In a country like the United States (US), where nation-wide conversations about the Latinx population are constant, it’s interesting that none of those discussions ever question why we see so few members of the US Latinx population associated with sports. Though, according to the according to the US Census Bureau, Latinx and Hispanic people make up 18 percent of the US population, which is around 59.9 million people, their presence in sports is practically unheard of in comparison. National Public Radio (NPR) reports that only 2.3 percent of players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) identify as Latinx. As reported by the Desert Sun, the National Football League (NFL), consists of even fewer people: around 1.5 percent who are Hispanic or Latinx. The question of why so few Latinx people in the US become professional athletes seems one worth asking.
The US has become a beacon for those seeking the right to personal liberties and a more widespread form of acceptance of individualism. It has taken many decades for the US to attain this level of cultural and ethnic diversity, and it will surely take many more before acceptance of that diversity is more widespread and there are fewer societal impediments.
One of the societal impediments is the socioeconomic class system. In his book, Ethnicity and Sport in North American History and Culture, George Eisen theorizes that there is a direct correlation between an ethnic group’s socioeconomic status and its involvement in sports. He says, “Dominance of ethnic or racial groups in sport is neither a new nor unexpected phenomenon. It is a mere reflection of a process called ‘ethnic succession’—a historical pattern of one group replacing another in…diverse social and cultural variables.” What this means is that the dominating ethnicity in sports fluctuates over the years to reflect what else is going on in the country—more specifically, in the social and economic aspects of people’s lives. As reported by the American Psychological Association (APA), research also shows that race and ethnicity factor into socioeconomic status.
One can make an inference that the lack of representation of Latinx people in sports might be connected to the political, social, and economic turmoil surrounding the modern-day Latinx community in the US.
However, this is where things get a little paradoxical. Although the US Latinx population is underrepresented in most popular sports, such as the previously mentioned football and basketball, it is currently a dominant ethnicity in another popular sport: baseball. The Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) reports that Latinx people now make up around 27.4 percent of Major League Baseball players.
In the long run, what Eisen theorizes could be true, and this could all be subject to change again. Maybe it’s not a matter of if, but when. Both the US and global culture are constantly changing, and we might see another fluctuation in socioeconomics as well as who the ethnic majority is in sports—so pay attention to who you see playing on the sports channels.