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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.

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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.

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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.

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Kellen Jamil Northcutt, Kayla Henderson, and Kaylee Chicoski

The purpose of this study was to understand the symbolic messaging in hip-hop music as it relates to the lived experiences and realities of Black Americans in the United States. The study examined the song and music video titled “The Story of O.J.,” by hip-hop artist Jay-Z to gain a better understanding of how Jay-Z interpreted the impact of Black Americans’ lived experiences in the United States on their identity and ability to progress economically and socially, regardless of social standing, within subcultures such as sport. Employing a content analysis method, data were collected and analyzed using critical race theory. The results of the analysis of lyrical and video data identified three major themes: (a) battle with Blackness, (b) economic enslavement and financial freedom, and (c) systematic subjugation.

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Erin Kraft, Diane M. Culver, and Cari Din

The following practice paper introduces an innovative women-only training program for coach developers in a Canadian provincial sport organization. The dearth of women in coaching and sport leadership positions informs the program as a whole and the participant perspectives on what is working, in practice, for them specifically in a way that could support future sport leaders interested in increasing gender equity in their sport organizations and leadership skills in their female leaders. The aims of the coach developer program are two-fold: to promote women in leadership and to create a social learning space for women to connect and support each other in their leadership development. The purpose of this practice paper is to discuss the supports that have enabled the facilitation of this program and to explore the value of a women-only training program. Two women (out of a total of 10) participating in the program and two leads facilitating the program were interviewed for their perspectives. The lessons learned touch on the types of value that were created (immediate, potential, and applied) and the specific supports (micro, meso, and macro) that enabled the facilitation of the program. Finally, the authors discuss additional considerations (e.g., consistent buy-in from the organization is needed) with practical insights in the hopes of inspiring other sport organizations to implement similar initiatives for promoting women in leadership and coaching in sport.

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Julie Minikel-Lacocque

Gender-based discrimination in sport is omnipresent and manifests in various forms, including unequal pay, disparate access to facilities, and imbalanced media exposure. This discrimination also extends to those female athletes who do not meet stereotypical notions of how females should look and how they should move on the sporting field. Four gender nonconforming youth athletes who have faced gender and gender-identity discrimination in sport were recruited for this study, as well as their families and two of their coaches. A qualitative case study was conducted and data from in-depth interviews with each participant, one focus group with the young athletes, and observational field notes are analyzed. Through the lens of Critical Feminist Theory, this study examines the gender and gender-identity discrimination these young athletes have endured, the perpetrators of which are adults charged with organizing and regulating youth sport. The study finds that these athletes are repeatedly accused of lying about their identities, that they are often subjected to gender identity denial, and that their bodies are routinely policed and objectified. Implications for institutions of higher education, sport management, coaches, referees, and fans are discussed and include targeted education on nuanced understandings of gender, sex, misgendering, and gender identity denial. This study also calls for sport to believe youth athletes regarding their identities as well as for a re-examination of the gendered structure of youth sport.

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C. Keith Harrison and Reggie Saunders

To end this special issue, Dr. C. Keith Harrison and Reggie Saunders connected with individuals that exist at the intersection of hip-hop culture and sport. This series of interviews begins with Jemele Hill, an American sports journalist and activist. A graduate from Michigan State University, Jemele also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida from 2012 to 2014 teaching undergraduate sport business management students practical lessons about sport media. Reggie has been an adjunct faculty member at University of Central Florida since 2015, co-teaching innovation and entrepreneurship in sport/entertainment with Harrison. Reggie follows with an interview with Bun B, one half of the Texas rap duo, UGK and currently an adjunct professor at Rice University teaching a course on religion and hip-hop. New York rapper and entrepreneur, Fat Joe weighs in briefly on the topic, and Reggie closes out by interviewing rapper and Washington DC native, IDK. IDK is known for his hit song 24, and has a notable fan in Kevin Durant, National Basketball Association superstar and fellow Washington, DC native.

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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.