Kwame J.A. Agyemang, Ph.D
For quite some time, businesses and large corporations have used corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a management strategy for day-to-day operations. In summary, CSR offers a template for the way corporations should conduct business (e.g., their economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary responsibilities to society). The CSR strategy has especially been given further attention in light of two key factors: a) corporations are deemed influential members of society, and b) due to the transgressions on the part of large corporations (e.g., Tyco, BP, Enron, etc.).
Taken a step further, it could be argued the same strategy applies to professional Black male athletes, especially concerning matters outside of competition. Just like businesses, these individuals must concern themselves with a host of issues when managing their careers. They must consider not only their athletic competition but also their finances and stakeholder groups such as sponsors, media, and community, to name just a few. Furthermore, professional athletes, like corporations, are deemed influential members of society. For instance, research has shown that such individuals are emulated and idolized within these circles. Based on this, enter in the framework “Black male athlete social responsibility” (BMASR). This can be loosely defined as the following: the social responsibility of a Black male athlete encompassing a) responsibility to self, including economic, legal, and ethical, b) responsibility to Black communities, including Black male athletes who came before them and to those who will come after them, and c) carrying out altruistic discretionary activities.
In explaining this framework, the first component (i.e., responsibility to self) refers to the athlete’s willingness to maintain a responsibility to himself before a responsibility to other parties. For instance, the athlete must maintain a good inner circle around himself, comprised of individuals who will advise him in the right manner. This is particularly important in light of recent transgressions by a few prominent athletes. Next, the second component relates to an athlete’s responsibility to Black communities. A point within that component is the imperative that these athletes pay homage to those athletes who paved the way for them to compete in the current era (e.g., Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Bill Russell). Another point is that these athletes must continue where their “forefathers” left off and create an even better landscape for the athletes who will follow in their footsteps. The last component, altruistic discretionary activities, regards carrying out activities that go beyond what society may expect of them. This can come in the form of donating to a charity, setting up a non-profit organization, hosting clinics for adolescents, or many other activities.
While many think the life of a professional athlete is all “glitz and glamour,” it can be difficult at times dealing with the numerous responsibilities asked of the athlete. Thus, having a management strategy in place can be invaluable. To further this framework, athletes should hire capable, respected managers to help manage their careers and activities. In the end, well-developed social responsibility prolongs the athlete’s career, thus keeping fans and other stakeholders happy.
For further reading related to this topic:
- Godfrey, P. (2009). Corporate social responsibility in sport: An overview and key issues. Journal of Sport Management, 23(6), 698-716
- Carroll, A. (1999). Corporate social responsibility: Evolution of a definitional construct. Business & Society, 38 (3), 268-295.