May 27, 2016

The Toronto Raptors and the Right to Sport

 Peter Miller

Raptors regular season tickets and playoff tickets are out of reach for the majority of people in Toronto, with the average resell cost for a single ticket at $258. At the same time, costs for cable, internet, and going out to a bar to watch the game pile up, making access to watching the playoff run in the comfort of one’s own home inaccessible to many.

Everyone deserves the right to democratic culture, sport, and leisure, and this includes the right to watch some of the best basketball players in the world. Under capitalism, short-term partial victories for these rights can be won, but these gains are constantly under attack.
People are faced with huge barriers from exercising their right to physical activity. High school sports teams, not only rep teams, often have high fees for participation, creating barriers for low income families. At the same time, in order to enjoy sports, one must have time to do so. Does a working class student who is forced to work at McDonalds have the same amount of time to engage in sport as a student who can afford to not work while at school?

Often professional teams like the Toronto Raptors and charities try to fill in gaps and provide sport to “underprivileged youth.” But these organizations never have the ability to fill in these gaps, and professional teams and organizations use these initiatives primarily for marketing purposes.

One’s access to sport also depends upon ability, gender, race, and age, etc, along with class. Hockey is a white supremacist sport, boys are often pushed towards sports more than girls, there are few options for the middle aged and elderly to engage in sports, few options for people of lesser athletic ability to engage in sport, and fewer options for people with disabilities to engage in sport. The options that these people have come with financial barriers as well.

At the same time, marginalized groups might be given access to sport if they excel, but only when they play at an extremely high level will opportunities open up for them. Alvin Williams, now a commentator for the Toronto Raptors, and former NBA point-guard, played high school basketball in Philadelphia. Recently he revealed that when he played in high school he had never heard of Villanova University in Philadelphia, whose varsity team he ended up playing for. The university was situated in an entirely different world with the right to university education denied to the majority of black youth in Philadelphia. He only had the chance to access education from the athletic scholarship he received. In this case, sporting institutions create a competitive and cruel vetting process, opening up access to education for some while keeping the door forever shut for others.

Access to sports can only be a true right, when democratically organized by a socialist state in collaboration with other parts of the state and people’s organizations, like schools, labour unions, student unions, women’s organizations, and so on. This is how sport was organized in former socialist societies, and how sport is currently organized in Cuba. As was stated in an earlier Rebel Youth article, Cuba condemns “athleticism that was purely motivated by financial gains.”

However, making advances and fighting for universal access to sport for all is something that can be fought for with victories won under capitalism, and the student movement can play a key role here. This fight can be closely connected with the struggle for access to free, fully public education from childcare to university, by demanding public education provide universal access to sport as well.  
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1 comment:

  1. which is why i love jurassic park and the other public square in mississauga they show the games at. even if it's pvtly owned and nestled b/t luxury condos ppl get a share of public collective jubilation (or heartbreak) for no cost


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