The Gilded Cage

Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society 22:44-51 (2011)
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Abstract

This paper uses social capital theory to explain contemporary slavery in the context of American professional sports leagues. While traditional slavery was legallyabolished in the United States (US) during the nineteenth century, using the label slavery to describe professional athletes is often dismissed because these athletes are wellcompensated performers with access to incremental compensation through commercial endorsements. As active players, athletes have opportunities to build and leverage social capital, yet, after they retire from competition, these opportunities frequently diminish. We contend contemporary slavery exists for professional athletes and during their careers they are bound to their owners via “gilded cage” slavery, which is attractive to enter yet difficult to exit. We also contend that during this “bondage,” athletes build and maintain social capital; yet upon retirement, athletes are limited in opportunities to leverage socialcapital to improve their own situations or those of their communities.

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