The period between 1910 and 1919 primarily encompassed the integration of sports into the urban scene through various developments in both amateur and professional sports. In a period comprising a lot of political tension and new technological inventions and innovation, sports tried to find its own niche in the quickly developing global scene. At first glance it seems an arduous proposition especially due to that period being renowned for the first world war but far from it, a lot happened with regards to the development of sport and the laws and policies surrounding it.
A number of different sports evolved and made significant progress during this period (Kroessler 73). From the start of the PGA Championships in golf, to the great start of Babe Ruth’s career in baseball, to the evolution of tennis and the advancements made in basketball from acquiring the greenlight for the sport to be able to be played on Sundays to the formation of an Interstate Professional Basketball League. For such strides to be made during a period of unrelenting war and violence is simply spectacular, even though the United States was not in the thick of things with regards to the First World War until later on.
Sports law was practiced as early as the start of the 20th century. The sports of racing, particularly thoroughbred racing, and boxing are prime examples of the early establishment of law into the world of sports with New York as a case in point. In New York City, the powers that were sought to impose controls and prohibitions on the fast-growing sports market. One of the first legislations passed into law was the Agnew-Perkins Act, passed into law in 1910. This piece of legislation made racetrack owners liable for any gambling that took place within their premises. This marked the closure of all racetracks in the state of New York (Wall 228). The racing of thoroughbreds from 1911 onwards came to an end due to the aforementioned act, also known as Directors Liability law. The possibility of being held criminally liable and serving jail time for lack of preventing betting within one’s premises was the last straw for an already loss-accruing sport.
Luck knocked at the door of racetrack owners at the start of 1913 as the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled that oral betting at racetracks was within the law and thus owners and directors could not be criminally liable for the gambling practices taking place at their racetracks unless they were privy to such practices prior to their occurrence. Thoroughbred racing returned.
Prizefighting, otherwise known as boxing, in the state of New York had been unheard of since it was banned in the year 1900. However, on August 29th 1911 the legislature legalized boxing again after the Frawley Act took effect. This statute permitted professional boxing open to the public after eight years of no legal boxing. Ten-round bouts regulated by a state athletic commission was thus instituted (Taylor 236). New York State legislators were clearly trying to impose as many restrictions and guidelines as possible to control the practices that take place in sports as this was something that was catching on quite fast even though it was not new. Nothing can better portray this prior aversion than the state again banning boxing through the repealing of the Frawley Act on May 10th 1917. Perhaps this was the United States’ stance on morality keeping in mind there was a world war taking place at the time. Furthermore, the death of a boxer in the ring in 1917 did not afford the boxing fraternity in the state any favors (Kroessler 85).
There were, therefore, a lot of developments in the field of sports during that particular decade even though sports suffered a lot of shortcomings. This period, however, marked a new dawn in global sport.
- Kroessler, Jeffrey A. The Greater New York Sports Chronology. New York City: Columbia University Press, 2009. Print.
- Taylor, Matthew. “The Global Ring? Boxing, Mobility, And Transnational Networks in The Anglophone World, 1890–1914.” Journal of Global History 8.02 (2013): 231-255. Web.
- Wall, Maryjean. How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, And Breeders. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2012. Print.