“Sports have always been perceived as a national and international common denominator. Unfortunately, that’s no always the case,” explained Professor Michael J. Cozzillio
in addressing why people look to sports to examine an issue like diversity. Professor Cozzillio spoke to a sizable group of students on the Harrisburg campus about the issue of diversity in sports on March 12th as part of the Policy and Pizza in the Pit series on March 12th.
Calling the theme of his talk “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Professor Cozzillio began with some of the positives, noting some of the most celebrated incidents of barriers being broken, including Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, the success of Tiger Woods in golf, or the achievements of Venus and Serena Williams in tennis. “All sports, hopefully, are beginning to open their doors,” he said. He also cited Title IX and its success in making available collegiate athletic opportunities for women as well as the so-called “Rooney Rule” in the NFL that requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching positions.
Discussing areas where the sports world has had a bad track record with diversity, Professor Cozzillio noted that Major League Baseball’s integration efforts took far too long. He also observed that despite the success of Tiger Woods, professional golf has changed little, and that many sports, such as horse or stock car racing, specifically Nascar, rarely see minority participation. He also cited gender discrimination, discussing the fact that women coaches get paid less and that there remain barriers for female sports reporters and referees.
Finally, Professor Cozzillio addressed areas where the track record of the sports world with regard to diversity issues is truly ugly. He cited the media’s often-negative portrayals of minority athletes, the abusive treatment of college athletes, and the issue of athletes and domestic violence as particular areas that need to be addressed. “The leagues and college athletic associations need to take stronger stands,” he said, advocating greater education efforts to address some of these problems.