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Jacob K. Tingle, Brittany L. Jacobs, Lynn L. Ridinger, and Stacy Warner

Sporting culture often celebrates mental toughness and chides weakness, which can stigmatize mental health issues. While some sport organizations have prioritized addressing mental well-being, referees have been ignored. Referees work in high-pressure environments; thus, the need to understand, destigmatize, and normalize the conversation around mental health within the referee community and the larger sporting system is important. Because the prevalence of stress-related issues is greater for women, this study focused on female referees’ well-being, interviewing 20 female U.S. basketball referees via a hermeneutic phenomenological approach. Participants represented various geographical regions in the United States and officiated at levels ranging from high school to professional. Findings revealed Gendered Aggressions negatively impacted the referees, mental health issues are Stigmatized, and more Resources and Support are needed. Results also indicated that officiating can be Cathartic. Suggestions for addressing the referee shortage and improving the officiating experience are included.

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Laramie D. Taylor and Irena Acic

Magical thinking describes beliefs and reasoning processes that defy generally accepted principles of logic and causality. Researchers have identified a link between strength of identification with a favorite sports team and superstition, an expression of magical thinking. Research on fans of fictional narratives has suggested magical thinking more broadly may play a role in being a fan. The authors posed the question, what is the link between sports fanship and two specific types of magical thinking: magical ideation and sympathetic magic? In a survey of 214 adults, relationships between strength of sports fanship and magical ideation, sympathetic magic in a sports context, and sympathetic magic generally were explored. Belief in sympathetic magic with regard to sports figures was found to be prominent among sports fans. In addition, a positive relationship was observed between strength of sports fanship and strength of belief in both sympathetic magic generally and magical ideation. Implications are discussed in terms of recruitment of and marketing to potential and existing fans.

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Jeffrey Q. Barden and Yohan Choi

This study examines the way competitive advantage and organization performance mediate the effect of potential slack—externally available resources—on organization risk behavior in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft. It tests the hypotheses that local market munificence provides payroll advantage and increases on-field performance and that payroll disadvantage and poor performance increase teams’ likelihood of selecting riskier high school players instead of college players. Consistent with risk sensitivity theory, results suggest that payroll disadvantage promotes risk-taking; however, on-field success encourages risk-taking early in the draft. Indeed, pick number appears to have a U-shape relationship with risk-taking where winning increases confidence earlier in the draft and low stakes promote risk-seeking later. This study contributes to the literature by suggesting that input- and outcome-based reference metrics have different effects on risk behavior and that managerial hubris may influence risk behavior through information availability rather than having a general effect.

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Andrew Dix

The purpose of this study was to determine whether the in-game communication of football players from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) was excessively penalized in the field of play. Previous literature has found that referee bias is commonplace and uncovered evidence that referees socially judge the communicative behaviors of HBCU student athletes differently than the communicative behaviors of student athletes from predominantly White institutions. This led to social judgment theory emerging as the theoretical frame. Quantitative methods were utilized to analyze National Collegiate Athletic Association data for Division II college football. Findings revealed that referees disproportionately flagged football teams from HBCUs in comparison with predominantly White institutions. These results provide implications for theory. The uncovered results also support a well-developed line of communication research that has indicated that excessive penalties are levied against HBCU teams in multiple sports. A rhetorical call to action is made to facilitate officiating change in intercollegiate athletics.

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Jason Stamm and Brandon Boatwright

Using a theoretical underpinning of parasocial interaction—BIRGing (basking in reflected glory) and CORFing (cutting off reflected failure)—this study explored fan reactions to high school athletes’ commitments to play football for National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I programs. A thematic analysis of tweets made by fans during the 2020 recruiting period was examined in two stages: (a) tweets directed toward recruits before they committed to a program and (b) tweets directed toward recruits after they committed. Findings show fan frivolity in regard to identification, as well as a desire to become part of the recruiting process of high school football players. In addition, results yield the possibility of a shift in athlete motivations for social media use, fan association with athletics programs, and how fans cope with unexpected loss. Theoretical and practical implications are further discussed.

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Ted Hayduk III, Natasha Brison, and Joris Drayer

The efficacy of partitioned pricing (PP) has been investigated in a range of industries. This work showed that the usefulness of PP is situational, with numerous contextual factors playing important roles. Ticket pricing scholarship has yet to devote adequate attention to PP as a focal variable, which is problematic given the industry’s reliance on ticket revenue and the “service” fees ubiquitous in the ticketing industry. In addition, there is a need to investigate the moderating factors unique to sport consumption, such as team identification and the entertainment value of live sport. Using a sample of 403 sport consumers, this study found that PP is associated with lower perceptions of fairness but not lower enduring attitudes about the platform. Thus, sport consumers are displeased by PP, but not enough to dissuade them from future purchases. The analysis found that team identification—the entertainment value of live sports entertainment value—can further offset negative perceptions of PP.

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Akira Asada, Yuhei Inoue, and Yonghwan Chang

The #TakeAKnee movement initiated by Colin Kaepernick and the measures taken by the National Football League (NFL) to handle the situation received mixed reactions from the public. The authors developed and tested a structural model using survey data collected from 698 residents of a Super Bowl host city. The results indicated a positive relationship between attitudes toward the movement and attitudes toward the league’s responses, which in turn influenced league credibility. However, after taking the indirect effect into account, attitudes toward the movement had a direct negative relationship with league credibility. In addition, people who viewed the NFL as a credible organization tended to perceive the Super Bowl as relevant to them and as impactful for the host city. Therefore, sport organizations should develop consistent, comprehensive communication strategies that enable them to maximize a positive synergy between their approach to crisis communication and their approach to other types of communication.

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Patrick C. Gentile, Nicholas R. Buzzelli, Sean R. Sadri, and Nathan A. Towery

When the sports world abruptly shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sports journalists were left without live events to cover. To better understand how sports reporters adapted to these unforeseen circumstances, 23 in-depth interviews were conducted with American sports journalists working at local and national newspapers to acquire firsthand accounts of story topics, newsgathering procedures, and impacts on the industry moving forward. Three main themes emerged from the interviews: lack of access to players and coaches, remote newsgathering, and a temporary move to other departments in the newsroom, which required the sportswriters to be more creative. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.