“Clean Athlete” or “Drug Cheat and a Jerk”? A Comparative Analysis of the Framing of an Athlete Conflict in Australian and Chinese Print Media

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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Media coverage in China and Australia examined a conflict between 2 Olympic swimmers, Chinese Sun Yang and Australian Mack Horton, during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. While both swimmers performed well, there were several conflicts between the 2 leading to both nations’ media coverage portraying the foreign athlete negatively. An analysis of 398 print-media articles revealed there were sharp differences between the 2 nations in both the amount of coverage and the valence of the information sources. From a theoretical perspective, the framing of this conflict showed an “us vs. them” dichotomy, suggesting that both countries’ coverage was strongly influenced to protect the reputation and honor of the home athlete. Coverage in both nations was markedly different, suggesting a home-nation favoritism. Implications for sport communicators are discussed.

Li is with the Dept. of Kinesiology and Health, Miami University, Oxford, OH. Scott and Naraine are with the Dept. of Sport Management, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada. Sharpe is with the Discipline of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia. Xu is with the Dept. of Communication Studies, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA.

Li (bo.li@miamioh.edu) is corresponding author.
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