While they aren't inherently so, sports can certainly function as nationalist propaganda and have had a major role as such. Within sports theory/kines stuff, there are distinctions between "play", "games", "sports", and "athletics", with the modern form of "sports entertainment" being under the latter classification there. The main difference between "sports" and "athletics" are the purpose, pure sports are autotelic and completely voluntary, while athletics aren't always so, and they exist as a competition to test the physicality of the participants in various forms. Both Sports and Athletics have had their development
The main function of athletics under a capitalist society(outside of just profiting) is to further promote the ideals and belief of the ruling class upon the masses, like every other major form of media and institution. Corporate sports often alienate athletes from their own bodies, not just by turning people and their likeness into commodities, but by the way that modern athletics inherently focuses on the "winning" and "competition" part more than anything else. The body becomes a tool, a means to an end. Horrifyingly enough, this is often the most severe in combat sports, with all their weight-cutting shenanigans and shady promoter bullshit going on. While PEDs are "banned", finding any possible way to get an edge over everyone else is made into an incentive for profit, both for the athlete and for the sports industry at large, which is worth billions. TRTitor in the early 2010s is a prime example of how the name of the game is finding loopholes n shit.
Sports in relation to the spectator are an opiate, functioning much like how other media, or even religions are under capitalism. Watching real madrid play on the TV or going out to a major league game is an escape from the bullshit of life for workers(going out to a game might be more petty-booj by now with how pricey it is). Major sports promotions and the entire ritual of going out to the game sells a narrative of hope and "hard work" to people. The NFL and NBA especially do this, enticing young proletarians with the dream of making it out of poverty by being the best in the sport. A huge part of people's enjoyment of sports is identification with the whole social ritual of them too; people attach to aspects of the competition and the athletes for all kinds oPost too long. Click here to view the full text.