Published: Feb. 25, 2019

11am – noon
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Associate Dean and Economics Professor Laura Argys - Measuring labor market discrimination is difficult for a number of reasons but primary among them is that it is often difficult to identify 'comparable' workers.  Because of the obsession with statistics, sports offers a unique opportunity to understand how pay is related to player productivity and the degree to which  pay discrimination by owners and even fans may have contributed to historical racial and ethnic pay gaps.  Laura Argys, a labor economist, discusses the economic approach to these issues and more recent research that has begun to address disparate treatment on the outcome of sporting events through referee decisions.  

Associate Professor and Communications Professor Sarah K. Fields - Athletes, particularly African-American male athletes, have long used their platform to speak out against social injustice.  In 1950 Paul Robeson, the former Rutgers multisport athlete, lost his passport because he had spoken against the racism in the United States and in support of the more inclusive ideology of Communism.  In 1967 Muhamad Ali was sentenced to prison for refusing induction in the Army during the Vietnam War.  In 1969 the Black 14 were dismissed from the University of Wyoming football team because they had worn black armbands to protest the racist policies of the Church of Latter Day Saints.  In 2011, Rashard Mendenhall lost his endorsement contract with Hanesbrands after tweeting concerns that Americans were celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden.  In each case these activists turned to the courts to remedy their own injustices; they relied on various legal grounds with various degrees of success.  After examining the published legal decisions in light of legal realism and critical race theory, I argue that the courts are an unreliable source of protection because of their own biases and cultural limitations. 

Assistant Professor of Communication Mia Fischer - The question of male-to-female (MTF) transgender athletes competing with cis women is an increasingly important one for collegiate and professional sports since transgender visibility and trans rights are becoming a more prominent conversation in society writ large. In particular, as trans women are winning, the broader sporting community debates the fairness and safety of sporting competitions for cis women and the right of trans women to compete (Love, 2017; Parks Pieper, 2016). Particularly ongoing debates over Caster Semenya illustrate that especially testosterone becomes a far more scrutinized component of athleticism than other possibly “advantageous” traits. While sports associations rely on dominant scientific and cultural discourses that code testosterone as inherently “male” to justify the forced medicalization of trans and intersex athletes, I scrutinize how such pseudo-scientific arguments not only reflect dominant, essentialist understandings of sex and gender, but are also deeply entangled with the racialization of Black and Brown athletes.