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Stick to hockey: Sports and respectability

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Tespectability, transphobia, and Obamacare in sports.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic Exhibion Game-Puerto Rico at Colorado Rockies Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s inaugural Stick to Hockey post (yes, even the people who showed up to tell me that I should “stick to hockey”). I have loved engaging with you all again! It was indeed a fantastic debuted.

What an exciting week it’s been! The main news in sports and politics this week is definitely the victory (and end of the World Championships boycott) of the United States women’s hockey team in negotiations with USA Hockey. My colleagues nafio and Baseball Annie have covered this extensively in yesterday’s Women’s Hockey Wednesday, so please read their coverage if you have not yet. When women are given the same support and resources in sports that men have so long enjoyed, amazing things happen.

Achariya’s article on Auston Matthews’ adversity as a hockey player is relevant here, even though she isn’t talking about sexist discrimination. The conditions that shape a player’s opportunities are so important to explore, beyond individual heroic narratives.

Aside from the exciting women’s hockey developments, I have been thinking about the interesting discussion that took place in the comments last week regarding racism and respectability in baseball. I was excited when I came across this article by Joon Lee over at Bleacher Report on Francisco Lindor and MLB’s racial politics:

Francisco Lindor is trying to save baseball from itself

“Lindor may be a marketer's dream, but MLB's institutional culture could prevent him from becoming one of the faces of the sport. Poet Walt Whitman once wrote baseball is connected to America's national character of physical stoicism. While this quiet reservation is clearly reflected in "white baseball" culture, Puerto Rico believes in a completely different denomination of baseball, one in which no person could conceive of a sanctuary-like atmosphere at a game. Some noisemakers, drums and singing never hurt anyone.”

These issues are certainly not unfamiliar to NHL fans, as my friend Courtney Szto wrote for Hockey and Society a few years ago (keeping in mind that many progressive people view Evander Kane as a much more complicated figure after he was accused of assaulting a woman in Buffalo). Hockey also contends with additional anti-Russian and at times anti-European stereotypes as well, as evidenced by listening to Don Cherry speak for more than one minute at a time.

We can have individual preferences for styles of play, dress, and comportment, but it is important to think about who or what groups tend to be included in your definition of “respectable,” and who or what is not. The issue here is when definitions of “respectable” come to be defined along ethnic or racial lines (or, well, any other hierarchical identity category that you can think of). As Lee argues in the above article, respectability in baseball is so often understood as the way that “white” players are perceived to act. The styles of play, celebration, or clothing that are associated with countries like Puerto Rico come to be seen as cocky, disrespectful, or inimical to the “right way” to play the game, as Ian Kinsler put it so succinctly in his eyebrow-raising quote that we discussed last week.

Once these biases are established, cases that confirm the rule about a group serve to bolster those beliefs (like Jose Bautista’s bat flip, which I recommend that you watch over and over again), while cases that may challenge those preconceptions (such as a white player celebrating in a cocky way) are seen as individual issues only. White players are not expected to stand in for their racial group, which is never really the case for racial minorities. This is why that Kinsler quote, and the pushback against more celebratory styles of play that this article talks about, really grates at me. Baseball is clearly an integrated sport, but the people who hold power within teams and the broader organization are very far from integrated. Issues of respectability in baseball, as well as other sports, are an extension of this.

Better locker rooms: It’s not just a transgender thing

George B. Cunningham and Erin E. Buzuvis, Engaging Sports

As I wrote last week, preventing trans people from using bathrooms and locker rooms is an issue that gets at the very centre of who is welcome and who is not in public. For athletes, access to locker rooms that match their gender is so important. Here, Cunningham and Buzuvis argue that more privacy in locker rooms will not only benefit trans athletes, it will benefit everyone who is not comfortable with the classic open-concept locker room.

The NCAA just gave North Carolina a $250 million ultimatum on its HB2 “Bathroom Bill”

Marykate Jasper, The Mary Sue

While I am typically skeptical of justifying inclusion based on profit-making potential (or the reverse, condemning discrimination because it is not cost-effective), I’m really scratching my head here at North Carolina’s insistence on sticking with this horrifying bill despite all of this economic pushback. I assume that North Carolina won’t be doing anything in response to the NCAA’s ultimatum, but one can always hope.

How Republicans’ plan to repeal Obamacare could hurt American sports

Tyler Tynes, SB Nation

To editorialize (which is all I do here, really), I am so pleased that the AHCA did not pass. Wow. As Tyler Tynes at SBN shows, this would have been a real disaster for sports.

That’s what I came up with for this week, but feel free to post the articles you loved (or hated) in the comments. And please send me your writing or anything that is of interest to you at @phylliskessel on Twitter!