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The ethics of selection quotas in South African sport

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 38, issue 3, 2019 , pages: 227–244
DOI: 10.1080/02580136.2019.1647392
Author(s): Brian PenroseDepartment of Philosophy, South Africa


This article explores and unpacks the public debate on the ethics of applying selection quotas to South African international sport sides to achieve transformation, with special attention to cricket and rugby, the Proteas and Springboks respectively. I claim that for quotas to be morally called for, the racial transformation they are in service of must be morally required. Following an earlier article of mine on the subject of transformation in South African sport, I briefly reject two manifestations of the goal of having the sides’ racial demographics match those of the country as a whole, and proceed to defend and develop two different transformational requirements: the ending of ongoing racial bias and the provision of equality of opportunity. I argue that while there may be a place for alternative forms of affirmative selection, the case for rigid quotas is marginal at best. While I do not argue for the claim here, it neither follows from this, nor do I believe, that the use of quotas is morally wrong. I argue only that the case for them is not particularly strong and depends, particularly, on the extent to which ongoing racial bias in selection persists.

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