“You Can’t Just Erase History”: Coping With Team Identity Threat

in Journal of Sport Management
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Team identification has frequently been associated with positive outcomes; however, team identification is also associated with negative outcomes such as identity threat. Team identity threat has been studied from the perspective that fans enduring identity threat employ emotion-focused coping rather than problem-focused coping strategies because they lack the authority to change team-related stressors. In this study, the author examined fan reaction to team identity threat, wherein fans ultimately used both problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping strategies. The particular instance examined involved fans of a National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball team reacting to an identity threat caused by program scandal. Through the use of unobtrusive digital observation, fan reaction was analyzed via comments from three online sources. The study highlights how fans used problem-focused coping to preserve identity meaning, creating their own reality in the process. Theoretical and managerial implications of the research are discussed.

The author is with the Department of Sport Management, Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA.

Delia (edelia@isenberg.umass.edu) is corresponding author.
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