Friday, April 10, 2015

Capitalism and Sport


Sports is one of the very few avenues through which a handful of working class women and men can overcome the class divisions under capitalism. Mohammed Ali, to Pacquiao and Mayweather, the Williams sisters and so many other world class athletes are testimony to this. In many of these examples class, race and gender are closely intertwined.

This is because sports is very big business and, especially during the past decades of neoliberal capitalism,  has undergone a massive transformation through privatization. Football in Australia, for example, was a community sport, organized through local clubs until the 1980s when, due to its popularity, it also became a profitable commodity to be bought and sold by big capital. Now all the national teams are owned and run by big capitalists and every aspect of the sport is commodified. A similar transformation has taken place in cricket, in India, for example. All the major basket ball teams in the Philippines are dependent on big-business backers. This is also the message in the Pacquiao and Mayweather fight: boxing, certainly at this level, is no longer a sport, but big business with lots of money at stake. 

And as with every other commodity, women's bodies are used to promote the product. Even women's sports, like women's tennis, with the emphasis on the costumes and the camera shots focusing on women's legs and behinds, is an example of this.

The key issues in all this are the privatization ( and therefore commodification) of all sports and how to bring sports back into the control of communities, to be played for the game itself and not for profit. This also means that society -- people -- should decide how to develop sports, within a pro-people, non-sexist, non-racist culture and which sport should be encouraged and which ones phased out. And these issues will have to be discussed and debated extensively, through a process of popular participation. In the transition to an anti-capitalist, socialist and feminist society, how to redress the various aspects of bourgeois and patriarchal culture that we inherit, including in sports, will be one of the biggest challenges any movement for social transformation will face.