More Than A Game: Leadership and Social Change in Sports

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 21, 2021 - July 21, 20216/21 - 7/214 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineMarc Peters

Course Description

Maya Moore. John Carlos. Colin Kaepernick. Billie Jean King. Muhammad Ali. Megan Rapinoe. Francois Pienaar. LeBron James. Some of these names we know. Others have gone less noticed or unacknowledged. All are case studies in leadership in sports and social change.

Refusing to “just shut up and dribble,” more and more athletes are stepping off the court, the field or the pitch to leverage their voices and platforms to push for social change. This course will explore the contributions of athletes and sports to: Black Lives Matter, the Civil Rights movement, anti-war protests, gender equality, LGBTQ rights and other critical issues.

The story of the anti-war movement of the 1960s cannot be told without Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection. Post-apartheid South Africa and the presidency of Nelson Mandela is inextricably linked with the 1996 South African National Rugby Team. Any list of critical moments of the Civil Rights Movement likely includes John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising their fists at the 1968 Olympics.

The role of athletes in leadership and social change is not limited to the pages of history books. This course will also explore: the recent advocacy of NBA players against voter suppression and their player walkout in response to police brutality; the United States National Women’s Soccer Team’s fight for pay equity; and Maya Moore stepping away from a Hall of Fame career to fight someone’s wrongful conviction.

The connection between sports and social change goes far beyond individual athletes and teams. Students will also study the work of organizations like Athlete Ally, Peace Players and Grassroots Soccer, each of which have used sports as a way to pull people together behind a common cause, to bridge divides or to promote public health.

This course will not shy away from uncovering the ways in which sports have fallen short. Whether it is the response of the leagues to protests, the silencing that can come in the wake of violence or how the NCAA has prioritized profits over players.

Whether you are an athlete yourself or have never picked up a ball, this course will provide an opportunity to delve into: case studies of leadership, foster a better understanding of social causes and changemaking, and how every space we occupy can be a space for social change.

This course will use sports as an entry point to study leadership, advocacy and important causes throughout history. Students will explore what athletes risked, what they gave and the difference they made through their advocacy and/or activism.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe leadership qualities based on evaluating case studies
  • Express their understanding of social justice issues
  • Understand the intersection of sports and social change
  • Compare and contrast different nonprofit organizations' use of sports as a mechanism for change
  • Prepare for the type of writing and public speaking expected in college
  • Develop an understanding of social justice movements, both past and present


This course is part of the Leadership Institute Online, a four-week academic program that helps students cultivate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with effective and socially responsible leadership. This unique program consists of two core elements: academic content based on the course of one's choosing and leadership content common to all courses, including the development of an Action Plan.

Enrollment in this program requires participation in one-hour synchronous or "live" sessions every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30am Eastern Standard Time (EST) - 12:30pm (EST). Other than participation in these two weekly synchronous or "live" sessions, participation in the course may be completed daily, at any time.

Additional programmatic information may be found here.

Prerequisites: None.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEAC0929

Program Information

Leadership Institute

Brown's Pre-College Program focused on developing socially responsible leaders and creating positive change. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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