Our division’s focus explores the connections between civil society to the micro-worlds of sport, leisure, and the body. Sport is both a microcosm of the larger society and leisurely space away from the pressures of daily life. Throughout history sportspersons have been central figures in national conversations about race and social equality. Jesse Owens performance during the 1936 Olympics in Germany is taught as a case of national pride. The Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling boxing matches in 1936 and 1938 figuratively pitted the boxing competition as a battle between democracy and fascism. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black player to integrate professional baseball. In 2016, Colin Kaepernick of the National Football League chose to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to call attention to the police shooting of unarmed black men and other issues of social justice. In the summer of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, professional athletes in the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and biracial tennis player, Naomi Osaka, engaged in symbolic acts of protests to call attention to issues of social justice. On July 1, 2021, the NCAA approved the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policy allowing college student-athletes to be compensated as student-athletes. The NIL policy reversed longstanding NCAA rules prohibiting student-athletes from economic compensation while in college. Our division examines the many facets of social life that connect society to the world of sports. The world of sports confronts many of the same racial and economic realities present across the rest of society.

The space of leisure and recreation is a place where people across local communities interact to reach shared goals. The leisure spaces of community parks where parents bring their kids to play in organized recreation leagues are places where diverse communities reproduce social relationships in civil society. These spaces of leisure are where parents and children practice being happy, healthy, and safe. Sport and leisure activities are where people practice self-care, focusing on disciplining a healthy body. Yet even these spaces are not immune from political pressures. Black and brown bodies in America have long been targets of police surveillance. We recognize that religious, social, and political forces target women’s bodies and reproductive rights. In sum, our division uses a wide-angle lens that explores sport, leisure, and the body to document how social, political, and economic forces shape social justice in America.

Division mission statement edited in November 2023 by Michael O. Johnston, William Penn University, Sport, Leisure, and the Body Division Chair, 2023-2025. Division mission statement edited in November 2022 by Luis F. Nuño, California State University, Los Angeles, Sport, Leisure, and the Body Division Chair, 2021-2023.

Suggested Readings:

Cooper, Joseph N., Charles Macaulay, and Saturnino H. Rodriguez. 2019. “Race and Resistance: A typology of African American sport activism.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 54(2): 151-81.

Friedman, Hilary Levey. 2013. Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Intravia, Jonathan, Alex R. Piquero, and Nicole Leeper Piquero. 2018. “The Racial Divide Surrounding United States of America National Anthem Protests in the National Football League.” Deviant Behavior. 39(8): 1058-68.

Messner, Michael. 2009. It’s All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Serazio, Michael. 2012. “The Elementary Forms of Sports Fandom: A Durkheimian Exploration of Team Myths, Kinship, and Totemic Rituals.” Communication & Sport. 1(4): 303-25.

Smith, Brent and Stephanie A. Tryce. 2019. “Understanding Emerging Adults’ National Attachments and Their Reactions to Athlete Activism.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues. 43(3) 167-94.