News Release

Witte receives funding for project aimed at examining how immigrant athletes may act as agents of change

Grant and Award Announcement

George Mason University

James C. Witte, Professor, Sociology; Director, Institute for Immigration Research, received funding for the project: "Immigrants, Athletes, and Civic Engagement."

Witte is collaborating with Marissa Kiss, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Immigration Research, on this project. 

Witte and Kiss will examine the degree to which immigrant athletes use their visibility, acceptance, and influence to extend the spirit of inclusiveness and equity to all New Americans. 

More specifically, they aim to determine if contact and engagement with immigrant athletes fosters more positive attitudes towards immigrants off the playing field. 

They have proposed a three-year project, though each year is a standalone piece to examine this research question. 

In Year 1, the researchers will conduct a web-based survey of approximately 500 individuals in each of seven metropolitan areas (i.e., Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia, San Jose, Seattle, Washington, D.C./Baltimore) in order to understand individuals' attitudes about immigrants/immigration, as well as their level of sports engagement and participation. Respondents will be recruited through a Qualtrics Panel outreach across these metropolitan areas. 

During a potential Year 2, they will work with Community Relations and Engagement personnel across sports teams at the professional, minor, and/or collegiate levels within the seven metro areas to develop social media and in-person campaigns to highlight the diversity of the players on local teams. 

With Year 3 funding, the researchers will implement a post-test survey of individuals in the same metro areas to determine whether the interventions developed during Year 2 had an impact on individuals' perceptions and attitudes towards immigrants. 

The researchers will disseminate their findings to both the academic and non-academic communities via presentations, webinars, op-eds, and peer-reviewed journals. They anticipate this study will appeal to individuals who are not only sports fans, but whose interests are rooted in sociology, history, civic engagement, and immigration studies. 

Regarding the importance of this research, Witte said, "Sports bring together diverse audiences, regardless of political views. This work explores how support for immigrant athletes may be a means to promote acceptance and inclusion for all New Americans."

Witte received $199,934 from AmeriCorps for the first year of this project. Funding began in Oct. 2022.


About George Mason University

George Mason University is Virginia's largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 38,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. Learn more at

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