Outside the Frame: Newspaper Coverage of the Sugar Ray Leonard Wife Abuse Story

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Michael A. MessnerUniversity of Southern California

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William S. SolomonRutgers University

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This article analyzes the print media’s ideological framing of the 1991 story of boxer Sugar Ray Leonard’s admission of having physically abused his wife and abused cocaine and alcohol. We examined all news stories and editorials on the Leonard story in two major daily newspapers and one national sports daily. We found that all three papers framed the story as a “drug story,” while ignoring or marginalizing the “wife abuse” story. We argue that sports writers utilized an existing ideological “jocks-on-drugs” media package that framed this story as a moral drama of individual sin and public redemption. Finally, we describe and analyze the mechanisms through which the wife abuse story was ignored or marginalized.

Michael A. Messner is with the Department of Sociology and Program for the Study of Women and Men in Society, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2539. William S. Solomon is with the Department of Journalism and Mass Media, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903.

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