The contribution of multicultural communities to international sport

Multiculturalism in sports not only make the Olympics and other international competitions more interesting, and in a global world with a mixing of cultures across national sports leagues embracing multiculturalism is extremely important on many fronts.  From participation, to viewership to revenue for leagues diversity cannot be ignored. On the international front, there are interesting examples of where these contributions are not embraced, or are just misunderstood.  Here is a past example of how this played out on the international stage. 

 In the craziness that is media, a joke quickly upsets somebody and the response becomes news.   A great example is that of Trevor Noah from The Daily Show chanting “Africa won the World Cup” and making light of the fact that there were significant contributions by French national team players of African descent.  Apparently the French ambassador was bothered enough to send a letter to the show resulting in a great response.

Outside of the freakout from headline blurbs on whatever homepage you use, there are interesting challenges that abound in the perception of multicultural sports talent.   While teams routinely recruit players from other countries, most of those players will be celebrated in their communities.

  • MLB (Major League Baseball): Caribbean & Latin American countries provide numerous important players to the league.
  • NHL (National Hockey League): Quite diverse and made up of predominantly Canadian, U.S., European and Russian players.
  • NBA (National Basketball Association): Predominantly U.S. born, with a significant make up of African American players and a handful of international players.

Yet, for national teams there are conversations about how they are maximizing their national sports resources.  When the U.S. team missed the 2018 World Cup there was criticism that U.S. Soccer was an “old boys club” and ignores talented players from underserved communities such as Hispanic or African American (SB Nation The “old boys club”)

Also, it is worth checking out Trevor Noah’s nicely handled response to the French Ambassador relating that there is no such thing as African – French, just French.

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Embrace the multicultural contributions

The great point in the response is that both the cultural heritage as well as pride in one’s current country can be celebrated.  In the United States, it is common to refer to heritage, especially for communities who have recently seen rapid growth or influence such as:  Hispanic (Hispanic American), Asian (Asian American), and Arab (Arab American).  Like everything else, there can be both positive and negative connotations, but as France celebrates its victory, there is reason to celebrate the contributions of their diverse community.  Hopefully soon the United States will be able to do the same for U.S. soccer.

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