Scapegoat Categories and Conflict Resolution in the History of Sport

in Sport History Review
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  • 1 Florida International University
  • 2 University of Miami
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René Girard’s “Mimetic Theory” of violence categorizes the victim depending on the level of consciousness that the community has of the conflict and the innocence of the victim(s). Academic research applying scapegoating theories to conflict resolution in sport has not categorized the victim. However, classifying each scapegoat is important to understand both the conflict and the social circumstances that may have ignited the violence towards the innocent minority or individual. This paper identifies four historical instances of Girard’s scapegoat categories in sport, including athletes in ancient Greece, the Black Sox game-fixing scandal, Lance Armstrong’s exclusion from cycling, and Cubs’ fan Steve Bartman. The paper uses Girard’s theory to determine the possible causes of each instance of victimization and describes both how the scapegoat mechanism operated and its violent conclusion. Thoughtful analysis of the causes of each conflict and the social environment that ignited the victimization process and of the similarities between them is an important step towards finding a solution to sport violence. This analysis also provides a tool to potentially foresee conflict and prevent instability and violence in sport.

Arturo Leyva is with the Department of Teaching and Learning, College of Arts, Sciences & Education, Florida International University, Miami, FL; the Department of Philosophy, University of Miami, Miami, FL.

Address author correspondence to Arturo Leyva at