CU on the Weekend lecture this Saturday to discuss how scholars address a past and present of inequities and understand intersectional identities in sports
The world of sports is rife with inequity, and Nicholas Villanueva has made this a focus of his scholarly study.
Villanueva, an assistant professor of ethnic studies and director of critical sports studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, will discuss his research at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The free event is being held in the CASE Building fourth-floor auditorium, or is available remotely by Zoom. Registration for Zoom attendance is required and can be completed at this link.
In his talk, Villanueva will discuss inequity in sports and intersectionality within the area of critical sports studies. Intersectionality is a framework for understanding a person or group of people as being affected by a number of types of discrimination or disadvantages. It takes into account people’s overlapping identities, such as someone being a woman and also being Black, in order to understand the complexities of prejudices and privileges they face.
An author of three novels and the recipient of two national book awards for his work in Latinx studies, Villanueva co-created the Critical Sports Studies Program at CU Boulder to address current social issues in sports and is researching LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports.
Villanueva said his interest in the field dates back to his childhood, when he first became aware of prejudice in sports.
“Certain sports eventually became associated with different genders, and I remember looking around and wondering why we’re always associating masculinity and femininity with these activities,” he said.
The Critical Sports Studies Program offers a certificate based in the Ethnic Studies Department, where students can take classes on historical and current social and political issues in sports.
Villanueva teaches several of those classes. He said he chose to make the program a certificate instead of a minor to allow more flexibility for students to pursue their interests in the study in a variety of departments. He added that he recognizes that not every sport or social issue falls into his area of expertise and so he is open to proposals from students on courses they may find applicable to the Critical Sports Studies certificate.
“We don’t just examine social or cultural identities on their own; we focus on the intersectionality of all of those identities when we look at sports studies,” Villanueva said, noting that the concept of intersectionality plays an important role in his upcoming lecture and in his studies generally.
Villanueva is particularly interested in analyzing traditional ideas about masculinity in sports and is working on a new manuscript on the International Gay Rodeo Association and how it started to upend the stereotype about masculinity in sports.
I want people to understand that as more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities participate in sports—especially in powerful roles—the more the dominant societal group that holds power begins to feel threatened.”
“I’m obsessed with this idea of having people think about masculinity in sport in new ways.” Villanueva said, adding: “I want people to understand that as more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities participate in sports—especially in powerful roles—the more the dominant societal group that holds power begins to feel threatened. This happens not just in sports, but also in every institution. Discrimination in this sense is about the dominant group feeling threatened that they are going to lose their power and control.”
The concept of critical sports studies might prompt some people to think of Colin Kaepernick or Simone Biles—athletes with large followings who made headlines for taking controversial stands. But, as always, it’s crucial to look beyond notable names and examine why Kaepernick’s story stirred the nation in the first place, Villanueva said.
He added that he is dedicated to examining frameworks and institutional issues that exist not only in sports, but everywhere in society.