Differential Accounts of Race in Broadcast Commentary of the 2000 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four Basketball Tournaments

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Bryan E. Denham
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Andrew C. Billings
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Kelby K. Halone
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A consistent finding in studies surrounding sports commentary on white and black athletes is that (a) white athletes are frequently praised for their perceived “intellect” and “leadership capacity,” while (b) black athletes are often praised for being “naturally talented” (Davis & Harris, 1998). A mediated conclusion that one could derive from such findings is that black athletes are expected to succeed athletically; conversely, white athletes are expected to have an innate ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to accomplish their athletic stature. This study examined the broadcast commentary surrounding white and black athletes at the 2000 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four College Basketball Tournaments. The content analysis of 1,118 descriptors embedded in commentator discourse revealed that, while black athletes continue to be praised for their athleticism and physicality, they also are receiving a greater number of comments about their intelligence and ability to lead.

B. Denham and A. Billings are with the Department of Speech and Communication Studies at Clemson University, Clemson, SC, and K. Halone is with the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.

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