The rapidly escalating COVID-19 pandemic has forced the sport industry into unchartered territory. Beginning on March 11, 2020, when the National Basketball Association suspended its season, the American sports landscape has consequently encountered an unprecedented number of temporary suspensions, postponements, and cancellations. Although most major leagues and their pertaining sports have halted to a sudden stop, professional wrestling has surprisingly continued on, including World Wrestling Entertainment’s WrestleMania 36, which was held without fans in attendance. The maintenance of professional wrestling during the COVID-19 crisis has presented a unique situation, in which fans and companies involved in the sport have rallied on social media platforms behind the sport’s relative normality in a time of global uncertainty. Leveraging publicly trackable Twitter data, we analyzed public sentiments toward two of the largest companies (e.g., World Wrestling Entertainment and All Elite Wrestling) in the professional wrestling industry and related trends during the widespread onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The results represent exploratory insights surrounding the continuation of professional wrestling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nicholas P. Davidson, James Du, and Michael D. Giardina
R. Dale Sheptak Jr. and Brian E. Menaker
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has exposed major weaknesses in economic, governmental, and social structures that many have taken for granted in everyday life. The sport industry, which has gained unprecedented popularity in recent decades, is no exception. Decisions, driven in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, to suspend play in major sports leagues across the globe have exposed the precarious nature of the work situation that hourly event workers find themselves in. As the games stopped, so did the earnings of workers who impact essential aspects of the sport spectators’ experience. These workers include the part-time front of house staff for public assembly facilities, including ushers, concessions workers, ticket takers, and security personnel. This essay, drawing on ideas from C.W. Mills, Arne Kalleberg, and Guy Standing, will examine the impact of the pandemic on the employment of these workers by looking at the state of labor associated with sport and sports events. Furthermore, the essay will explore the challenges facing a class of workers who depend on numerous part-time or seasonal sports event jobs to scrape together an existence when sport suddenly stops. Finally, the essay will address the potential aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic on sport labor and consider how sport work could change as a result. This scholarly commentary lays the groundwork for further study and analysis of an important, yet rarely remarked on, aspect of employment morality and sport labor studies.
Beth A. Cianfrone and Timothy Kellison
Following the cancellation of the 2020 National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Final Four, the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee faced the unique challenge of executing a “postevent” wind-down amid a global health emergency and citywide stay-at-home mandate. While a significant portion of the host committee’s tasks were completed in the days and weeks after the cancellation, one key component that lingered was event legacy. In this study, the authors examined how a local organizing committee’s legacy planning was disrupted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Based on interviews with National Collegiate Athletic Association and host committee officials, direct and participant-based observation, and an analysis of local and social media reporting, the authors described the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee’s pre- and postpandemic legacy plans. This study underscores the potential enduring nature of legacy plans, even during unprecedented crises that threaten the headlining event.
Nicolas Pontes, Vivian Pontes, Hyun Seung Jin, and Chris Mahar
Previous literature on sponsorship-linked marketing have shown that articulation messages lead to more favorable attitudes toward the sponsor brand. However, results from some studies do not entirely support this finding, suggesting that important variables affecting the sponsorship articulation–fit relationship may have been overlooked. Addressing this gap in the literature, the authors show that consumer responses to sponsorship articulation are moderated by the fan’s level of identification with a sports team. That is, fans high in team identification respond differently to various types of articulation messages whereas fans with lower team identification levels do not. Furthermore, the authors demonstrate that messages highlighting how fans and sports team benefit from the sponsorship deal elicit thoughts of sincerity which in turn evokes reciprocity and more favorable attitudes from highly identified fans.
Kathy Babiak and Stacy-Lynn Sant
Professional athletes are increasingly engaged in social impact efforts via charitable endeavors. Despite seemingly good intentions in these efforts, the media’s representation of athlete philanthropy varies widely. This study examines how discourses of athlete charity are represented in U.S. media coverage. Over 100 newspaper articles were obtained for the period of 2005–2017. The authors conducted a qualitative analysis which consisted of attribute coding for basic article characteristics, identification of both framing and reasoning devices, and deductive coding to identify generic media frames. The authors present an adapted frame matrix highlighting the salient frames in media coverage of athlete philanthropy. Our results show that athlete charitable efforts are related to a personal or emotional connection or linked to an economic perspective around philanthropy. A third frame reflected a moral underpinning to athletes’ charitable work. The authors discuss managerial implications for teams and leagues that provide support for athletes’ charitable work, as well as for the athletes themselves.
Landy Di Lu and Kathryn L. Heinze
New sport policies often prompt organizations in the field to alter their structures and processes. Little is known, however, about the tactics of those leading institutional change around sport policy. To address this gap, the authors draw on the concept of institutional entrepreneurship—the activities of actors who leverage resources to create institutional change. Using a qualitative case study approach, the authors examine how two coalitions that served as institutional entrepreneurs in Washington and Oregon created and passed the first youth sport concussion legislation in the United States. The analysis of this study reveals that these coalitions (including victims’ families, sport organizations, advocacy groups, and concussion specialists) engaged in political, technical, and cultural activities through the use of specific tactics that allowed them to harness expertise and resources and generate support for the legislation. Furthermore, the findings of this study suggest a sequencing to these activities, captured in a model of institutional entrepreneurship around sport policy.
Sonja Utz, Felix Otto, and Tim Pawlowski
Using social media for crisis communication has been proposed as an effective strategy because it allows teams to build parasocial relationships with fans. The authors focused on the early elimination of Germany during the 2018 Fédération Internationale de Football Association World Cup to examine the effects of (crisis) communication on Facebook. The authors compared the Facebook posts of the German team, captain Manuel Neuer, and team member Thomas Müller and examined the emoji reactions each received. Although Neuer posted text identical to that of the team, his post received a smaller proportion of angry emoji reactions. Müller received fewer angry reactions than the team, but more than Neuer. The authors also used data from a two-wave panel to study changes in evaluation and parasocial relationships and perceived authenticity as potential mediators. Only the team was evaluated more negatively after the elimination than before. Parasocial relationships mediated the effect of exposure to social media posts on evaluation.
Joshua D. Vadeboncoeur, Trevor Bopp, and John N. Singer
In this article, the authors drew from the epistemological and methodological considerations of neighboring social science fields (i.e., counseling psychology, education, sociology, and women’s studies), which suggest a reevaluation of reflexive research practice(s). In discussing the implications this reevaluation may have for future sport management research, the authors contend that such dialogue may encourage scholars to understand that, while adopting a reflexive approach is good research practice, it may also mean taking a closer look at how our biases, epistemologies, identities, and values are shaped by whiteness and dominant ways of knowing and, in turn, serve to affect our research practice. Thus, this may allow all researchers, with explicit consideration for those in positions of conceptual, empirical, and methodological, as well as cultural and racial, power, to acknowledge and work toward a more meaningful point of consciousness in conducting sport management research.
Robert Turick, Anthony Weems, Nicholas Swim, Trevor Bopp, and John N. Singer
One prominent, well-debated issue in the American higher education system is whether university officials should remove the names of individuals with racist pasts from campus buildings/structures that bear their namesake. The purpose of this study was to analyze basketball and football facilities at Division I Football Bowl Subdivision institutions to explore the racialized history of the people whom these facilities are named after. Utilizing a collective case study approach, the authors identified 18 facilities that were named after athletic administrators, coaches, and philanthropists who engaged in racist activities or harbored racist views. The authors argue, using critical race theory and systemic racism theory as interpretative lenses, that naming buildings after racist persons legitimizes their legacies, rationalizes systemic racism, and continues to unjustly enrich this particular group.