Social Responsibility in Sports: Current Landscape
While most industries are being held increasingly responsible for engaging in socially responsible business practices and contributing to public interest efforts, professional sports are likely held to an even higher standard of what is traditionally considered corporate social responsibility (CSR). Professional sports are intricately embedded in their communities, arguably more dependent on consumer and government support, with greater influence on culture and more power to improve community well-being. These facts lead to the expectation that professional sports will contribute more to society than just exciting exhibitions. As this expectation is relatively new, the parameters of social responsibility in sports (SRS) is not well defined. Most professional leagues and teams in the United States are participating in efforts to improve their communities, the well-being of their employees, and promote safety and integrity within their competitions. But neither the motivations behind these efforts nor the outcomes have been well characterized. This examination draws on original research to describe how SRS differs from typical CSR. It will then identify some key legal mechanisms through which socially responsible efforts in sports are carried out, and the importance of a leadership culture that embraces SRS. Finally, it will explain the value of authentic social responsibility efforts, both to the community and to the implementing sport organization, which calls for investments in SRS initiatives that are strategically tailored to the organization’s identity and are held accountable for meeting the needs of the community.