Sports entertainment is a type of spectacle which presents an ostensibly competitive event using a high level of theatrical flourish and extravagant presentation, with the purpose of entertaining an audience. Unlike typical athletics and games, which are conducted for competition, sportsmanship, exercise or personal recreation, the primary product of sports entertainment is performance for an audience's benefit, thus they are never practiced privately. Commonly, but not in all cases, the outcomes are predetermined; as this is an open secret, it is not considered to be match fixing.
World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon coined the term "sports entertainment" during the 1980s as a description for their style of professional wrestling, although precursors date back to February 1935, when Toronto Star sports editor Lou Marsh described professional wrestling as "sportive entertainment". In 1989 WWF used the phrase in a case it made to the New Jersey Senate for classifying professional wrestling as "sports entertainment" and thus not subject to regulation like a directly competitive sport.
Some sports entertainment events represent variants of actual sports, such as exhibition basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters association, or American football with the XFL (itself run by WWE) and the Legends Football League (which began as the Lingerie Football League). Others modify sport for entertainment purposes: many types of professional wrestling (which derived from traditional wrestling), and more recently many of the various mascot races held at numerous Major League Baseball games in-between innings.
Some forms of sports entertainment involve taking competitive games usually considered minor, such as dodgeball, poker, or rock-paper-scissors, and televising them with trumped-up theatrics, involving (for example) celebrity competitors or elaborate audiovisual packages.
The WWE refers to their wrestlers as "Sports Entertainers".
Sports entertainment has a stigma of being mindless pop culture, in some cases glorifying violence for the sake of entertainment, and has been criticized as such in popular media, often through lampooning. The film Idiocracy portrays a future where sports entertainment permeates the global culture: the president is an active champion professional wrestler and capital punishment consists of a combination demolition derby, monster truck event and gladiator duel, and is a highly popular television broadcast. Fiction with a dystopian future setting often portrays deadly futuristic games as popular sports entertainment, including the novel The Hunger Games, the movie The Running Man, video games such as Smash TV and the Twisted Metal series, and the role-playing game Shadowrun, which features Urban Brawl and Combat Biking.
Many notable names in the United States openly admit enjoying certain forms of sports entertainment while many others have taken part in it or made paid contributions. Professional basketball player Shaquille O'Neal has a reputation as a long time pro wrestling fan and attends WWE events several times per year, and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. expressed interest in fulfilling a WWE career after he retires from professional boxing. Both worked feuds with Big Show, Mayweather's culminating in a featured match at WrestleMania XXIV. Former American football player Brian Urlacher, who admits to being a pro wrestling fan, made an attempt to leave football to wrestle for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling full-time until his team at the time, the Chicago Bears, forced him to stop. Mixed martial artists Brock Lesnar, Bobby Lashley and Dan Severn have been booked as pro wrestling world heavyweight champions; David Arquette was briefly WCW World Heavyweight Champion, as part of a cross-promotional movie deal. Chael Sonnen tried out at the WCW Power Plant before starting his fighting career. His over-the-top, rehearsed promos helped him to three UFC title shots, and he has expressed interest in both working for and buying WWE.
The widespread popularity in the United States for the main form of sports entertainment, professional wrestling, has caused politicians to use it to reach voters, particularly young males. Some of the presidential candidates of the 2008 presidential elections (including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain) recorded video messages for broadcast for the WWE to encourage the audience of WWE Raw to vote, and George W. Bush did a prerecorded video for the WWE's annual Tribute to the Troops show.