The Sprewell/Carlesimo Episode: Unacceptable Violence or Unacceptable Victim?

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Theresa Walton University of Iowa

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NBA player Latrell Sprewell’s attack on his coach, P.J. Carlesimo, in 1997, received extraordinary attention in the media. The coverage of the incident and subsequent trial revealed the media’s attitude toward violence within cultural representations of sport. This paper focuses on the way that violence associated with sport can be understood in relationship to the normalization of violence against women in American culture. Specifically, I focus on how the violent acts of athletes and coaches elicit different social responses depending on the social status of the victim. I argue that media representations, framed within narratives that construct their importance around gendered ideas of private and public spheres, work to support current race, class, and gender hierarchies. I also offer alternative ways of understanding the incident given the peculiar work setting of professional sport.

The author is with the Department of Health, Leisure and Sport Studies at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52240.

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