Weaponizing International Sports: Can Banning Countries in the Sports Realm Compel Them to Change Their Behavior?

Andrew Bertoli, Thandiwe Keet, and Aleksandra Smajevic
Can the international community get certain countries to change their behavior by banning them from international sports? If so, sports sanctions could provide a valuable tool for encouraging positive change in world politics. However, sports sanctions could also provoke backlash in the target country. It is therefore important for IR scholars to understand when and where sports sanctions are most likely to achieve their goals. In this study, we theorize the conditions that could make sports sanctions effective. We then analyze nine major cases of sports sanctions. Our results suggest that sports sanctions can work, but several factors appear to matter greatly for their likelihood of success. We conclude that sports sanctions may be a limited but occasionally valuable tool in international politics.