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Benjamin J. Downs and Adam Love

This study investigated the desegregation of Mississippi State University varsity football, focusing on newspaper coverage of the first Black players at the university, Robert Bell and Frank Dowsing. Two hundred and three articles about Bell and Dowsing from three newspapers (Starkville Daily News, Mississippi State Reflector, and Jackson Clarion-Ledger) were examined using a three-tiered qualitative analysis. Data analysis resulted in 426 frame instances and 686 theme instances, or a total of 1,112 codes. The resulting data were interpreted using Critical Race Theory (CRT) as an analytical lens to generate understanding of the desegregation of the football program. The CRT-guided interpretation challenges popular narratives about the amicable nature of desegregation at the university, indicating that the football team and the careers of Bell and Dowsing were covered in a way that promoted colorblindness and supported the Whitecentric interests of the university’s and community’s dominant power structure.