Despite its relative obscureness in the United States, Australian football has graced American airwaves since the 1990s. The outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 paved the way for the Australian Football League to be one of the only professional sports leagues broadcasting games live on American television. Although the Australian Football League would later suspend the season, for at least one weekend, Australian football was the most popular sport in the United States. This short essay pulls from news articles, social media posts, and existing literature to explore this unique time in the American sports landscape by investigating the response to Australian football from fans, the response from media outlets, and the future directions of Australian football in the United States. The increase in exposure could help the Australian Football League become the next big spectator sport in the United States as well as help grow the game at a local, grassroots level.
Samuel López-Carril and Christos Anagnostopoulos
COVID-19 has given greater importance to the role of social media in sport, making it an essential way for fans to stay “in touch” with their teams. At the same time, the pandemic triggered additional actions from sport entities with the view to prove their commitment to society in an unprecedented moment of crisis. Professional team sport organizations have indeed initiated corporate social responsibility actions to collaborate in the fight against COVID-19. To explore these actions, the authors analyzed 3,906 posts on the official Instagram profiles of professional team sport organizations of La Liga (soccer, Spain), from March 11 to May 11, 2020, classifying them as philanthropic, sponsorship, or personnel engagement actions. The role of corporate social responsibility in a time of crisis and the potential of social media as a corporate social responsibility communication channel was also discussed.
Lewis Whales, Stephen Frawley, Adam Cohen, and Natalia Nikolova
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Australian professional sport leagues were impacted by temporary league shutdowns. One example is the Suncorp Super Netball, the world’s premier netball competition. This commentary paper explores the Suncorp Super Netball league shutdown from the perspective of the players. Our commentary has emerged from an ongoing ethnographic study supported by interviews with two players (a representative on the players association and a club captain) conducted during the league shutdown. Such a shutdown was the first in the history of the league, and it required an unprecedented response, coordinated by interdependent stakeholders. The authors outlined the importance of stakeholder communication in effectively navigating this extraordinary situation. In addition, the authors discussed the usefulness of technology-as-context for teamwork and leadership, given the limitations on physical interaction and geographical separation. In conclusion, the authors proposed recommendations for sport practitioners and potential research directions resulting from the coronavirus-related league shutdown.
Brody J. Ruihley and Jacob Chamberlin
The fantasy sport industry has seen tremendous growth over the past three decades. Estimated at 500,000 participants in 1988, the industry has had positive growth every step of the way to a current estimate of 59.3 million North American participants. Touting this incredible rise in participation, nothing has obstructed the growth of this sport media and communication phenomenon until now. The sport landscape and fantasy sport industry find themselves in a situation with complete absence of live sport. The Coronavirus crisis has impacted the fantasy sport community and thousands of professionals in many ways. This research commentary, supplemented with primary interview data, questions the stoppage of fantasy sport and explores conversations, planning, and reaction from the fantasy sport community.
Charles Mountifield and Stirling Sharpe
Kyle R. King
Tennis’s dispersed power relations have made its semiorganized response to COVID-19 “constellational” rather than hierarchical. The author uses the term “constellational” in two senses. First, what might appear to be a disorganized set of stars in the night sky can, with a bit of orientation, be tracked into discernible and more meaningful patterns. In tennis, constellations are clusters of tour events that are linked through geography, court surface, governing bodies, key sponsors, and other forms of patronage. Second, the author invoked the language of “constellations” to draw upon the popular connotation of “stars”: iconic figures on- and off-court who speak and act in ways that carry outsize importance to the game’s audience. This constellational set of power relations has led to conflicted messaging—only sometimes valuing public health. Both prestigious tournaments and star players have emerged as important stakeholders, as tennis assesses its future—and organizational structure—postpandemic.
Michael M. Goldman and David P. Hedlund
Beginning in early March 2020, sport in the United States entered an unprecedented period of hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The postponement, suspension, and cancellation of live sporting events impacted every professional and amateur sport organization, from the National Basketball Association to the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, high school sports to college football, and even esports leagues. Although the abrupt cancellation of live sporting events was disruptive, it did create opportunities for the production of new media and consumption opportunities for sport leagues, teams, and their fans through different types of sport media broadcasts. This commentary examines how the U.S. sport industry developed media content strategies using new, mixed, and rebroadcasted content, across multiple broadcast and streaming platforms, to provide sport consumption opportunities to fans who were largely quarantined at home. This research contributes to the existing scholarship on live and rebroadcasted mediated content, while providing guidance to content owners and rights holders facing uncertainty in the marketplace.
Stirling Sharpe, Charles Mountifield, and Kevin Filo
The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in restrictions on gatherings of large crowds, the suspension of live sport events across the globe, and the relegation of topical televised sport to broadcasts of past events and competitions. Consequently, there has been a shift in focus from the entertainment aspect of sport to the health and well-being aspects of sport. As athletes, teams, and sport organizations have become subject to government legislation concerning physical distancing, self-isolation, and lockdowns, the resultant spare time has presented the opportunity for individual athletes and sport organizations to pursue an approach to social media that includes viral challenges, fundraising, and socializing online. This paper provides a commentary on select high-profile athletes’ and sport organizations’ social media behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has adopted an altruistic tone.
Nicholas P. Davidson, James Du, and Michael D. Giardina
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.
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.