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With Games on Hold, Expert Sees Chance to Reflect on Another Side of Sports
By Liam Farrell
A note at Capital One Arena announces the suspension of the NHL season on March 12. UMD kinesiology Professor David L. Andrews says the worldwide halt in competition gives fans a chance to consider a side of sports they don't normally thing about.
From the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in California to Super Rugby’s Crusaders in Christchurch, New Zealand, teams across almost all sports and leagues have been sidelined indefinitely—a timeout that may have a positive side, according to a UMD expert.
As fans and media are left with a lack of live games, said David L. Andrews, a UMD kinesiology professor who studies the intersection of sport and politics, they have more space to examine the money and power structures that undergird big-time games, from the terms of player contracts to laid-off concessions workers.
“We haven’t got the glitzy spectacle,” he said. “What else is there to talk about?”
As the COVID-19 outbreak gripped the world, cornerstones of the sporting calendar, from the NCAA basketball tournaments and the Kentucky Derby to this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, were delayed or canceled virtually overnight. While sports have been disrupted in the past, Andrews said the near dissolution at a moment’s notice is unprecedented.
Even during the world wars, he said, organized athletics continued to some degree because it was “part of the rhythm of everyday life. It was important that a sense of normality was maintained and, at least partially, this was realized through sport.”
According to Andrews, the current crisis has laid bare the vastly disparate pay and conditions within high revenue generating sports.
“The vulnerability in the system is at the lower end (for employees) without whom the sport industry simply could not function,” Andrews said.
There is evidence, he said, of this now being recognized more broadly:
But whether average sports fans will maintain any meaningful interest in the plight of low-paid sport industry workers is an open question.
“On resumption of the sporting calendar, the cultural and commercial weight behind celebrating sport as a form of uplifting Americana means that, in all probability, there won’t much space for such critical reflection,” Andrews said.
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