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Religion, Sport, and Play Unit

Call for Proposals

The sporting arena is often thought of as an apolitical sight. Seemingly outside of the realm of sociohistorical forces, players simply play a game predicated on following rules and competing fairly. Yet to the contrary, sport has never been this alone—it is frequently the place where contentious political issues are laid bare, disputed, and left unresolved.

This call seeks proposals that address the role that religion plays or has played in political expression through sport.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Geopolitical antagonism at global sporting events
  • “Sportswashing” in the context of postcolonialism
  • Athlete complicity and activism relating to social (in)justice
  • Equality and discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation
  • The prominence and limitations of partisan politics
  • Personal experience and autoethnography
  • Rules and procedures involving vaccinations, hormone standards, and/or performance enhancement
  • Separation of “Church and State” at public school sporting events

Statement of Purpose

This Unit provides an opportunity for scholars to engage in emerging research at the intersection of religion and sport, games, and play. We are interested in examining these topics across broad geographical areas, religious traditions, and historical eras. We encourage critical reflection regarding relationships of religious institutions to sport, play, and games; theological and spiritual experiences of participants and spectators invested in these activities; and the cross-cultural applicability of the received categories.


  • Kimberly Diaz, University of California, Riverside
    1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
  • Jeffrey Scholes, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
    1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025

Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members