Numerous educational institutions and professional sports teams still use Native American mascots, despite strong opposition ranging from Native American groups to the American Psychological Association. Fans, community members, and teams defend the mascots by asserting that they honor Native American peoples. Sports journalists occupy a unique location in the debate, as they regularly cover teams with such mascots and commonly refer to them in stories. In light of this ongoing debate and pressure to change reporting practices, this research used a survey to examine sports reporters’ experiences and attitudes toward Native American mascots and their beliefs about the role they themselves should take in the public debate. Results show an overall lack of support for Native American mascots, with key differences based on participant race, job title, and belief in the value that sports bring to society. Furthermore, sports journalists appear to support taking a public stand on the issue but resist the idea of eliminating mascot references from stories. The author discusses the implications of these findings in light of the growing movement to ban these mascots, as well as the evolving role that sports journalists embody at the intersection of sports and social issues.
Marie Hardin and Erin Whiteside
In an effort to move beyond relying solely on institutional critiques in explaining women’s marginalized status in the sports media workplace and to expand our understanding of gendered meaning-making in such organizations, we employ feminist scholar Romy Fröhlich’s notion of the “friendliness trap” in the analysis of focus groups with women who work in college sports public relations, commonly called sports information. The friendliness trap is a term used to describe the faulty belief that women, by virtue of their feminine qualities, possess an advantage in communication-related fields. Our findings suggest, however, that women in sports information may be frustrated by the failure of “the female advantage” to provide them with opportunities for promotion. The friendliness trap obscures workplace realities, including the structural barriers to women’s advancement, and may divert the energy of women in ways that have no career benefit. Once the trap is exposed, however, women may be more able to challenge the meanings associated with it.
Erin Whiteside and Marie Hardin
This research survey explores the gendered work experiences of women in sports information, including their perceptions of the “glass ceiling,” their rationalization strategies for dealing with those perceptions, and the factors contributing to their low numbers in the business. The findings suggest that women perceive a glass ceiling but are hesitant to admit its existence. Second, women are internalizing some of the value systems embedded in this male-dominated industry. Finally, along with perceptions of a glass ceiling, women are facing a “maternal wall” that makes staying in sports information extremely difficult for women with children, given the job’s untraditional schedule.
Erin Whiteside, Marie Hardin, and Erin Ash
Through increased visibility in the mass media, collegiate sports have grown at an astounding rate over the past 50 years, leading critics to charge that they are often governed from a standpoint that does not protect academic priorities but instead emphasizes business interests. In light of this trend, the authors used a survey to examine the attitudes of sports information directors (SIDS)—the individuals who are charged with furthering institutional agendas in sport—at the NCAA Division I level. The findings suggest that SIDs generally identify with the belief that sports are inherently good for society but are mixed in their attitudes toward college sport’s biggest revenue generator, football. The results are considered in context with research on SIDs and on media produced by athletic departments.
Marie Hardin and Erin Elizabeth Whiteside
This study examines narratives by young adults about sport and gender in relation to equality. Specifically, we explore how focus-group participants used small stories to situate male and female athletes and Title IX. The U.S. law has been credited for increasing opportunities for girls and women but is considered a source of tension for gender relations. Our findings suggest that participants’ stories ultimately did not support emancipatory goals for girls and women because they positioned equality as a right women had not earned. We argue that feminists cannot underestimate the need to inject counternarratives into public discourse at every level, including stories shared with children about sport. These narratives must address misconceptions about equality and gender equity and, ultimately, challenge gender ideology.
Erin Whiteside and Marie Hardin
This study explores assumptions about the relationship between sport and gender through a textual analysis of newspaper editorials on Title IX from 2002 to 2005. Through the analysis we found that none of the articles opposed Title IX outright. The arguments in the editorials used a liberal feminist rationale that positioned women and men as equally deserving of civil rights protections and the institution of sports as needing to become gender-neutral to provide those protections. An “oppositional reading” of these editorials from a radical feminist perspective, however, found the assumption that the practice and values of sports are naturally masculine; thus, sports ultimately belong to men. The analysis illuminated the shortcomings of the liberal feminist rhetoric and the need for more radical voices to move women’s sports from a defensive to an empowered position in U.S. culture.
Marie Hardin, Bu Zhong, and Erin Whiteside
U.S. sports operations have been described as newsroom “toy departments,” at least partly because of their deviation from journalistic norms. Recently, however, more attention has focused on issues of ethics and professionalism; the failure of sports journalists to adequately cover steroid use in Major League Baseball has also directed critical attention to their roles and motives. This study, through a telephone survey of journalists in U.S. newsrooms, examines sports reporters’ practices, beliefs, and attitudes in regard to ethics and professionalism and how their ethics and practice relate. Results indicate that reporters’ attitudes toward issues such as voting in polls, taking free tickets, gambling, and becoming friends with sources are related to their views of public-service or investigative journalism. In addition, friendships with sources are linked to values stereotypically associated with sports as a toy-department occupation. These results suggest that adherence to ethical standards is linked to an outlook that embraces sports coverage as public service.
Erin Whiteside, Marie Hardin, Lauren J. DeCarvalho, Nadia Martinez Carillo, and Alexandra Nutter Smith
This research examines two popular teen girls sports fiction series, called “Pretty Tough” and “Dairy Queen.” The books are heavily premised on the idea of empowerment, and are written in ways that invite the reader to see each protagonist’s choices as agentic and even subversive. Our analysis points to the ways the discourse of empowerment obscures how girls are invited to adopt ideology toward sports that undermines their ability to experience sports on their own terms.