When Sport Event Work Stopped: Exposure of Sport Event Labor Precarity by the COVID-19 Pandemic

in International Journal of Sport Communication
View More View Less
  • 1 Baldwin Wallace University
  • 2 Texas A&M University—Kingsville
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year online subscription

USD  $64.00

1 year online subscription

USD  $86.00

Student 2 year online subscription

USD  $122.00

2 year online subscription

USD  $162.00

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has exposed major weaknesses in economic, governmental, and social structures that many have taken for granted in everyday life. The sport industry, which has gained unprecedented popularity in recent decades, is no exception. Decisions, driven in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, to suspend play in major sports leagues across the globe have exposed the precarious nature of the work situation that hourly event workers find themselves in. As the games stopped, so did the earnings of workers who impact essential aspects of the sport spectators’ experience. These workers include the part-time front of house staff for public assembly facilities, including ushers, concessions workers, ticket takers, and security personnel. This essay, drawing on ideas from C.W. Mills, Arne Kalleberg, and Guy Standing, will examine the impact of the pandemic on the employment of these workers by looking at the state of labor associated with sport and sports events. Furthermore, the essay will explore the challenges facing a class of workers who depend on numerous part-time or seasonal sports event jobs to scrape together an existence when sport suddenly stops. Finally, the essay will address the potential aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic on sport labor and consider how sport work could change as a result. This scholarly commentary lays the groundwork for further study and analysis of an important, yet rarely remarked on, aspect of employment morality and sport labor studies.

Sheptak is with the Dept. of Sport Management, School of Business, Baldwin Wallace University, Berea, OH, USA. Menaker is with the Dept. of Health & Kinesiology, Texas A&M University—Kingsville, Kingsville, TX, USA.

Sheptak (rsheptak@bw.edu) is corresponding author.
  • Armour, N., Axon, R., Berkowitz, S., & Schade, T. (2020, April 26). Owners pledged to pay workers when sports shut down, but many are being overlooked. USA TODAY. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2020/04/26/coronavirus-owners-pledged-pay-workers-but-many-being-overlooked/3012573001/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Arnold, D., & Bongiovi, J.R. (2013). Precarious, informalizing, and flexible work: Transforming concepts and understandings. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(3), 289308. doi:10.1177/0002764212466239

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Atkinson, J. (1987). Flexibility or fragmentation? The United Kingdom labor market in the eighties. Labour and Society, 12(1), 87105.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carroll, R. (2020, April 28). Most Americans to avoid sports, other live events before coronavirus vaccine: Reuters/Ipsos. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-events/most-americans-to-avoid-sports-other-live-events-before-coronavirus-vaccine-reuters-ipsos-idUSKCN22A2AK

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Casselman, B. (2020, April 29). Worst Economy in a decade. What’s next? ‘Worst in our lifetime.’ New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/business/economy/us-gdp.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Foti, A. (2017). General theory of the precariat: Great recession, revolution, reaction. (Theory on Demand; No. 25). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Institute of Network Cultures.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hanlon, C., & Jago, L. (2000). Pulsating sporting events: An organisational structure to optimise performance. In J. Allen, R. Harris, L. Jago, & A. Veals (Eds.), Proceedings of Conference on Event Evaluation, Research and Education (pp. 93105). Sydney, Australia: Australian Centre for Event Management.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kalleberg, A.L. (2009). Precarious work, insecure workers: Employment relations in transition. American Sociological Review, 74(1), 122. doi:10.1177/000312240907400101

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kalleberg, A.L., & Vallas, S.P. (2018). Probing precarious work: Theory, research, and politics. Research in the Sociology of Work, 31(1), 130.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Katz, L.F., & Krueger, A.B. (2019). The rise and nature of alternative work arrangements in the United States, 1995–2015. ILR Review, 72(2), 382416. doi:10.1177/0019793918820008

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kessler, S. (2018). Gigged: The end of the job and the future of work. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

  • Kochan, T.A. (1999). Reconstructing America’s social contract in employment: The role of policy, institutions, and practices. Chicago-Kent Law Review, 75(1), 137150.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marx, K., Engels, F., In Arthur, C.J., & Marx, K. (1845/1972). The German ideology. New York, NY: International Publishers.

  • McLeod, C.M., Holden, J.T., Hawzen, M.G., & Chahardovali, T. (2019). Do influxes of atypical labor make sport event workers prone to exploitation? Sport Management Review, 22(4), 527539. doi:10.1016/j.smr.2018.07.003

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mills, C.W. (1951). White collar: The American middle classes. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Galaxy.

  • Rifkin, J. (2004). The end of work: The decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Standing, G. (2011). The precariat: The new dangerous class. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic.

  • Standing, G. (2014). Understanding the precariat through labour and work. Development and Change, 45(5), 963980.

  • Swartz, N.D., Hsu, T., & Cohen, P. (2020, April 30). Stymied in seeking benefits, millions of unemployed go uncounted. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/business/economy/coronavirus-unemployment-claims.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1 1 0
Full Text Views 737 737 226
PDF Downloads 178 178 52