Hegemonic Law vs Athletic Protest: No Love
by Matthew Hom
Power is often seen as what it silences, what it prevents people from thinking and saying, what it puts beyond the limits of the rational and the credible. “In a quite literal sense, hegemony is habit forming.” (Comaroff and Comaroff)
Silence is deafening. Its overwhelming awe can be witnessed in the final seconds of a game-winning shot. Its breathtaking astonishment exacerbates the aftermath of missing a field goal against your division rivals (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Illinois). These types of experiences are bittersweet in the moment and forgettable the week after. What remains after general managers resign, free agents are signed, and sports history is lodged in podcasts and cable programming, is the deafening silence of hegemonic law. To explain, hegemonic law is simply social rule and norm that dictates society, media, and government actions and responses. So what does that have to do with sports and what about it is silent?
Let’s first answer the latter portion. It isn’t about its own silence, it’s about what it silences. Hegemonic law is beautifully destructive and deceitful by not relying on concrete, institutional laws, but enforces its ideology by its existence and social reinforcement. Hegemonic law means dominance by a majority--through power or numbers. This in itself already influences a community by its mere existence. For example, the Hegemonic Law of Cleveland basketball might dictate Lebron James to be the greatest player ever, regardless of your basketball knowledge. Without providing any evidence or engaging in discussion, you receive a preconceived notion from Hegemonic Law that influences your subconscious. Consequently, a bias arises in an individual’s cognitive processes.
The tricky part of Hegemonic Law is how it keeps itself established. We know that it plays a role in our morals, ideas, and thinking, but we don’t realize who, what, where, when, or how it plays those roles. As mentioned earlier, Hegemonic Law perpetuates throughout history through social enforcement. It does not need any legal statues, governmental laws, or county ordinances. It exists because we let it exist. Players shake hands after games not because they are ordered to or receive any benefit from it, but because it is social practice and going against the grain is frowned upon.
So what does this have to do with sports? The one hegemonic law that continues to exist within the athletic realm is race discrimination. Let’s be real, we only desegregated sports ~70 years ago (and in overall society 50 years ago). Those micro- and macro-aggressions do not disappear overnight. Donald Sterling’s rant happened only three years ago. Thabo Sefolosha’s broken leg via New York police occurred two years ago (he also won in court case by the way). This year, chants of “Go back home, border hopper” rung through a high school basketball game.
What hegemonic law has to do with sports is that racism and discrimination still exists on the court, in the field today. The law of discrimination may have been broken, but the idea persists today through hegemonic law. The history of racism is undeniable in the United States. Legal discrimination ended around 50 years ago but the ideas live through our thoughts and actions. These actions are no longer overt but subtle i.e. comments, stereotypes. These hegemonic laws lead to preconceived notions that can be deadly and harmful.
So why don’t we just change those hegemonic laws then? The power of socially enforced norms is that (not to sound redundant) it is unconsciously continued by society. When one tries to deviate, one is condemned as they are not conforming to the majority. Example: Colin Kaepernick. His protest by kneeling during the national anthem received a vicious string of backlash from the media, from players, from society. He did not break any laws or rules, he remained polite and respectful regardless of the hate being hurled at him, and yet, he remained one of the most hated people in the United States. To this day, he is still not signed to any NFL teams, not because of his talent levels, but because of his deviance. His stance was neither radical nor extreme, but because he stood against what the contemporary Hegemonic Law condones, he was vilified.
We want change, but not at the expense of ourselves. We want protest, but not if it makes us uncomfortable. High school, college, and professional sports may no longer legally discriminate, but don’t get me wrong, they can and will discriminate. It’s almost a perfect system. Not to romanticize systematic oppression, but this is the triangle offense of racism.
Can’t do it legally? Do it socially.
Social breaking down? Demonize others.
Silence is deafening.
Baseball: An Imperial Project Local and Global
by Bing Wang
Images and tales of baseball permeate American popular culture. Babe Ruth’s called shot in the 1932 World Series. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and becoming the first Black baseball player in Major League Baseball. Hank Aaron running the bases while being harassed by two white people after setting the all-time homerun record. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s rivalry in 1998 battling one another for most home runs in a single season.
Phrases first coined in baseball such as “out of left field” and “swing and a miss” have become idioms used in our everyday lexicon. Baseball vernacular has also infiltrated laws utilized by various states. Habitual Offender laws, or more commonly known as “Three-Strikes laws,” increase punishment for repeat offenders. Baseball terms are also frequently used as sexual innuendo, for the level of physical intimacy engaged with your partner.
Personally, baseball means more than tales and phrases. For my parents growing up in Taiwan, baseball both symbolically and culturally represented pride for a country stricken by poverty and international politics. From 1969 to 1996, Taiwan’s little league team won 17 world championships. Every little Taiwanese kid dreams of donning the Taiwan jersey and travelling to the United States to play against the world’s most talented little league baseball players. For me, baseball signified a familial familiarity. When I was a child, my family and I would crowd around the television watching Taiwan dominate baseball in international competition. In elementary school, my athletically challenged parents would sacrifice their weekends and bring me to the local baseball field to practice my pitching and hitting. My dad would throw me pitches to hit, while my mom would play the outfield to snag all the baseballs. My parents fueled my passion for the game. Even though my dream of becoming an all-star baseball player came to an end, my passion persists as an unceasing observant.
Baseball is not without its flaws however. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, steroids and other performance enhancing drugs corrupted the sport. Home runs and statistics inflated by PEDs will forever be followed with an asterisk. The lack of team payroll cap perpetuate inequalities between large market and small market teams. Teams with seemingly unlimited capital habitually attract the game’s best players to their teams and contribute to their perennial success.
Baseball is my pastime. However I need to confront the cold hard truth, the systemic issues which plague baseball. Baseball, and many popular sports, furthers the oppression of marginalized peoples both domestically and internationally.
The sport de-privileges women through its subscription to hyper-masculinity and patriarchy. Women often face social and cultural obstacles which hinder their participation in baseball. (New York Times)
Racism pervades both on and off the field, as Adam Jones, centerfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, penned an op-ed on May 19th recalling being called the “n-word” at Fenway Park in Boston. (The Players’ Tribune)
Just a few days ago Kevin Pillar, centerfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, received a two game suspension for using homophobic remarks against Jason Motte, pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. (Bleacher Report)
I also must confront baseball’s history as an imperial apparatus. Baseball’s technology to culturally “assimilate” non-Americans serves to perpetuate American exceptionalism and colonial power. Globally, countries such as the Netherlands and Japan utilize the sport as a mechanism for imperial and social control.
Baseball in America has existed for over a century. Through the years, American baseball players developed unwritten codes for the game. Unofficial rules range from preventing a batter from flipping his bat after a homerun and preventing runners from stealing a base during a blowout. These unwritten baseball etiquettes only exist in American baseball and do not extend beyond Major League Baseball. (The Baseball Codes)
Current closer for the Atlanta Braves, Bud Norris, had his own thoughts on these unwritten rules for non-American players:
“This is America’s game. This is America’s pastime, and over the last 10-15 years we’ve seen a very big world influence in this game, which we as a union and as players appreciate. We’re opening this game to everyone that can play. However, if you’re going to come into our country and make our American dollars, you need to respect a game that has been here for over a hundred years, and I think sometimes that can be misconstrued.” (USA Today)
We can deconstruct this statement to indicate American baseball players attempt to police non-American ballplayers’ actions through respectability politics. According to Lawrence Ware, philosophy professor at Oklahoma State University, policing the actions is “a subtle form of cultural colonization to allow a player to display their athletic brilliance, but disallow the celebration of that performance because of the feelings of those who lose.” (Counter Punch)
In late March 2017, baseball concluded the World Baseball Classic, the sports biggest international competition. The Netherlands team broke expectations and defied their critics by receiving a respectable fourth place finish in the tournament. The World Baseball Softball Confederation ranks the Dutch team ninth best baseball country in the world.
The Dutch team was highlighted by Major League Baseball superstars such as Xander Bogaerts, Kenley Jansen, and Andrelton Simmons. None of these superstars derive from mainland Netherlands, rather from territories occupied by Dutch imperialism. Xander Bogaerts was born in Aruba, Kenley Jansen and Andrelton Simmons both hail from Curacao. In fact, in the final Dutch roster of 36 players, I counted at least 15 players born outside of mainland Netherlands. (Baseball America)
Curacao and Aruba are located just north of Venezuela in South America and sit almost 5,000 miles away from mainland Netherlands. The Dutch territories and mainland Netherlands are separated by the Atlantic Ocean. The Dutch began occupying Curacao in 1634 and Aruba in 1636. Curacao promptly became a trade hub for the Netherlands and a center for the slave trade. The Dutch also used Curacao for its salt, making it a profitable industry for Dutch colonists.
The Netherlands hugely benefited off of their territories since the 17th century. Evidently, Dutch colonization still reap benefits off of colonized peoples, as now they benefit through international baseball recognition.
Japan offers another interesting case for imperialization through baseball. Japan brought baseball to Taiwan during its colonial regime around 1897. Baseball quickly spread throughout the island and gained interest from many colonized youths.
Andrew D. Morris, Professor of History at Cal Poly, offers an optimistic view of baseball in Taiwan by stating, “participation in Japan’s ‘national game’ allowed Taiwanese people to prove and live their acculturation into the colonial order at the very moment that Taiwanese baseball successes worked to subvert it.” Morris argues baseball served as a site for hegemonic disruption. Colonized Taiwanese people utilized baseball to resist against Japanese colonial control.
However Morris also argued baseball allowed the Taiwanese to acculturate into the Japanese colonial order. In other words, Taiwanese colonized peoples first must accept Japanese hegemonic dominance before working to minimize the colonial power. Morris’s argument seemingly contradicts itself as accepting Japanese hegemonic power ostensibly positions colonized people hierarchically below the colonizers.
According to Noam Chomsky, renowned philosopher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he asserts that sports are a “way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements — in fact, it’s training in irrational jingoism.” (Critical Theory)
Noam Chomsky contends colonizers use sports to pacify its colonized subjects and submit them to colonial hegemonic dominance.
Finally, since I am a diehard Chicago White Sox fan and risk sounding unable to take a loss in strike (i.e. sore loser), I will just leave this article here.
The True Olympic Spirit
by Alex Wen
Joseph Schooling being congratulated by Michael Phelps after winning gold in the 100m butterfly. Abbey D'Agostino helping Nikki Hamblin up after a nasty fall in the 5K heat. Michael Phelps tacking on six more medals to a whopping 28 total. The 2016 Summer Olympics, as per tradition, was easy fodder for heart-warming headlines of collaboration and perseverance. What’s not as simple is deciphering collaboration with whom, and perseverance of what.
French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie in tears after the crowd booed him during the medal ceremony. People on social media were in uproar, lambasting the disrespectful Brazilian crowds, calling them barbarians and a backward society. Nevermind that the same thing happened during the Vancouver Games; the nice--and definitely not barbaric--Canadians booed and jeered so much during a curling match, they made the opposing Denmark team cry. After all, this was just icing on the cake after months of media coverage highlighting the dangers of the Rio slums and disgusting water. Obvious characteristics of a third world country, because violence on the streets and water troubles would never occur here.
Make no mistake, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) goes through great pains to hide the ugly, forcibly relocating many and shutting down any nearby political protests, but its legacy and policies are the instigators that ignite bigotry--and the Olympic flame.
Take the first Olympics in America:
"Alongside traditional Olympic sports, the 1904 games also included a bizarre and highly controversial event known as 'Anthropology Days.' As part of the two-day contest, so-called 'uncivilized tribes' were recruited from the World’s Fair’s 'human zoo' exhibits and encouraged to try their hand at Olympic sports. Ainus, Patagonians, Pygmies, Igorot Filipinos and Sioux were all paid to participate in traditional Olympic events such as the long jump, archery and the javelin throw as well as specially made contests like the pole climb and mud throwing." (History)
The Olympics only serve to magnify many of these issues, partly because it retains athletic customs that mimic oppressive structures, partly because it’s only accountable to big brands and investors. That, and its foundation is based on chauvinistic nationalism:
“The founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was candid in acknowledging that he valued sport not only for its potential for advancing mankind’s development, but also for its use in preparing French men to become better soldiers in war.” (WSWS)
It is The Purge, but for nationalism. The function of Phelps’ haul of golds is to contribute towards the USA’s medal count dominance, looking at Rio, America easily dominates. Followed by Great Britain, China, Russia, Germany, Japan, France, Korea, Italy and Australia. All the former Allied Forces and Axis Powers accounted for, which is to say the most globally influential countries are winning. It’s not until we get into the single digit gold medal count that we see countries like Korea and Australia. As for China, exception to the rule, or rather, exemplary example. And wherever nationalism is, xenophobia closely follows: the Russian doping scandal and the parties that are indicting them. NATO must be happy.
The winners have been decided before the races have even begun. What’s the worth of the millisecond precision finishes when certain countries can exert millions on scouting, training, and equipment? It’s an uneven playing field billed as an all-beneficial competition, a la capitalism.
The Games are prime examples of the rampant damage that capitalism can and does cause. The true neck and neck race is between the Olympics and FIFA to see which organization is more corrupt. “The Olympics are an orgy of corruption and dishonesty,” and that’s from the National Review.
“The IOC sells countries on the idea of hosting the Games with promises of social and financial benefits. But a country's financial cut is solely determined by the IOC. There is no guaranteed return, and the IOC uses the revenue on itself. They are currently building a state-of-the-art facility in Switzerland, where they are exempt from paying taxes due to the non-profit status they have somehow been granted.
That's right: an organization that will earn an estimated $4 billion revenue this summer has nonprofit status.” (Flotrack)
It’s been proven that only the richest cities can afford to host the games and come out on top. For the others, it’s the rich giving each other back rubs, while the poor are displaced, inconvenienced, silenced and tossed aside. The real endurance test is not the one broadcasted, it’s how far these institutions can continue to trample on the backs of the working class. The rotting stadiums are the parting gift of capitalistic excess and waste. Numbers don’t lie:
“While most major infrastructure projects go over budget, megaprojects such as bridges, dams and railway lines tend to yield economic benefits for longer than the few weeks that many Olympic facilities are used. Host cities almost invariably fail to cover Olympics costs with associated revenues (for instance, in 2012 London took in $3.5 billion in revenues and shelled out something like $18 billion to host the games), leaving them with piles of debt and various useless venues. Research has repeatedly shown that in most cases the Olympics are a money loser for cities, particularly those in developing nations where the cost-benefit proposition tends to skew even worse.” (FiveThirtyEight)
The media and IOC will continue to distract by covering the individuals, the personal stories that demonstrate triumph, accomplishment, skill, commodore. Because that’s what they market as the Olympic spirit. It’s what sells the Cokes, the Nikes, and most importantly, the Olympics. Every bureaucrat, every clothing brand, every media network, everybody gets a platform to bombard the consumer, everybody except the people:
“In fact the IOC’s official charter forbids the expression of anti-Olympic dissent, stating in Rule 51, ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.’ Yet the whole charade is based around the promotion and reinforcement of values that suit capitalism. While we sit there consuming sports such as the Olympics we are also taking in the assumptions that life is a competition, that most of the rewards go to the winners, and that losers have only themselves to blame in that they weren’t good enough, or never worked hard enough.” (Libcom)
An Olympic achievement.
The perpetuation of racism, classism, and xenophobia through unchecked nationalism. NBC and IOC will profit. The arranging politicians, big brands and investors will profit. The people will not.