How can we resolve the conflict and contradictions inherent within sport?
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Improving social responsibility and equality in sport.

The coronavirus pandemic has left the world in a state of confusion, depression, and heartache throughout its course of existence much like the Great Depression of the 1930s. People have lost their jobs, loved ones, and sense of reality in a short amount of time with no concrete resolution on how life will be at the conclusion of the pandemic. Sport has also suffered during this time by having to shut down access to all participants and consumers, forcing people to create access virtually and autonomously. But similar to post-Great Depression, sport will now have a fresh start to resolve conflict and contradictions that impact the industry from a social standpoint.

Social responsibility           

Social responsibility in sport focuses on the connection between social behavior and economics (Allison, Davis, & Barranco, 2018). A current conflict today impacting the sport industry is the equity of race, gender, and sexuality. Participants and consumers have equal opportunity to access sport, but the equity value isn’t the same as we see female athletes unable to make the same amount of money as male athletes. Current gender conflicts have to the empowerment of women athletes in the sport industry. For instance, brands now demand a focus on women’s sports to promote gender equity, and women’s sport is now elevated around the world as seen in Saudi Arabia with their inauguration of sport for female athletes

The new trend of supporting athletes in their social stance has shifted power to the athlete and they are now able to become their own brand. This increases economical gains because the athlete’s followers feel more connected to the athlete for speaking on their behalf on social issues. With this new market segment, brands and sport entities will be able present their product or service through a shared belief rather than the appearance or quality of what they are offering (Lovett, 2018).

There are also contradictions to access certain sport where different races and sexualities are accepted but not treated with the same fairness. Athletes have become more comfortable in their skin and advocate for their own worth and beliefs. Sport should now embrace their notions and partner with athletes to help push their agenda as long as it aligns to their business principles. An example of this is when Nike partnered with Colin Kaepernick, a former National Football League player, in his cause to raise awareness on police brutality toward African Americans in the United States without directly choosing a side or bias.  

Brands now impact the sport industry more than ever by demanding unimpeachable ethics with the sports they sponsor or partner with. A recommendation for sport is to examine their bylaws and reevaluate their systems to be ethical by today’s standards. The NCAA has begun this process, prompting a change that will increase the equity value of players and stakeholders.

In order to address the conflicts and contradictions, sport should adjust its market research practices from products or services to embody the thoughts, beliefs, and social background of athletes and consumers. Pre-pandemic, professional and collegiate sports discussed holding competitions without the fans in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Since they were pondering the chance of losing revenue from consumers, they should think about hosting free nights for all fans when society returns back to normal. Public and private gyms should also seek to offer free or reduced access to consumers. The reasoning for this will allow consumers to feel connected to sport with equity.

Sport consistently changes and has always found a way to adapt. But after changing to help provide equity for its participants and consumers, sport will serve as a model industry that will make society better as whole.

Kenneth Griner is a doctoral student at Texas Woman’s University in Sport Management with a minor in education leadership. He currently serves as an assistant principal and helps student athletes through his non-profit organization, Project Beat the Odds.


All countries
All regions
All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
5 - Gender equality
Target Group
Girls and women

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