Despite growing research on racial microaggressions as a subtle but prevalent form of racial discrimination, research on microaggressions in sport and their effects on the psychosocial wellbeing of athletes is scarce. Moreover, some researchers question the legitimacy of microaggressions due to their subtle nature and inconsistency in how they are experienced (Lilienfeld, 2017). The purpose of this study was to examine U.S. collegiate student-athletes-of-color experiences with racial microaggressions in sport through a new theoretical lens, Foucauldian poststructuralist theory. We theorized microaggressions as an example of the daily panoptic gaze that leads to self-surveillance and the production of normalized individuals (Foucault, 1995). Eight student-athletes-of-color participated in two interviews: a two-person focus group interview followed by an individual interview. The interviews were analyzed deductively using Sue’s (2010) microaggression typology followed by a Foucauldian discourse analysis (Willig, 2013). The results illustrated how student-athletes-of-color experiences and subjectivities were racialized. Within sport, the sport as transcending race discourse was widely circulated and legitimized through various sporting practices, which limited athletes’ ability to perceive and acknowledge race and microaggressions. This study sheds light on how racial microaggressions manifest in the lives of student-athletes and how the discourses and practices we take for granted constitute racial subjectivities.


Microaggressions, Foucault, Intercollegiate Athletics, Racial Subjectivities, Foucauldian Discourse Analysis

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Sae-Mi Lee is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, Chico. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: slee@csuchico.edu.

Dr. Malayna Bernstein is the Director of the Learning Sciences Programs in the Department of Learning Sciences and Human Development at West Virginia University.

Dr. Edward Etzel is a Professor in the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences at West Virginia University.

Dr. Brian Gearity is the Director of the Master of Arts in Sport Coaching program in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver.

Dr. Clayton Kuklick is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Master of Arts in Sport Coaching program in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver.

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