Suppose Kal-El, son of Jor-El, living under the assume identity Clark Kent, decides to spend some time as a professional athlete.

Suppose he reveals his true identity. Obviously most professional athletes protest that this is unfair and actually mostly pointless because he can outperform entire teams of athletes to amazing fits and set new unbeatable records.

Clark Kent, however, does not relent. He insists that he should have the same right to participate in sports and (for example) earn a college scholarship if he wants to play on a sport team for his college team.

Is there anything in the current law which would allow a college to deny him the right to make a certain sport essentially irrelevant by playing it?

While I am asking the question in jest, I also ask that you, please, support your answers with links (or at least quotes) of the relevant rules, laws and regulations.

For the purposes of this question, let's assume that the question of Kal-El's citizenship has been legally settled based on the fact that his adopted parents adopted him legally. Let's assume the courts have settled this issue, at least for this one individual.

  • 4
    In your hypothetical, is he younger or older than 21 years old? If he's 21 or older, then he would have birthright citizenship in the US by statute, barring a SCOTUS ruling saying that extraterrestrials do not qualify as a "person"; but if he's younger and it can be proven he was not born in the US, he would not have citizenship in this way. I imagine his citizenship status would be relevant to what legal rights he might succeed in claiming he has and have been breached. Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 5:24
  • Some of which may be dealt with in the answers here Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 5:28
  • @zibadawatimmy I believe his citizenship is not in question because his adapted parents are US citizens and they have been his legal guardians since he was a toddler. But I guess I should clarify this in the question.
    – grovkin
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 6:04
  • The second question I linked covers the legal status of his adoption specifically. Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 6:09
  • @zibadawatimmy thank you. But I wanted to narrow the question to the specific issue of college sports, so I added a stipulation to the question. You were right to point out that it should have been addressed though.
    – grovkin
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 6:11

1 Answer 1


Let's assume the college receives some amount of federal funding, because quite a lot of them do. Let's also assume that Superman is considered to be a natural person for legal purposes—that is, he has all the rights a human would—so that his case isn't going to get dismissed on that ground.

Superman's best bet would be to allege race discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S. Code § 2000d)

That law states:

No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

For obvious reasons, there's no precedent on whether a non-homo sapiens species of intelligent humanoid aliens is a "race" for civil rights purposes. However it seems like a reasonable argument could be made that it would be. For one thing, in terms of plain meaning, the term is extremely common to describe such beings (1.7 million+ hits on a web search for "alien races"—as one relevant example, Wikipedia has a List of alien races in Marvel Comics), and it would be a straightforward way to incorporate them into existing anti-discrimination law. Since all Kryptonians gain superpowers on earth, discriminating against him on the basis of his superior abilities would be, in effect, discrimination due to his Kryptonian race.

A less compelling, but still plausible, argument might be that this is national origin discrimination under the same law (based on the fact that they're discriminating based on his being from Krypton).

  • I am not sure that they would discriminate based on nation of origin. He may leave that part out. In fact, he may not even reveal that he was born off of Earth. It would be sufficient for him to reveal that his ancestors were extra-terrestrial to explain his super-human abilities, while leaving the exact place of his birth undisclosed. Mind you that the question itself is not about possible plot-lines (that would belong on sciencefiction.SE). The question is about the laws of our reality. So an answer should keep additional fictional claims to a minimum. Assume he identifies as white.
    – grovkin
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 7:56
  • @grovkin National origin discrimination does not require being born in a specific place (nor does it require that the person discriminating have been informed of that fact). I'm not discussing potential plot lines: his membership in the Kryptonian race is established. The fact that he may also identify as white doesn't seem dispositive: someone can have multiple races.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 8:01
  • I don't think I'm making additional fictional claims here, just interpreting existing law to a fictional situation. Nowhere in my answer am I claiming he did anything in particular or identifies any specific way that's not in the question or well-known facts about Superman.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 8:03
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    Consider this argument: Sports leagues do not permit the use of "performance enhancing drugs" which, for an alien race of Kryptonians, would include Yellow Sunlight as they are clearly only enhanced while in the presence of that substance. Under the native Red Sun of Krypton, Clark Kent would be as extrordinary as your average human. This could also apply to Bruce Banner, who is only performing his amazing feats under the effect of Gamma Radiation exposure and hormones related to rage. Thus, it is legal for Kryptoninans to compete in football but not while under the influence yellow sun
    – hszmv
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 16:11
  • 1
    @hszmv in ref. to 1st sentence of your last comment.. the question is about real-life laws. So a if college athletics have rules about doping which are broad enough that they can include sunlight, that would require a reference. As for the rest of the comment, If you know of a legal theory which can be used to challenge Kal-El's participation in college athletics, and you can explain it with references, you are probably in a position to write a good answer.
    – grovkin
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 19:27

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