Antonio Gramsci argued that ruling classes stayed in power as much through cultural hegemony as through economic hegemony or brute force. Gramsci maintained that the dominant class established and maintained this cultural hegemony through negotiation and persuasion. Gramsci’s theory offers much to sport communication scholars who try to ascertain why certain communities (especially their civic leaders) build stadiums to attract major-league sports teams and events despite mounting economic evidence that these ventures often fail to yield the financial benefits touted by their advocates. This paper uses Gramsci’s theory to examine how the civic leaders of Atlanta enticed the populace and sporting press to use public funds to build a new sports stadium in the mid-1960s. Atlanta’s leaders used the sports stadium not only to lure a Major League Baseball team to the city but also to persuade the city’s populace that this move made the metropolis “big league.”
The author is with the School of Communications, Elon University, Elon, NC.