Race and Urbanization 

Dr. Van Rheenen brings a strong interest in social justice and equity to his study of sport as a social institution. He studies how traditionally disenfranchised groups move through sporting experiences with varying degrees of success, especially regarding participation rights and areas of potential exploitation. The publications below reflect his work on race and intercollegiate athletics as well as sport in urban settings and sport as cultural practice. All publications (if available) can be viewed by clicking on the citation link below the abstract.


Exploitation in College Sports: Race, Revenue, and Educational Reward
International Review for the Sociology of Sport

Abstract: The question of whether college athletes are exploited is regularly debated in the popular press and academic literature about college sports. The concept of exploitation, with its philosophical and psychological implications, however, is rarely discussed in detail. This paper problematizes and expands the way in which the concept has been presented within the context of college sports, arguing that exploitation is primarily a moral construct understood as an unfair exchange between two parties. For college athletes, an unfair financial exchange can be measured by comparing the surplus value and marginal revenue product. These calculations may evidence the degree of economic exploitation, but many people still believe college athletes are fairly compensated with a subsistence wage in the form of an athletic scholarship. It is more difficult to quantify the promise or value of an education above and beyond this subsistence wage, most often defined as a college degree. The over-representation of Black college athletes on revenue-producing teams, and the corresponding lower graduation rates of this population when compared to other students, highlight the racial and cultural divisions of opportunity. Institutions face a crisis of conscience when educational opportunities are offered to certain students based primarily on their athletic ability, especially when these opportunities are perceived as disingenuous due to the academic preparation and demanding athletic commitments of these recruited college athletes.

Van Rheenen, D. (2012). Exploitation in college sports: Race, revenue, and educational reward. International Review for the Sociology of SportOctober 2013vol. 485: pp. 550-571.first published on July 13, 2012

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Reflections on an After-School Literacy Program and the Educational Value of Taekwondo: A Preliminary Analysis
Journal of Asian Martial Arts

Abstract: This article describes the results of an after-school literacy program in an urban public elementary school, combining writing and taekwondo instruction. The study discusses the potential educational benefits of martial arts training in enhancing psychological well-being and academic achievement.

Van Rheenen, D. (2011). Reflections of an After-School Literacy Program and the Educational Value of Taekwondo: A Preliminary
Analysis. Journal of Asian Martial Arts Volume 20, Issue 4, 2011: 9-25.


The Promise of Soccer in America: The Open Play of Ethnic Subcultures
Journal of Soccer and Society

Abstract: This essay juxtaposes the perceived lack of success of professional soccer in the United States with the nation’s rich history of ethnic and amateur soccer. It argues how soccer as ethnic subculture has provided a means for minority ethnic communities to construct a unique cultural identity while becoming a part of an emerging multicultural nation. In evidence of this more complex and nuanced process of cultural assimilation, the essay chronicles the rise of the Greek American Athletic Club in the San Francisco Soccer Football League (SFSFL), the oldest American soccer league in continuous existence. Perhaps reflective of other urban ethnic soccer clubs and the immigrant communities supporting their team, the San Francisco Greek-Americans initially recruited players solely from their own community. Over time, however, the team began to recruit players based on their competitive potential rather than their ethnic heritage. With a mixture of non-Greek foreign-born and US-born players, the San Francisco Greek-Americans made the Bay Area Hellenic communities proud by becoming one of the most dominant amateur soccer teams in the history of the SFSFL and the United States.

Van Rheenen, D. (2009). The Promise of Soccer in America: the Marking and Open Play of Ethnicity in the San Francisco Soccer. Football League (SFSFL), Soccer and Society, 2009, 10: 781-794.

Confirmatory Factor Analysis of Perceived Exploitation of College Athletes Questionnaire

Journal of College Student Development

Brief Excerpt: The exploitation of college athletes has been a topic of controversy within American higher education for over half of a century. Ever since the term student-athlete was coined in the 1950s (Sperber, 1999), academics and administrators have debated the extent to which the commercialization of college sports has turned college athletes into commodities, excluded from the free market while their coaches, colleges, and conferences reap huge financial rewards (Branch, 2011; Van Rheenen, 2013; Zimbalist, 1999). Especially in the revenue-generating sports of men’s basketball and football, critics have highlighted the surplus gains expropriated by colleges and universities on the backs of these young men, who are disproportionately Black (Eitzen, 2000; Hawkins, 2010; Rhoden, 2006).

Utilizing this three-item exploitation scale on a sample of 581 Division I college athletes, Van Rheenen (2011) found significant differences by gender, sport, and race. Participants on the revenue-generating sports of men’s basketball and football were over seven times more likely to report feeling exploited than their peers on nonrevenue sports teams.

Van Rheenen (2011) also found significant differences by race in self-reported perceptions of being exploited. The odds of Black college athletes feeling exploited were nearly five times as great as that of White varsity athletes and four times as great as student athletes who identified as Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or any other racial group.

Van Rheenen, D. & Atwood, J. (2014). Confirmatory Factor Analysis of Perceived Exploitation of College Athlete Questionnaire. Journal of College Student Development. Vol 55, No. 5, July 2014. 

Exploitation in the American Academy: College Athletes and Self-perception of Value

The International Journal of Sport and Society

Abstract: The exploitation of college athletes, particularly Black revenue athletes, has been a persistent topic of controversy within American higher education for the past half century. Strikingly absent in this literature are the college athletes themselves. This research study of 581 NCAA Division] college athletes examines these participants ‘perceptions of feeling exploited by the university for their athletic ability and potential. Comparative analyses are reported based upon gender, race, year-in-school and scholarship status. Differences between revenue, defined as football and men basketball, and non revenue or Olympic sports (all other intercollegiate athletic teams) are reported. Findings demonstrate significant differences across several of these demographic and sport-specific categories. Findings also suggest that the perceived exploitation experienced by college athletes is more complicated than a simple financial or educational exchange. Several social and educational implications are discussed.

Van Rheenen, D. (2011). College athletes and self-perception of value. The International Journal of Sport and Society, 2(4): 11-26.