The Sporting Body Themes and Issues

Investigations into the Organisation of the Body in Sport

Stacking and Racial Integration.

Racial integration involves the allocation of playing positions based on racial stereotypes, this is referred to as “stacking,” the process involves the placement of white and black players in positions in which they are stereotyped to be best suited in terms of attributed skills and ability (Eitzen and Tessendorf, 1978). Stacking is the position segregation by race or ethnicity in team sports (Margolis, & Piliavin, 1999).

A number of studies (Blalock, 1962; Grusky, 1963a; Loy & McElvogue, 1970) have concluded that there was a disproportionate allocation of players to specific team positions on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

It has been found that majority and minority group members typically filled different positions in team sports, particularly American Football and Baseball (Brower, 1972; Edwards, 1973; Loy & McElvogue, 1970; McPherson, 1976).

Majority group players typically occupied positions considered as central, which involved most communication and interaction with others as well as control over others, decision making and leadership potential (Loy & McElvogue, 1970; Blalock, 1962).
Minority group members occupied those positions considered as peripheral, involving mainly athleticism and “instinct” (Loy & McElvogue, 1970; Blalock, 1962). They were excluded from position with the greatest opportunity of determining the outcome of the competition (Margolis & Piliavin, 1999). This has now taken the name of stacking.

-       For example, the Quarterbacks, in American football are the leaders of the offensive team. Between 1983-1998, despite making up two thirds of the NFL’s total population, African American’s never made up more than 9% of the total number of quarterbacks in the league (Lapchick, 2001).  This cannot be explained by the lack of available qualified candidates and so is most likely a consequence of the traditional highly euphemized, dominant ideas about race and stratification in American society. The outmoded system presented stereotypes about Black athleticism and mental ability as contradictory to the requirements for succeeding as quarterback (Buffington, D, 2005).
This position requires a player to posses leadership, knowledge of the game and decision making under pressure, with the confidence to call the play in the huddle; skills that run counter to the dominant ideas about Black mentality at the time (Buffington, D, 2005).
Since white males were presented as harder workers (Murrell & Curtis, 1994; Wonsek, 1992) superior leaders (Jackson, 1989) and more mentally astute than their Black counterparts (Hoose, 1989; Jackson, 1989) a virtual exclusion of African American quarterbacks transpired.

Researchers have expanded their research past American sports, and looked at professional sports played in other countries, including; Canadian football, Australian rugby league, English football, basketball and rugby leagues, as well as cricket. It was later concluded that stacking within these sports has yet to be refuted (Margolis & Piliavin,1999).



Blalock, H.M. (1962). Occupational discrimination: Some theoretical propositions. Social Problems, 9, 240-247.

Brower, J.J. (1972). The racial basis of the division of labour among players in the National Football League as a function of stereotypes. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association. Portland, OR.

Buffington, D. (2005). Contesting Race on Sundays: Making Meaning out of the Rise in the Number of Black Quarterbacks. Sociology of Sport Journal, 21, 19-37.

Edwards, H. (1973). Sociology of Sport. Homewood, IL: Dorsey.

Eitzen, D.S. (1989). Sociology of North American Sport. Duburque, 1A:wm. C. Brawn.

Eitzen, D.S., & Furst, D. (1989). Racial bias in womens collegiate volleyball. Journalof sport and social issues, 13, 46-51.

Eitzen, D.S. and Tessendorf, I. 1978 “Racial segregation by position in sports: The special case of basketball.” Review of Sport and Leisure 2 (June): 109-128.

Forrest J. Berghorn and Norman R. Yetman, with William E. Hanna. Racial Participation and Integration in Men’s and Women’s Intercollegiate Basketball: Continuity and Change, 1958-1985. Sociology of Sport Journal, 1988, 5, 107-124

Hoose, P.M. (1989). Necessities: Racial barriers in American Sport. New York: Random House.

Jackson, D.Z. (1997). Race logic and ‘being like Mike’. Representations of athletes in advertising, 1985-1994. Sociological Focus, 30, 345-355.

Johnson, D. L., Hallinan, C. J. & Westerfield, R.C. (1999). Picturing success: Photographs and stereotyping in men’s collegiate basketball. Journal of Sport Behavior, 22, 45-54.

Lapchick, R.L. (with Matthews, K.J). (2001). The 2001 racial and gender report card. North-Eastern University’s Centre for the Study of the Sport in Society.

Margolis, B., & Piliavin, J. A. (1999). “Stacking” in Major League Baseball: A Multivariate Analysis. Sociology of Sport Journal, 16, 16-34.

McPherson, B.D. (1976) Minority group involvement in sport: the black athlete. InYiannakis, A. et al. (eds) Sport Sociology: Contemporary Themes, Kendall/Hunt, Iowa.

Murrell, A.J., & Curtis, E.M. (1994). Causal attributions of performance for Black and white quarterbacks in the NFL: A look at the sports pages. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 18, 224-233.

Wonsek, P.L. (1992). College basketball on television: A study of racism in the media. Media, Culture and Society, 14, 449-461.


Back to Contents Page

Leave a Reply