Today, approximately 14% of the U.S. population is foreign-born, and that share has been growing. However, in many professional sports are represented to a far greater extent: in 2019, more than one-quarter of Major League Baseball (MLB) players and Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) players, 21 percent of National Basketball Association (NBA) players, and more than half of Major League Soccer (MLS) players were born outside the United States.
For example, in 2021, the American League's Most Valuable Player was Shohei Ohtani, who is Japanese, while the NBA’s MVP was Serbian player Nikola Jokic. During the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, newly naturalized citizen Kaillie Humphries won gold for the United States in bobsledding, while immigrants Jay Litherland, Paul Chelimo, and Catarina Macario all won medals for TeamUSA in Tokyo in 2021.
This initiative aims to study immigration and inclusion in sports through original, data-driven research on the contributions of immigrants in professional and collegiate sports. We examine inclusion in two ways: 1) the degree to which immigrant athletes are represented in sports; and 2) how highlighting the stories and contributions of immigrant athletes can lead to greater understanding and inclusion of immigrants generally.