Neoliberalistic ideology and sport

Came across this article, found it a thought provoking read. Didn’t really think of sport in this way:

Sport undermined by neoliberalism

One of the hallmarks of the neoliberal age has been the exponential expansion of commercial spectator sport — in its economic value, political role and cultural presence. All of which is thrown into high relief by the World Cup in Brazil.

In recent years, the sporting industry has grown in all regions above the local GDP rate. It is estimated to have generated US$135 billion in direct revenues last year. These revenues derive from gate receipts, corporate sponsorship, media rights and merchandising.

In the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries and in Asia as a whole, sponsorship is now the biggest money spinner. Although merchandising is marginal in most of the world, it accounts for 25% of revenues in North America.

Despite its growth, the sports industry, narrowly defined, is still dwarfed by the pharmaceutical ($1.1 trillion a year) and automotive ($1.8 trillion) sectors. But sport is interwoven with other industries: footwear, sportswear, soft drinks, advertising, among others. It’s a central driver in media industries.

And it is critical to the gambling industry, legal and illegal. Betting on sports is estimated to be worth between $700 billion and $1 trillion a year.

It should therefore not be surprising that sport has become a major carrier of neoliberal ideology. It is used to promote a competitive individualism in which the pursuit of victory is presented as the purest form of personal self-expression.

What is celebrated is a “triumph of the will? in which adverse circumstances are made to bow to individual desire.

This ethos of egocentric assertion is by no means inherent in sport, which is not about “the law of the jungle? or a “war of all against all?. On the contrary, it’s a competitive activity built on a cooperative basis, requiring mutual agreement among competitors and spectators. …

Sport undermined by neoliberalism | Green Left - June 2014

…are you abusing your medicinal marijuana again Earl?

Is it aboutcompetitive individualism? So much of sports seems to consist of players deflecting individual praise or blame and instead putting it on the team as a whole. It's almost all about subsuming your individuality in my opinion.

…play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back?

Yeah, that whole thing!

I’d say, at least for most pro athletes, it’s about individuality and expressing “what you got” especially how much your contract is worth. Sure, in interviews and such after a big win, or loss, most players talk about a team win or loss and all that cooperation stuff but to me, in pro sports, that’s simply window dressing for what’s really important to the athlete - their contract and nowadays we see arbitrators and that for players who don’t think they are being offered what they think they are worth. That’s the main game IMHO for most of the athletes, pro ones.

Now the athletes are taking the role of the owners of the teams and being an “owner” if you will in their regards. Some of the contracts of some of these pro athletes truly are “corporate” in every sense of the word. I think athletes today, as do lawyers, doctors, accountants etc. that people saw more as individuals just “working” in the past, now think of themselves as true entrepreneurs, competitive to see who can make the most money and get the most. That is one of the tenants of neoliberalism from my understanding, you fight and do what you have to do in a business sense to make more money. All about me sort of thing. From the article:

All the contradictions of commercial spectator sport will be on display, in heightened form, in this year's World Cup. Dave Zirin, in his invaluable new book, Brazil's Dance with the Devil, shows how this sporting mega-event has become a carnival of state-sponsored neoliberalism, characterised by mass evictions, gentrification, increased repression and surveillance, vast expenditure on redundant facilities and corporate plundering of public funds.
Oh, R&W, no, just bored a tad. ;)

What I find interesting about the World Juniors for example is how Gord and Ray keep talking all the time about so and so is a first or second etc. round pick of whatever NHL team and will fit in and all that. It’s almost seems to me that the World Juniors are now a bit of a charade in a sense as to what team really wins the tournament, again, just make money for Hockey Canada, IIHF whatever sport governing body and the players, it’s about what round they got drafted in or if they got drafted. Maybe I’m being too cynical, don’t know, but this article really does have me thinking about sport in a different light.

Another good read for anyone interested. A great discussion on jock culture imbedded with rape culture and just how sport in the US, certain areas, have an influence over police actions, as an example:


This is an edited transcript of Derrick Jensen’s March 2, 2014 Resistance Radio interview with David Zirin. Zirin writes about the politics of sports for The Nation and many other magazines and newspapers. He is the author or co-author of six books, including What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States, and Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down.

DJ: It’d be like if I wanted to start a business and then I went to the taxpayers to the get funding to build my factory.

DZ: It’s a hell of a scam. Often, it’s a popular thing to get a new stadium, although much less so according to polls over the last fifteen years, as they have clearly and dramatically not returned on their investment, like what happened in Seattle where the beloved Supersonics basketball team was ruthlessly ripped from the city. I think you see the price much more deeply in a place like New Orleans where the levees broke and the only place suitable for shelter was the Superdome, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars, when many of the people huddled in there could not have afforded to buy a ticket to actually see a game.

DJ: I read a study back in the early ‘90s about the “multiplier effect? when a new stadium is built. Could you comment on that?

DZ: That’s a classic line about stadium funding. If you literally dumped a billion dollars from a plane, and people just picked it up and spent it, it would have a better economic multiplier effect than the building of stadiums. That in itself exposes these things for what they are.

This is the truth, Derrick, I used to go on radio shows and debate people about public stadium funding and you can’t debate it anymore, because there’s so much data that it’s a terrific waste of money. It’s like debating whether or not the sky is green. No one wants to take that position on it, either. In the context of the new normal of perpetual crisis, in which we find cities starved by gentrification and privatization, the giving of public money isn’t through referendums or public votes, but in paying off the right politicians for their stadiums.