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Race and Gender Developments in Sports

Sports are one of the great American pastimes. People all over the nation turn their TVs to major sporting events and converge to support their team. It’s clear that in today’s society males are the dominant figure in sports. Race and gender is an idea that has been socially constructed. Society has created roles for race and gender, they are determined by what society thinks is appropriate for the gender or race. Some people argue that certain behavior roles are based on genderereas others may believe that it is based on race. However, athletes who challenged gender inequality and race in sports have turned out to be some of the greatest athletes in American History.

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Throughout history, society has clearly defined the roles that men and women were expected to play. In these roles, men were seen as both physically and mentally stronger, and women were seen as more gentle, caring and physically and mentally weaker. Men participating in sports that demonstrate the grace and elegance was not, and in part, still is not considered to be the norm. Likewise, women participating in sports that demonstrate or require much physical strength is considered to be unladylike. The ideas that women are weak, vulnerable and susceptible have also led to other myths preventing women from participating in sports.

One Female athlete who has challenged male dominance in sports and proved that women can play the same sport as men was Babe Didrikson. Babe was good at many sports that included bowling, baseball,  softball player and roller skating. Babe was also a good basketball player and lead her team to national championship in 1931. Then, in 1932, she ran track in the 1932, Olympics and won two gold medals and a silver medal (ussporthistory).  Famed American sportswriter, Grantland Rice praised Babe and stated, “She is an incredible human being. She is beyond all belief until you see her perform. Then you finally understand that you are looking at the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination the world of sport has ever known. There is only one Babe Didrikson, and there has never been another in her class—even close to her class. ( “  Years later, Babe married George Zaharias who played golf. Babe quickly picked it up and won the 1946 U.S. Women’s

Amateur, the 1947 British Ladies Amateur, the 1948 US Women’s Open and three Women’s Western Opens.  What ended her sports career was when she was diagnosed with cancer in the early 1950s and it ended her professional sports career (ussportistory).  By having a successful sports career she proved that women can be amazing athletes.

From Babe’s successful career, she has inspired many female athletes to dream big and there were many successful athletes who followed in her footsteps. Not only have women made a difference in sports but race barriers have also been broken.  Segregation and discrimination in sports in the 1900s was brutal.  Despite the segregation, African American athletes continued to impress, and became very successful. For example, many people tried to end segregation in major league baseball and were not successful

until Branch Rickey, Brooklyn Dodgers manager set what was called the great experiment (loc). Rickey signs Jackie Robinson to play with the Montreal Royals in 1946.this was the push baseball needed as Jackie Robinson made baseball history and encouraged other African American athletes to ignore the white only signs and be their best self. Robinson still had a hard time while on the team but stuck through it all and became an amazing baseball player and throughout Robinson’s baseball career he was

the most watched player and was very successful out on the field. Also by Rickey signed Robinson on, he has challenged the jim crow laws in baseball and it was the big push needed to end Jim crow in baseball (Angelfire). Not only has segregation bettered in baseball but in many of the sports across the board including basketball and football.

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Since the 1900s, racism and gender inequality in sports has come a long way.  It has brought ou the greatest athletes in history including Jackie Robinson, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Babe Didrikson and many more. Many of these athletes have broken countless records did not let gender inequality and racism stop them. Racism and discrimination should not be in sports, because all humans are of the same species regardless of color or origin. We all bleed and we can all die, therefore, we should all be equal.



  • Baseball’s Great
  • “Breaking the Color Line: 1940 to 1946  | Baseball, the Color Line, and Jackie Robinson  | Articles and Essays  | By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s  | Digital Collections  | Library of Congress.” The Library of
  • Struna, Nancy L. “Gender and Sporting Practice in Early America, 1750-1810.” The International Journal of the History of Sport, vol. 5, no. 3, 1988, pp. 292–311., doi:10.1080/09523368808713664.
  • “Top Ten Historically Significant Women Athletes.” Sport in American History, 16 Nov. 2017,
  • Yardley, Jonathan, et al. “BABE PART 2.” Vault, 13 Oct. 1975,


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