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Play and Shut Up: The Silencing of Palestinian Athletes in Israeli Media

In this paper we contrast two opposing theoretical views in the sociology of sport. The first sees sport as a field that brings together different groups and bridges social divides. In this view, minority sport stars serve both as role models and as a mouthpiece voicing the feelings and needs of their ethnic groups. The opposing view holds that the sport field reflects the tendencies of the larger society, helping to maintain the social dominance of hegemonic groups. In this view sport stars serve mostly as tokens and have no real influence on the social order. Our systematic analysis of Israeli media between the years 2002 and 2007 lends support to the latter view. We show that the expressions and behaviours of Israeli Palestinian soccer players are consistently policed and silenced by the Jewish-dominated media discourse, effectively blocking one of the few channels of expression for the Arab public in Israel.