t up to par with your average high school kicker. But she was good. She made the cut. She practiced with the team for two months. What gives?

In a sport like football, Stuart put herself in a situation that was probably not going to end well for her. As unfair as that is, we’re talking about a sport that is considered by some to be a male religion. So when somebody tries to go against tradition, and against the grain, it’s not going to go without resent. The men at the top will usually settle for a lesser football player who is a male than a more experienced and arguably more talented player who is a female, no matter what the position.

It was executive board chairman Hank St. Denis’s decision to cut Stuart from the team after she had participated in drills and even a scrimmage, overturning New Creation’s decision to grant her a spot on the team. But private school or not, Stuart could have still faced problems.

Here’s a difference between public schools and private schools. In a public school, if Stuart competed for the job as kicker and won the job, then she would start the season at the position, but then other problems would arise (hazing, etc.). In a private school, who’s going to tell St. Denis what he can or can’t do?

Same with privately-owned companies, like the Ladies Professional Golf Association. Carolyn Bivens, commissioner of the LPGA, recently told players that by the end of 2009, all players who have been on the tour for two years must pass an oral evaluation of their English skills or face a membership suspension.

The headline read ‘LPGA Tour will suspend memberships if players don’t learn English.’

Outrageous? Ridiculous? Other three and four-syllable words that have similar meaning? Yes.

‘Why now? Athletes now have more responsibilities and we want to help their professional development,’ deputy commissioner Libba Galloway told The Associated Press. ‘There are more fans, more media and more sponsors. We want to help our athletes as best we can succeed off the golf course as well as on it.’

Maybe the explanation is legit, and their intentions are good. It’s possible.

The LPGA’s membership includes 121 international players from 26 countries; 45 are South Koreans. Korean players who spoke about the policy supported the tour’s position.

Well, they support the tour’s position because they’re on the tour, and they are obligated to follow the policies, even the ones that they don’t agree with. For example, NBA commissioner David Stern implemented a dress code policy. Not every player agreed with it, but the players all followed suit.

While that policy was understandable, the LPGA is in the wrong here. The players don’t need to be fluent English speakers in a game that requires minimal conversation.

Bivens should appreciate the multi-cultured company she is running. In a way, she is forcing these players to undermine their foreign language.

So what’s happening in the sporting world that discrimination against gender and prejudice against other ethnicities is taking place? A football player gets kicked off the team because the football player is a girl. A major sports league requires its players to learn English.

If sports transcend what goes on in everyday life, then headlines like these two shouldn’t be read. Not by anybody. Only problem is: sports are like everyday life.

It’s still happening.