“You Had One Job!” A Case Study of Maladaptive Parasocial Interaction and Athlete Maltreatment in Virtual Spaces

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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  • 1 Texas Tech University, USA
  • 2 Mississippi State University, USA
  • 3 Clemson University, USA
  • 4 Northern State University, USA
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This research explored maladaptive parasocial interaction (PSI) expressed toward Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey after he missed a potential game-winning field goal in the 2019 NFL (National Football League) playoffs. Using a sample of 512 tweets posted during the week after the game, qualitative analysis revealed that maladaptive PSI manifested in the following ways: criticism, threats, anger, and support. The results help better illuminate the nature of virtual abuse and maltreatment of athletes that is increasing in online spaces. Results also suggest that maladaptive PSI expressed online creates friction among fans who have to reconcile defeat with problematic behavior from other group members. Implications for sport organizations are discussed, including the need to support and protect athletes against virtual abuse and maltreatment.

Sanderson is with the Dept. of Kinesiology & Sport Management, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. Zimmerman is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS. Stokowski is with the Dept. of Educational and Organizational Leadership Development, Clemson University, Clemson, SC. Fridley is with the School of Education, Health, and Physical Education, Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD.

Sanderson (Jimmy.sanderson@ttu.edu) is corresponding author.
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