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Stories | 05.16.19

Students Advocate for Social Justice in Sport Field

Students in Adler University’s Master of Arts in Counseling: Specialization in Sport & Health program in Chicago are prepared to maximize the potential of individuals and teams, as well as communities. The curriculum has a foundation in clinical mental health counseling, mental skills training, and social justice advocacy in sport.

In celebration of the department’s mission to promote social justice through the sport platform, Adler’s Sport and Health Association implemented a campus-wide awareness campaign in March. The month was punctuated with fitness events, like Irish dance, yoga, a Title IX training, and a World Health Run/Walk 5K, and the hallways were peppered with student posters sporting the hashtag #morethansport

Each student researched issues and proposed solutions in their poster presentations, highlighting a few key areas to address inequity and social justice. They the wrote to the sport governing bodies with their ideas. Here are a few examples of inequities and solutions the students addressed:

Pay disparity in Minor League Baseball

  • Players often work 50-60 hours per week and are not compensated at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour due to baseball’s exemption from federal antitrust laws.
  • First contract pay is a maximum of $1,100 per month and ends after the season is over.
  • Players often live in poverty, which restricts athletic potential as well as quality of life.
  • Proposed solution: The MLB Players Association can lobby effort for a change in the federal exemption of baseball in antitrust laws.

Systemic racism in the NFL

  • Equity in free speech for all players was not upheld when Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in order to protest the treatment of people of color in the U.S.
  • Kaepernick was “blacklisted,” effectively keeping him out of the NFL.
  • Proposed solution: Re-evaluate and re-write the NFL Player’s Association’s current policies around freedom of speech and positive protesting.

Inequity in women’s soccer

  • FIFA has banned teams due to players wearing Islamic clothing like hijabs.
  • Prize money, scheduling of games, TV coverage, and resources are vastly unequal and inferior in comparison to the men’s World Cup.
  • S. women’s soccer stars experience wage discrimination in comparison to men’s wages.
  • Proposed solution: Begin with youth soccer and letter writing campaigns utilizing social media to gain momentum and support more women in leadership roles within FIFA.

Race and gender in today’s NBA

  • Over 80 percent of players are people of color, but only 30 percent of coaches are people of color.
  • 25 percent of vice presidents are people of color and only 10 percent of CEOs and team presidents are people of color.
  • 38 percent of front office roles are occupied by women.
  • Proposed solution: Develop talent identification systems so that more underrepresented coaches can gain access to the NBA.

Lack of development for women’s hockey

  • USA Hockey has a national development team for the top 17- and 18-year-old male hockey players, allowing them to graduate the program with an NCAA scholarship or move on to play professionally.
  • There is also a national development program for young boys.
  • There are no such programs for female players.
  • Proposed solution: Initiate a movement to recruit, train, and engage with young female athletes to participate and learn the sport as well as provide opportunities to play and develop.

The Sport & Health Counseling program does more than ensure that students are primed for success. It also prepares socially responsible practitioners to challenge inequities in one of the most influential cultural arenas in the world.

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