Episode 12: Sport in American Culture and Communities – Part 2

November 12, 2019

Join us as we continue our discussion with Drs. Heidi Parker and Emily Newell, professors of sport management at the University of Southern Maine. In this episode, we discuss access to sport, diversity and inclusion, and how sport has served as a platform for free speech, societal change, and more. We also discuss career opportunities and the business of sport.

Also available on:

 

Notes

 
Episode Notes

Join us as we continue our discussion with Drs. Heidi Parker and Emily Newell, professors of sport management at the University of Southern Maine. In this episode, we discuss access to sport, diversity and inclusion, and how sport has served as a platform for free speech, societal change, and more. We also discuss career opportunities and the business of sport.

Dr. Heidi M. Parker is an Associate Professor of Sport Management with the University of Southern Maine School of Business. Dr. Parker conducts research in the area of sport consumer behavior focusing on issues of gender and sexuality in sport, spectator motives for sport consumption, and the impact of negative information on sport consumer attitudes. Dr. Parker is widely published and was awarded the University of Southern Maine Faculty Senate Award for her scholarship. In addition to her research, Dr. Parker teaches a variety of Sport Management courses including sport law, sport event management, and sport consumer behavior. Dr. Parker earned her Ph.D. in Sport Management from The Ohio State University and previously served as the Vice President of Inclusion and Social Justice for the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS). Prior to coming to Maine, Dr. Parker was a faculty member at Syracuse University.

Dr. Emily Newell is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at the University of Southern Maine School of Business and a former intercollegiate athletics professional. Her research centers around the intersection of intercollegiate sport and higher education, with a focus on international students, minority students, first generation students, and academically at-risk students. Dr. Newell teaches a variety of sport management courses, including sport marketing, athletic administration, sport facility management, sport event management, and sport communication and new media. Dr. Newell earned her Ph.D. in Sport Management from The Ohio State University. Previously, she was an NCAA Postgraduate Intern in the Public & Media Relations department, focusing on enforcement and student-athlete reinstatement. At Ohio State, she served in various roles in both Ohio State Athletics Event Management, and the Student-Athlete Support Services Office. Prior to joining USM, Emily was a faculty member at Georgia Southern University.

***

Connect with Us

Website: umainecenter.org/greatergood

Twitter: @greatergoodpod

Produced by the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center, with help from WMPG

Episode Guests

Dr. Heidi M. Parker is an Associate Professor of Sport Management with the University of Southern Maine School of Business. Dr. Parker conducts research in the area of sport consumer behavior focusing on issues of gender and sexuality in sport, spectator motives for sport consumption, and the impact of negative information on sport consumer attitudes. Dr. Parker is widely published and was awarded the University of Southern Maine Faculty Senate Award for her scholarship. In addition to her research, Dr. Parker teaches a variety of Sport Management courses including sport law, sport event management, and sport consumer behavior. Dr. Parker earned her Ph.D. in Sport Management from The Ohio State University and previously served as the Vice President of Inclusion and Social Justice for the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS). Prior to coming to Maine, Dr. Parker was a faculty member at Syracuse University.

Dr. Emily Newell is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at the University of Southern Maine School of Business and a former intercollegiate athletics professional. Her research centers around the intersection of intercollegiate sport and higher education, with a focus on international students, minority students, first generation students, and academically at-risk students. Dr. Newell teaches a variety of sport management courses, including sport marketing, athletic administration, sport facility management, sport event management, and sport communication and new media. Dr. Newell earned her Ph.D. in Sport Management from The Ohio State University. Previously, she was an NCAA Postgraduate Intern in the Public & Media Relations department, focusing on enforcement and student-athlete reinstatement. At Ohio State, she served in various roles in both Ohio State Athletics Event Management, and the Student-Athlete Support Services Office. Prior to joining USM, Emily was a faculty member at Georgia Southern University.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this podcast by the University of Maine System, acting through the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center, (the University) is for general educational and informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the author(s) and speaker(s) and do not represent the official policy or position of the University. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s) and speaker(s) – and, since the author(s), speaker(s) and listeners are critically-thinking human beings, these views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time. All information in the podcast is provided in good faith, however the University makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness of any information in the podcast and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in the information in this podcast or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its broadcast or use. It is the listener’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Your use of the podcast and your reliance on any information in the podcast is solely at your own risk. The podcast does not contain nor is it intended to contain any legal advice. Any legal information provided is only for general informational and educational purposes, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, the University encourages you to consult with an appropriate legal professional or licensed attorney.

Transcript

​This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

***

The Greater Good: Episode 11

Carrie: Welcome to the Greater Good: a podcast devoted to exploring complex and emerging issues in law, business and policy. I’m your host Carrie Wilshusen, Associate Dean for Admissions at the University of Maine School of Law.

Carrie: 

Join us as we continue our discussion with Doctors Heidi Parker and Emily Newell, professors of sport management at the University of Southern Maine. Today we are discussing access to sport, diversity and inclusion, how sport has served as a platform for free speech, and more. We’re talking about the platform of athletes and what a powerful position that can be for an individual athlete. Can you talk a little bit about that, how that plays out? 

Heidi:

Sure. It, yeah. I, I think, um, we’ve seen athletes realize they have power, um, and their power has grown. Uh, you know, they, they have the ability to influence, um, consumers, fans, um, brands. Uh, so a lot of times you see them from the very beginning working to build their own individual brand, whether it’s through, uh, endorsements, um, whether it’s through their social media, um, and they, and capitalizing off of that they can, there’s, there’s great money in that for them. And as this money has grown, their power has, uh, has gone up and we’re seeing athletes then use this power in, in a variety of ways. We talked about LeBron James using, um, his power, uh, as, as a star athlete to weigh in on, on social issues. Uh, you know, he and his team or hoodies during the, uh, Trayvon Martin case, um, to, to signal support, um, for the African American community. Um, and isn’t there a tension there sometimes? Sure, sure. Absolutely. And, and the tension is often created with the owners, um, who aren’t used to athletes using their power. I mean, to be honest, you’re still talking about millionaires versus billionaires. The owners being the billionaires, the, the players be in the millionaires and, and the owners, um, have always leveraged that. They’ve always had this power, like, well, we can’t, we can cut you or, uh, we won’t have to pay you. But as athletes have created their own personal brands and they’ve got revenue coming in, um, outside of their player contract, and you know, some of your best athletes who’ve built the best brands make far more money on endorsements than they do on their player contracts.

Carrie:

But doesn’t that impact their free speech as well? Because the endorsements would then hold.

Heidi:

Sure, sure. I mean, so if you’re going to endorse Nike, uh, you’ve got to wear their shoes, right? You can’t, you can’t be seen wearing something else or, um, you know, and so I think players have to understand that and, and, and they have to balance. Um, you know, what’s important to me is, is the money and creating this brand, even if it’s not really true to who I am, or is it being very true to who I am. You’ve seen players like Steph Curry, who refused to do an endorsement deal with any soda companies because he doesn’t believe that, uh, that soda is a, is a good product. He doesn’t want to push that to kids for people to drink that. So instead he partnered with a water, um, a water purifying, a filter company for people to drink more water.

And so that was, that was really important to him. Um, but then you’ve seen athletes like, uh, like Michael Jordan was a huge, uh, McDonald’s endorser, right? Made a lot of money endorsing McDonald’s. Right? And so I think, you know, athletes, you have to choose kind of what they want to do there. But with that, you’ve seen athletes take this power then and um, and use it to force the hand of owners and management and team. So you see players now holding out and saying, Hey, I don’t want to play here anymore. I know I have two years left on my contract, but I don’t want to be here so I’m not gonna play. And because they have this, they’ve had this ability to create other streams of revenue, the money and the, and the paychecks have gotten a lot bigger. They can do that, right?

They can take that hit and not getting those game checks and force the hand of, of uh, the managers and the, in the owners to trade them somewhere they want to go. Um, or they can just say, Hey, you know, your medical staff is terrible and I’m not going to play for a team that has a terrible medical staff. So trade me somewhere. And ultimately what we’ve seen over the last few years that players who do that, the majority of them have been able to, to force a change. And I think that’s relatively new. 

Carrie:

So talk about some of the, the topics that are coming up right now, some of the big issues that are coming up in sports and how you play that out in your classroom and talk about that.

Emily: Um, so with the governance class, do you, when I make my syllabus, we have one day a week where we talk about a current issue and I kind of have an outline of what I think it’s going to be every semester of like, here’s some ideas that we’re going to talk about. You know, we’re gonna talk about the increasing privatization of youth sport and kind of taking away from the free and open access to youth sports and you know, now it’s pay to play. Um, and how that has issues – 

Carrie:

So talk about this, pause on that one a little bit. How can someone of limited means even being able to do that sort of thing and they can, 

Heidi:

That’s the problem. Immense amounts of money being spent on the club sports and um, with the, a lot of times it’s the goal of I want my daughter or son to earn a college scholarship and um, and so they’re poor, you know, parents are pouring a lot of money into that. Um, on the flip side, you know, even with club sports, you still see all these fantastic benefits that, you know, kids are getting from playing sports as, as a, as a, as a child. You know, um, we already, we already talked about some of that, but the, the hard work, the work ethic, the, the experiencing success and working for that, but also experiencing failure no matter your hard work. Sometimes you’re gonna lose. And, and understanding how to be okay with that and continue moving forward, that those are responsible to a team.

Right. It doesn’t, that doesn’t ruin you. You know, you can, you can push through that and keep going and, and, yeah. And the whole idea of the, the team, you know, you’ve made a commitment to them and it’s not just about you. Um, and the comradery of that, I mean, amazing life lessons. Yeah, absolutely. And when people quit playing sports, one of the, you know, oftentimes the thing that they miss the most is the camaraderie. It’s, it’s not necessarily playing or practice or whatever. It’s, it’s the people around you, which is going back to one of the things that sport can do and you know, is build community, whether it’s fitness or whatever. It’s, it’s that piece of it, right? Um, I think, I think they’re the youth sports industry right now. 

Emily:

You’ve got a lot of adults making money off of, um, kids or, or in, in parents who, um, are investing in their children. Absolutely. But also have the ability to invest in their children. I think that’s what’s really important from someone who does a lot of research on minorities and knowing kind of my own background and coming from, I’m a first gen college student, my dad’s family is from Mexico and looking at, you know, we didn’t necessarily have all the resources to put into that and I think there’s a lot of research out there about how this privatization of youth sport is barring certain populations from being able to participate in sport and then looking at later life outcomes in terms of health. And so you look at, I know it’s like really important and a big deal in the Hispanic community that we deal a lot with obesity, with diabetes and all of these issues. And quite frankly it kind of sucks, right?

Like because you are barred from sport from a younger age because of the way we’ve created this system, there wasn’t an opportunity for me when I stopped growing in seventh grade at five one to be able to keep playing volleyball because there’s a team and so you’re not big enough and you get cut. And then also if you don’t have the money to play for a club team that’s not there. And so I think for me it took a long time post college to really learn kind of healthy habits and healthy living because I was kind of done with access to athletics and liquid learning, just the money. Right? I mean, if I’m a single parent working, uh, you know, a six day a week job, I can’t be running my kid to club and things like that. So absolutely. 

Carrie:

You are training your students on these, I mean your students are going to be the next leaders in this area, re-imagining how to make this work more comprehensively. 

Heidi:

Yeah. These are absolutely conversations that we have in class. Yeah. I mean, even in the high schools now, while we’ve seen, uh, a lessening, um, in many of the sports, you know, high school sports have become less important with the rising of the club system. Um, you know, high schools and with the, the cutting of the education funding across the country, you know, they’re, they’re charging high school athletes to play as well. Um, so if you want to play, you know, basketball for your high school team, yeah, there’s still a cost to that. Um, and you know, if you have two or three kids in school or uh, you know, again, you just don’t have the money to do that. You know, what are, you know, what are we, why are we barring these kids? We are a barring access, uh, for kids, not even just from the club system but from our high school system as well.

And it’s unfortunately something that we’ve kind of almost weaponized politically. I know you’ll see a lot of school districts where in order to pass levies and tax levies to try and get more funding, that’s one of the things they’ll hang over the heads of voters who say, well then we’re going to football. Yeah, we’re going to cut athletics if we don’t pass this levy. Um, so we’ve almost weaponized it and it’s sad cause I think it is so important. Um, I think everyone should, should play a sport at least once just for that teamwork aspect, for the learning failure, learning success, dealing with all of that. And obviously just learning some sort of physical fitness is so important with all of the health issues that we’re dealing with. 

Carrie:

So another big topic in sports is this free speech idea and the power of the voice of a, of a star athlete. You want to talk about that a little bit and how you work with your students around that issue?

Heidi: Uh, well, it’s certainly changed over the years. I mean, back in the eighties and nineties, you didn’t see, uh, star athletes, um, taking up a cause, right? They were, they’ve stayed very focused on sport and they didn’t venture sort of outside of that at all at all. And, um, I think it’s refreshing to see athletes, uh, allowed to be human beings too and, and understand that they have positions and, and things that are important to them and being allowed to speak on that. So I think it’s, it’s changed over the years. Um, you know, Colin Kaepernick, when he decided to take a knee during the national Anthem, um, was, was huge. Um, and, and there was a lot of great conversation. I know in our, in the law class I teach, we, we talked a lot about, you know, is he allowed to do this and not allowed to do this?

And, and what does free speech mean? And, and you know, just because you have free speech doesn’t mean there’s not consequences. And, and understanding that, and I think the conversation was really interesting, particularly on that topic was because there were students sitting there in the class with really different opinions about that. Um, that particular free speech, if you will. I mean, just taking a knee as free expression, um, was, was really a hot button because it brought in this idea of the military and the flag and you’re disrespecting them. And, you know, there was, there was a lot there for students to feel and try to unpack. And, um, you know, with his protest, you know, he was very clear, this is what it is and this is what it isn’t. But, but people saw that really differently and, and you weren’t gonna change their minds.

And so I think there was really good conversation that, um, in the law class we approached it more from a, um, from a legal perspective, this is what’s allowed, this is what’s not. But, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for these actions either way. I think that’s where we come in and governance and policy too is you look at, you have, you know, the letter of the law with federal and state law and then below that you have, you’re a member of an organization or your job or whatever, operating bylaws and you have to abide by that code of conduct. You can’t just act in any way that you want to act, but it’s definitely, it’s something that’s not new. We saw it with, um, John Carlos and Tommie Smith and the Olympics and the protests that they took their kind of through Colin Kaepernick. And now we have the whole issue cropping up again with the NBA in China.

Um, and kind of free speech there and also how that impacts economics. Sure. And that one was huge. I mean, you had what seemed like a fairly innocent tweet by a coach. Um, suddenly become a very big deal. And now you’ve got athletes who have been very outspoken, like Lebron James has been very outspoken on social issues. Suddenly even like, yeah, I don’t have anything to say on this one. You know, and he’s, he and he that he’s gotten, you know, flack yeah. Over not speaking out and he’s like, look, you’ve said stuff on all these other issues and now you’re going to be quiet. Um, yes, I’ll make interest. Yeah. When your own economic interests are at stake, I think that’s, yeah, it’s definitely very interesting. 

Carrie:

Let’s move to diversity and inclusion in sports. Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about that? How things are shifting and, and some of the things that are on the table right now.

Emily:

So with diversity in sport, I think one of the things that we need to look at is that it’s not new. Um, but that also doesn’t mean that we’re perfect. I think there’s still a lot of issues. I think there are some great things that sport have brought about in terms of including different groups of promoting more opportunities for women, promoting more opportunities for people of color, um, promoting people of different backgrounds. I think through a lot of this conversation, someone that keeps coming to my mind is Magic Johnson and the push back around when he came out as HIV positive and how much that changed sport and how much, and it didn’t just change sport but it changed the conversation around HIV AIDS. And I think that’s one of the great ways that sport can promote positive conversations like we have around now currently with gender equity and pay equity with the us women’s national team.

Um, but I think we can’t shy away from the fact that there are still a lot of issues. Um, we have the NFL and the NBA that have both handled issues of police violence against men of color in very different ways where one league has allowed their players to speak up, allowed players to wear warm ups that say I cannot breathe. And one league that has tried to silence players that have tried to take a stand against this. So, um, I think fundamentally there have been shifts in some ways and, and other ways there haven’t been outside of professional sport. I think there really is a push. We’ve talked about a whole host of different things in terms of opportunities in the community. I think there’s a big push in a lot of programs, not necessarily with sport management, maybe more so with recreation to look at adapted recreation.

We’re seeing a growth in programs that way. Um, we’ve seen a growth in things like Special Olympics. We have a lot of students and student athletes here within the USM community that participate in that and help volunteer with that. Um, and so I think it’s great to be able to see those two groups that able bodied and the disabled come together and kind of promote these great things. Um, so I think sport is a great breeding ground for some things to happen and to push some things. And I’m very encouraged and feel positive about the way that we’ve seen strides, um, in terms of inclusion and acceptance in some ways. But we also have to look at, we still struggle in the professional side, so when people ask where are our students going? And we tell them, you know, what sport management students become. Um, the whole business of sport, a lot of different areas within sport, those offices are not very diverse.

Um, they’re not super inclusive. You see underrepresented numbers of women and people of color. And I think that’s something that we need to be honest about and really promote and do better about. Um, because we have a lot of athletes who identify not as being straight CIS gender, um, that are not white. And we don’t see that same representation on the business side of things. And so I think candidly, that’s where we can really do better. We try to make our students very aware of that and talk about that. I think it’s great that we have so many women graduating from our programs that are going out into the field. Um, but while we’ve seen this great place for maybe gender inclusion on the field, definitely kind of behind the scenes, we’re lagging behind and we need to do better. We have a very, very diverse group of people playing sports but not necessarily running sports. 

Carrie:

So what are your students doing? What kinds of things do your students do with this degree? Where do they go? What do they do? What experiences do they have while they’re actually studying in the field field experiences? 

Heidi:

One of the things we try to do is make sure that our students either have an internship or are really hands on experiential opportunity before they leave. We want them to see what sports is all about. Working in sports is all about before they go and say, Hey, this is what I want to do. Um, and our event class, uh, is one place that, uh, our students have that opportunity and it’s been a class that a number of students have been parlayed into interviews for internships or jobs. I’ve got a student, Hannah, who she, um, graduated from USM, did her internship, um, down with the Tiger Woods foundation, uh, working a golf tournament in the summer in DC and from there went to the West Virginia power as a short in their ticket box office.

Um, while she was there, she was able to kind of write her own job description for a new social media, um, community outreach position that they didn’t have their minor league baseball team and just recently took a job with the bulls. So she’s kind of moved, uh, up into professional sports. Um, student Andrea, her degree was actually in communications, uh, but she took all of our sport management classes and so we kind of claim her a little bit and she actually went and did her master’s in sport management. She’s an, uh, assistant athletic director at Harvard. So she’s on the college side of things. Heidi, can you talk about some of the work your students are involved with locally? Absolutely. You know, we have great community partners here. Um, we live in a, a thriving sport community here. We have three minor league teams, the Seadogs, the Red Claws, the Mariners, um, us biathlon is located near us.

Uh, the Maine Sports Commission, Giddyup Productions, Casco Bay Sports, Michael Phelps Foundation, our local town recreation centers. And of course, you know, USM athletics and I could go on about that, but they’re all great about coming out and speaking to our classes, partnering with us in course projects and really investing in and working with our students and our students have, you know, worked, uh, or interned or worked part time. And in all of those organizations, you know, the Seadogs every summer, take a couple of our students as interns, the Red Claws and the Mariners. Every school year, we’ve got students working for those organizations and many of our students have gone on to take full time jobs with those organizations and have used that as a stepping stone to other things, whether it’s staying in sports and moving on to another organization or using that is to get their, their feet wet and get some business industry experience and then moving into other positions. Um, so there’s lots of other examples, but those are just some that I thought of. Um, that kind of show the, the breadth of what our students are doing. It’s not just one thing. I mean, they’re working in college sports and pro sports and golf and, you know, the, the USA, you know, uh, organizations that are sort of all over. 

Carrie:

So we’re calling this podcast The Greater Good and our goal is sharing the work that’s being done on behalf of our communities, local, national and global and our ideas that many people are working diligently on behalf of the public interest to protect their communities in ways that we don’t generally think of as working on behalf of the greater good. Can you each talk about that a little bit? How you see your work in that context?

Emily:

Yeah, I definitely think coming at it from the higher edge, higher education perspective and looking at student experiences, you know, one of the hot button issues that we didn’t touch on a lot is just the paying of student athletes and what student athletes do to kind of build up kind of the brand of universities and bring revenue into universities. And so I think it’s really important. Um, the reason I see value in my work, just a, from, from having worked with some of these students, one on one in the capacity that I did in my previous life, um, before I became an educator was just seeing the struggles that they go through day to day and doing the research to make sure that at the same time that they are out there representing our universities on the field or in the pool, um, or on the court, that they’re also truly getting what we promised them.

Looking at that they’re getting the education that we promised them that we are doing good as sport organizations. Um, in terms of you hear a lot about the exploitation of student athletes. And so I think it’s important for us to understand through research and it’s why I’m passionate about my research that we truly are bringing in student athletes, um, that we are providing that education that we promised to them and providing them an experience that doesn’t feel exploitative to them and is really kind of promoting and developing not just young athletes but also young professionals who are going to go out into their community. So whether they’re going to work in sport or not, we are educating young people, um, that we’re also relying on to really drive a lot of revenue and a lot of publicity for our university. So that to me is what’s really important to just kind of make sure that we’re keeping ourselves accountable for what we say we’re doing.

Heidi:

That’s a really good response. I’m going to go a slightly different direction with this question and look at, um, when you think of living somewhere, like what makes a good community? Uh, you know, what do people look for when they think about living somewhere? And, and, and being happy, you know, what is there for them. And, um, and maybe I’m a little bias because I grew up playing sports. I played sports in college, all that. And it’s, it’s really important to me. But, um, you know, you’ve got minor league sport teams or professional teams, you’ve got community sports, you’ve got really good recreation programs within your community. Maybe it’s a rec center, maybe it’s youth sports. Uh, all of those things, uh, make up a community and I think bring real value to the community that make people want to stay there. And it brings them connection.

They feel connected to the community through those things. Um, and that is what we are educating students to be able to work in, right. To provide those experiences, provide them well, um, for, for their communities. Right? So, you know, we talk about our teams here in Portland, you get the Seadogs and we can’t control the team on the field, right? Um, but what, what people don’t necessarily go to the Seadogs because the baseball is fantastic. A lot of times it is. And then there’s seasons when it’s not. Uh, but they go because of the experience, what it makes them feel like being at the ballgame, the community. Absolutely. And those are the things that we are educating our students to be able to provide to their community. 

Carrie:

That’s wonderful. Thank you both so much for your time today. 

Heidi and Emily:

Thank you for having us.

Love this episode of The Greater Good? Please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. As a new podcast, ratings and reviews are critical to our success. We’d also appreciate your feedback to ensure we are bringing you quality content and conversation. If you’d like to learn more about our guests, access show notes and find additional resources, visit https://umainecenter.org/greatergood. Thank you.

The information provided in this podcast by the University of Maine System acting through the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center is for general educational and informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the authors and speakers and do not represent the official policy or position of the university.