Allyship as activism: advancing social change in global sport through transformational allyship

Shannon Jolly, Joseph N. Cooper, Yannick Kluch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


As the world is racing to find a cure to save lives and economies amidst a global pandemic, COVID-19 has inadvertently caused a shift of focus towards the inequities and injustices plaguing society economically, politically, and socially. In response, athletes, coaches, managers, and other change agents with institutional power in sport organisations across the globe have begun to utilise their platforms to champion social justice generally, and racial justice in particular, in solidarity. Historically, in concert with trends in neoliberal and neocolonial hegemonic societies, sport has reproduced various oppressive ideologies, discourses, and systems grounded in racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, homophobia, xenophobia and related systemically oppressive forces. Given the visibility of sport in the global marketplace, racialized groups have used sport as a site of resistance and activism for social justice. Since the athlete activist has re-emerged as an important change agent in the public consciousness, an increasing number of supporters holding privileged identities, within and beyond sport, have backed social justice movements through their allyship. However, scholarship has focussed largely on the allyship of athletes. Perhaps more problematically, the ambiguity of allyship has resulted in instances of decentring the core targets or victims of oppressive systems, who are best positioned to lead social movements. In an effort to cultivate a deeper understanding of allyship and how allies can optimise social movements, the purpose of this conceptual paper is to call for more intentional, critically reflexive, and culturally conscious allyship that is reflective of a transformation of allyship from reactive advocacy to proactive activism for long-term substantive gains. The authors posit that transformational allyship is allyship as activism on both individual and institutional levels. Allyship as activism should consist of intentionality to centre the core targets and victims of oppression, critical reflexivity of the relationship between ally and core activist, the presence of a clear opposition, a challenge or disruption to hegemonic systems, and a connection to a broader social movement. Implications for coaches, administrators, sport managers, and athletes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-245
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal for Sport and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Allyship as activism: advancing social change in global sport through transformational allyship'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this