The Fractured Messaging of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Its Members in Response to COVID-19

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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  • 1 Ithaca College
  • 2 University of Tennessee
  • 3 James Madison University
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The sports world’s near universal moratorium in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was abrupt and unprecedented. From professional leagues to youth sports, doors were closed to competitions and events to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The hiatus began at one of the busiest times on the calendar for sport, with the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League seasons concluding; the Women's National Basketball Association and National Football League drafts taking place; Major League Baseball's spring training nearing its conclusion; the Professional Golf Association and Ladies Professional Golf Association Tours starting their seasons; and the National Collegiate Athletic Association's marquee events, the Division-I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, set to begin. The suddenness of the interruption was met with a need by the various sport entities to engage their public with information about their respective responses. The statements that emerged on or after March 12—“the day the sports world stopped”—were not all the same. Many of the statements, in fact, were quite different. That was especially the case with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, whose governance structure and messaging practices hindered their ability to have a uniform response. The purpose of this essay was to examine the public messaging of sport leagues and organizations and to discuss the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of those public statements.

Mirabito is with Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY, USA. Hardin is with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA. Pate is with James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, USA.

Mirabito (tmirabito@ithaca.edu) is corresponding author.
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