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.
Yuhei Inoue, Mikihiro Sato, and Kevin Filo
The performance of sport organizations has been traditionally examined from the perspective of attaining strategic and operational goals (e.g., profitability, sporting performance). However, contemporary examples point to a need to expand sport organizations’ goals through consideration of their contributions to well-being outcomes. The current special issue addresses this need by advancing the theoretical and empirical understanding of transformative sport service research (TSSR), which seeks to understand how personal and collective well-being can be improved through a range of services offered in the sport industry. This introduction article clarifies the scope of TSSR scholarship and then provides a synthesis of findings and implications from the eight articles included in the special issue. The overview concludes with a call for collective efforts to establish a focused body of knowledge that leads sport organizations to integrate the goal of optimizing consumer and employee well-being into the core of their operations.
Brian P. McCullough, Madeleine Orr, and Timothy Kellison
The relationship between sport and the natural environment is bidirectional and critical to the production of sport products, events, and experiences. Researchers have studied sport and the natural environment within the various subdisciplines of sport management. However, given the changing climate and mounting public concern for the environment, there is pressure to reconsider the relevance and significance of the natural environment, which is taken for granted in managerial contexts. Reflecting the importance of the natural environment, the robustness of the current literature, and the potential for the future, we propose a new subdiscipline of sport management called sport ecology. Thus, we proposed, in this paper, a definition for sport ecology, (re)introduced key concepts related to this subdiscipline (e.g., sustainability, green), and highlighted the leading research that serves as the foundation for sport ecology. We concluded with a discussion on the ways sport ecology can inform—and be informed by—other subdisciplines of sport management.
Jennifer E. McGarry
In her 2019 Earle F. Zeigler address, Jennifer McGarry drew on the 2017 Academy of Management Report “Measuring and Achieving Scholarly Impact” to examine how the field of sport management and the North American Society for Sport Management operationalize impact. She pointed to a broader, more inclusive, and critical examination of impact. McGarry highlighted impact on practice and impact through being explicit, particularly about the ways gender and race affect what we deem to have impact. Finally, she spoke to impact through individual and collective action, such as educating students, scholarship, and policy and advocacy. She provided examples of where we could disrupt the structures that work to maintain the status quo in terms of impact—the in-groups and the out-groups, the metrics and evaluations. She also gave examples of impact that have happened, that are happening, and that can happen even more.
Sarah Zipp, Tavis Smith, and Simon Darnell
Sport for development (SFD) research and practice has become more critically examined recently, with many scholars calling for better understanding of how and why sport might contribute to the global development movement. Developing and refining theoretical approaches is key to unpacking the complexities of SFD. Yet, theory development in SFD is still relatively young and often relies on oversimplified theory of change models. In this article, the authors propose a new theoretical approach, drawing upon the capabilities approach and critical feminist perspectives. The authors contend that the capabilities approach is effective in challenging neoliberal ideologies and examining a range of factors that influence people’s lived experiences. They have woven a “gender lens” across the capabilities approach framework, as feminist perspectives are often overlooked, subjugated, or misunderstood. The authors also provide an adaptable diagrammatic model to support researchers and practitioners in applying this framework in the SFD context.
Hebe Schaillée, Ramón Spaaij, Ruth Jeanes, and Marc Theeboom
Funding bodies seek to promote scientific research that has a social or economic impact beyond academia, including in sport management. Knowledge translation in sport management remains largely implicit and is yet to be fully understood. This study examines how knowledge translation in sport management can be conceptualized and fostered. The authors draw on a comparative analysis of coproduced research projects in Belgium and Australia to identify the strategic, cognitive, and logistic translation practices that researchers adopt, as well as enablers and constraints that affect knowledge translation. The findings show ways in which knowledge translation may be facilitated and supported, such as codesign, boundary spanning, adaptation of research products, and linkage and exchange activities. The findings reveal individual, organizational, and external constraints that need to be recognized and, where possible, managed.