Sports & Society: Guest Lecturer Discusses Societal Issues Impacting the Sports Industry

September 25, 2020

August 26th, 2020 was a historic day in American sports. WNBA players walked out, the NBA playoffs came to a halt, and other sports soon followed suit, with Dougathletes uniting in protest of racial injustice. 

The following Monday, in the first lecture to kick off the fall semester, former MLB player Doug Glanville joined the San Diego State University’s Sports MBA’s Sports & Society class, allowing students the opportunity to process what was taking place both within the sports world and throughout society. 

This course, in its debut last year, focused on various social and environmental sustainability issues. This year, however, the course pivoted to the topic of Sports & Society in order to address the most pressing societal issues currently facing the sports industry, such as racial injustice, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and the impact of COVID-19. 

The faculty member responsible for the course, associate professor within the Fowler College of Business, Erlinde Cornelis, saw the need to make a change in both the course structure and its content. 

“Sports have an impactful, prominent role in society, acting as a unifier of people, and even as a microcosm of society,” Cornelis said. “Yet, traditional SMBA courses rarely pause to reflect on potential issues pertaining to the sports industry’s role in society. Providing Sports MBA students with the business skills to thrive in the sports industry is one thing, but sharpening their critical thinking of that very industry is a different story. I saw this as an opportunity to marry hard skills (market research, analytics) with soft skills (reflection on diverse issues related to sports and society) in order to prepare our SMBA students to be conscientious and change-making leaders in the sports industry.” 

To assist Cornelis, SDSU Sports MBA sought someone with first-hand experience dealing with issues around race and sports, which led to former MLB player Doug Glanville joining the course as a guest lecturer.

Doug on Zoom“Doug Glanville is a prolific writer and has frequently offered his perspective on the issues of race and sports since retiring from his playing career,” said Scott Minto (SMBA ‘06), Sports MBA program director. “As a Black former MLB player, his powerful reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement and his support of important athlete activism made him a perfect fit to cover this material in the new Sports & Society course.” 

Doug Glanville’s background as a retired MLB star, an ESPN Baseball Analyst, a multimedia journalist and author, and a professor at the University of Connecticut made him the obvious choice as a partner to deliver some of the course’s important messages. This was his first time contributing to an MBA curriculum. In just the past few months, Glanville, who holds an Ivy League degree from UPenn, has produced a video essay for ESPN entitled Enough,” a piece about the “Comma Effect,” and offered five ways that MLB could fight systemic racism.

“Doug’s guest lecture offered an incredibly valuable insider perspective to the students, which is especially relevant given the current events, particularly in the sports world. In reality, racial, gender, and economic justice issues are all somehow interconnected,” said Cornelis. “The world isn't naturally siloed, yet humans tend to think in a siloed way. It takes holistic, critical thinking from future business leaders to positively impact the industry. Doug’s in-depth discussion of these issues with the SMBA students served to be thought provoking and very on point.”

Some of the topics Glanville covered in his lectures included:

  • What sports mean to white and Black America
  • The importance of court of public opinion for defending freedom
  • How Doug uses community development, working within the system, and social action to bring about change
  • Kaepernick and modern athlete activism
  • His experience with MLB’s stoppage of play post-9/11
  • MLB’s postponement of Opening Day for the MLK funeral
  • Sports in a time of crisis 

For the last topic, Glanville discussed the current state of professional sports in the United States and the long-term impact of bubble environments. Students Doug's Slidesexplored the ways in which leagues and teams have tried to engage fans as during the global pandemic and were asked to consider what the bond between athletes and fans will look like moving forward after a full season (MLB, NFL) and postseason tournaments (NWSL, MLS, NHL, NBA) with no fans in the stands.  

“As a guest lecturer in SDSU’s Sports MBA program, I was welcomed as more than a guest, I became part of a curriculum that has taken a lead role in engaging students about the role of sport in society,” said Glanville. “The students demonstrated a deep and wide-ranging understanding into the roots of the social impact of sports while also capably applying it to the dynamic nature of what is transpiring today. They had diverse viewpoints, yet could bring them together based on a solid foundation and a collaborative spirit.” 

Glanville offered Sports MBA students, future decision-makers in the sports industry, precise ways in which sports can help society start to root out systemic racism. Glanville’s approach is a valuable one for future managers looking to enact overdue change; he doesn’t just point out inequality, he seeks to get to the root of the problem and fix it. 

“The Sports & Society lectures focused on the contributions of legendary figures like Jackie Robinson, Tommie Smith and Dr. John Carlos, Billie Jean King, and Colin Kaepernick, which is valuable in its own right” said Minto. “Doug took it a step further and backed up his words with his deeds. When he’s experienced racism and profiling, he told the class, he’s leveraged his power, gained through his years as a professional athlete and TV personality, to reach out to authority figures. He has taken action, and addressed racism head-on. That’s an invaluable lesson in how to tackle a systemic issue.”  

For students, Glanville’s lectures were a rare opportunity to hear from a former professional athlete who, in spite of a number of negative experiences, has a positive outlook on sport’s ability to break down barriers. Glanville sees solidarity and being a good teammate as two essential features of sport, evidenced by the WNBA players standing in unity in the same room as they sat out games in protest. 

“Particularly over the past year, the relationship between sports, media, politics, and the power to communicate for social justice has become central to our society,” said Glanville. “As we engage in conversations about topics and experiences, it’s important for students, particularly those in sports management courses of study, to learn to evaluate the patterns and strategies athletes use to elevate issues. SDSU’s Sports MBA program is tackling these issues with students on a daily basis so they can learn to see the common threads of humanity and develop a critical eye for various approaches to communication and how well those tactics yield the desired changes. It has been a privilege to help SDSU teach these critical skills to future leaders in sports and beyond.”

SDSU Sports MBA sincerely thanks Doug Glanville for joining Dr. Cornelis’ Sports & Society course and offering his insights to the students. 

Follow Doug Glanville on Twitter.

About the SDSU Sports MBA Program:

The SDSU Sports MBA program is an intensive, accelerated MBA degree focused on the dynamic business of international sports. The program provides its graduates a thorough understanding of the skills crucial for professionals to succeed, while building a broad network of relationships in the sports-rich landscape of Southern California. Visit to learn more, request information or apply to the Sports MBA program.

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