U.S. professional athletes increasingly have engaged in athlete activism. Such actions have elicited a wide range of responses from sport fans, calling into question whether an athlete’s activism can impact their brand image. This research explored whether attitudes toward athlete activism, activism message, activism communication style, or fan identification level affect an activist athlete’s brand image. This research utilized a 2 × 2 experimental design of activism type (safe vs. risky) and activism effort (high vs. low). A focus group determined both activism effort and activism type. Activism type did not significantly affect fans’ perception of athlete brand image, but perceived athlete attractiveness decreased when the athlete engaged in risky activism. Individuals’ attitudes toward athlete activism significantly influenced their perception of an activist athlete’s brand image. This paper fulfills an identified need to understand the effects of athlete activism on the athlete’s own brand.
Sarah M. Brown, Natasha T. Brison, Gregg Bennett, and Katie M. Brown
Andre M. Andrijiw and F. Michelle Richardson
With few exceptions, researchers have seldom explored the experiences of any female sport fan who may be identified as a member of a racial minority. Given related calls for further research, an examination into the lived experiences of ice hockey fans who identify as Black and female was undertaken. Interviews with 18 such fans revealed that the sport and its fandom were akin to ‘White spaces’: therein, participants were keenly aware of their minoritized place; subject to racial and gender stereotyping and discrimination; and prone to experiencing exclusion and trepidation. Conversely, interactions with the Black Girl Hockey Club, an organization devoted to making ice hockey more diverse and accessible, provoked feelings of belongingness and validation; and afforded a means through which interviewees could deepen their engagement with the sport. The research participants’ lived experiences ultimately point to the need for organizations and managers to construct more inclusive spaces.
The sport industry has an enormous influence on today’s society, and the various media platforms and stakeholders have a considerable share of that influence. Sport communication has an essential part in that impact. The strong identification consumers create and develop with sports brands has a huge meaning in their lives. In the sphere of consumer neuroscience, there are few studies on the sport industry. This commentary launches possible research ideas, namely about the importance of brand strength in consumers’ minds, as well as the true impact that consumer identification (i.e., fan identity) has on the sport industry.
Joshua R. Jackson, Emily J. Dirks, and Andrew C. Billings
Michael Phelps was one of the first athletes to openly struggle with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression while still competing. During his career, his perceived identity was tied to his status as an athlete. In retirement, his identity shifted to that of a mental health advocate. This study examines the word choice of newspaper articles on the topic of Phelps and mental health using both social identity and framing theories. Mentions of suicide and seeking help, along with the descriptions of specific types of mental illness and perceived identity assigned to Phelps, were compared between two time periods. Results showed that during Phelps’s career, articles were much more likely to discuss his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnosis and not as likely to discuss suicide, seeking help, and depression. After his retirement, articles were more likely to identify Phelps as an advocate and less likely to focus on him as a celebrity.
Yannick Kluch, Raquel Wright-Mair, Nicholas Swim, and Robert Turick
The emergence of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) professionals (i.e., staff with DEI-specific responsibilities) is a fairly recent phenomenon, and research to date has rarely examined the experiences of these DEI administrators despite the fact they are often solely charged with driving DEI within and beyond their department. Utilizing Ahmed’s diversity work framework, this study draws from semistructured interviews with 23 athletic administrators to identify barriers to efforts for driving DEI action in the context of intercollegiate athletics. Five higher-order themes were identified in the data, representing barriers to effective DEI work: (a) structural barriers, (b) cultural barriers, (c) conceptual barriers, (d) emotional barriers, and (e) social/relational barriers. Findings indicate that DEI athletics professionals perceive barriers on multiple levels, from personal levels (emotional and social/relational barriers) to those of a systemic nature (structural, cultural, and conceptual barriers). Limitations, directions for future research, and implications for praxis are discussed.
Tyler Ratts, Braden Norris, and Brian Mancuso
High school athletics represents a major segment of the sport industry and is regarded as an important component in youth development in the United States. With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges emerged that forced athletic directors to provide essential information to key stakeholders, keep people safe, and identify new ways to bring events to fans. To further understand these experiences, this commentary aimed to evaluate the use of communication and technology by high school athletic directors to address challenges, develop new strategies, adapt to day-to-day changes, and manage the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on interscholastic athletics. Through in-depth interviews with athletic directors, responses demonstrated how enhanced communication with key stakeholders (i.e., athletic programs and fellow athletic directors) and a reliance on technologies (i.e., digital ticketing and online live streaming) helped these leaders successfully navigate the pandemic and develop new strategies that will persist into the future.
Jinsu Byun, Mathew Dowling, and Becca Leopkey
This study examines the governance of post-Olympic Games legacy organizations. A cross-case comparative analysis was completed by focusing on post-Games legacy organizations from three Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City 2002, Vancouver 2010, and PyeongChang 2018). Drawing on a governance framework, this research investigates the politics (stakeholder relationships), polity (institutional structures), and policy (the policy content and instruments) dimensions of governance, and explores modes of governance that facilitate collective action taken by these organizations. Data for this study included archival materials and semistructured interviews with key representatives from the relevant organizations. Three different post-Games legacy organization governance modes (public–private, interactive, and self-governance) were identified, and a conceptual model of the governance of post-Games legacy organizations is proposed. The findings have theoretical and practical implications that expand our understanding of the governance of Olympic legacy.
Information sourcing in sports journalism changes with the process of news curation on the internet. In particular, social media is an important source for sports reporters, as athletes and organizations post content on a regular basis. Although how sports journalists use social media in their daily work routines has already been investigated, there is little knowledge on how social media is used as a source in sports reporting. However, with regard to a possible copy-and-paste trend and an impeding loss of relevance of journalistic content, results pertaining to the use of social media as a source would be helpful to evaluate journalistic output. By conducting a quantitative content analysis of 3,150 online articles of three German sports news providers, this author investigated the number and patterns of social media sources in journalistic articles. The results reveal, inter alia, that social media is crucial for human interest stories on athletes.
Sabrina Castonguay and Mark Lowes
This case study analyzes the crisis response strategies used by the National Football League (NFL) in its external communications to address the concussion crisis spanning 2015–2020. The analysis focuses on describing the crisis communication strategies and tactics used by the league. Situational crisis communication theory provides the theoretical framework for analyzing the NFL’s crisis response strategies. A qualitative thematic analysis was conducted of 25 publications published by the NFL on nflcommunications.com, with findings indicating that the NFL focused on the primary crisis strategies of rebuilding and diminishing while employing tactics such as organizational change and shared responsibility. The findings revealed in this case study also highlight a discrepancy between the theoretical ground of situational crisis communication theory and the application of crisis response strategies in a real-life organizational crisis facing a professional sports league.