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Bryan E. Denham

This study addresses the manner in which a dramatic news event can impact mainstream press coverage of a social issue. In late June 1991, football player Lyle Alzado, in haggard condition, appeared on First Person with Maria Shriver and on the cover of Sports Illustrated and attributed his rare form of brain lymphoma to years of anabolic steroid abuse. Though scientific evidence of a relationship did not exist, a series of mainstream press reports did not hesitate in assuming a connection. The study provides an empirical analysis of (a) how a dramatic report in specialized print and broadcast media can build the agenda for mainstream journalism, and (b) how the report can help trigger a change in the way journalists address and frame issues. Methodologically, the study uses log-linear modeling to examine the relationships between a series of categorical variables, thus providing scholars with a framework for future content analyses on the subject.

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Bryan E. Denham

Drawing on data gathered from high-school seniors in the 2008 Monitoring the Future Study of American Youth (N = 2,063), this research examined the explanatory effects of competitive sports participation on alcohol consumption and marijuana use using race and noncompetitive exercise frequency as controls. Among males, competitive sports included baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and weightlifting, and among females, sports included softball, basketball, soccer, swimming and diving, track and field, and volleyball. White males reported greater alcohol consumption than Black and Hispanic respondents, with competitors in baseball, football and weightlifting consuming alcohol more frequently. The use of marijuana did not depend on race, but baseball players and weightlifters reported significantly more use. Among females, race differences did not emerge in ordinal regression models testing effects on alcohol consumption, but participants in every sport reported drinking alcohol more frequently. White female athletes also appeared to smoke marijuana more frequently. Overall, results suggested comparably strong effects for female sport environments while male behaviors varied by race, noncompetitive exercise frequency, and sports competition. Limitations of the study and recommendations for future research are offered.

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Bryan E. Denham

This article addresses how The New York Times, through an investigative series on drug use and catastrophic breakdowns in U.S. horse racing, influenced policy initiatives across a 6-month period. Beginning with the March 25, 2012, exposé “Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys,” the article analyzes how the newspaper helped define policy conversations at both the state and national levels. The article also addresses how the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011, a fledgling piece of legislation, became what Kingdon described as a “solution in search of a problem” and thus a political lever in policy deliberations. Long recognized for its capacity to influence the content of other news outlets, the article concludes, The New York Times can also play an important role in legislative arenas, informing lawmakers of salient issues, as well as opportunities for substantive and symbolic policy actions.

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Bryan E. Denham

In this essay, the author proposes that, in order to understand how the issue of performance-enhancing-drug use in professional baseball has been defined for mass audiences, scholars need to consider the political and economic interests of both baseball and the media companies that have covered the issue. Where performance-enhancing drugs are concerned, media characterizations have had a significant impact on the formation of public and organizational policy, and the author seeks to demonstrate that portrayals and perceptions of drug use in baseball can be understood through the media product that results from an intersection of normative standards with powerful influences on those standards. Calling out the heavy hitters in a culture of pervasive drug use is unfair to elite performers in that media reports sometimes give the impression that athletes have reached superstar status because they were willing to do what others were not; this is a basic falsehood.

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Bryan E. Denham

Designer steroids contain chemical structures “derived from, or substantially similar to” anabolic steroids, which became Schedule III controlled substances in the United States in 1990. Chemists create designer steroids by reverse engineering existing drugs, altering their chemical structures, and creating new compounds. Seeking to help curtail problems with steroid-spiked dietary supplements, the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2014 classified 25 designer steroids, many contained in supplements, as controlled substances. Previous versions of the 2014 legislation, introduced in 2010 and 2012, had failed to become law despite consistent news accounts of supplements contaminated with conventional and designer steroids, as well as steroid precursors. Guided conceptually by a streams-of-influence model, the present article examines regulatory processes involving designer steroids and discusses limitations on the capacity of news outlets to build policy agendas.

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Bryan E. Denham

Drawing on contact, social identity, and self-categorization theories, this study examines the extent to which adolescent sports participation associates with (a) concern about the treatment of minority groups and (b) worry about race relations in the United States. Based on data gathered in the 2016 Monitoring the Future study of twelfth-grade students, the study finds that females, Hispanic study participants, respondents in the West region, and sports participants expressed greater concern about minority treatment. On the second dependent variable, females, Black study participants, and respondents in the West region indicated greater worry about race relations. The study also examined whether attitudes appeared to vary across baseball/softball, basketball, and soccer participation. Baseball/softball participants, who were predominantly White, expressed less concern about minority groups but did not differ from others on attitudes toward race relations. Additionally, while Black adolescents competing in baseball/softball and soccer worried about race relations at relatively high levels, those competing in basketball expressed significantly less concern. Implications and recommendations for future research are provided.

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Bryan E. Denham

In the United States, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) classified dietary supplements as a subcategory of food, exempting manufacturers from providing premarket evidence of product safety and efficacy. Under DSHEA, agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot inspect supplements until after the products have entered the marketplace. Recognizing that both limited resources and DSHEA prevent the FDA from conducting broad-based inspections on a regular basis, disreputable manufacturers have spiked products with drugs such as anabolic steroids and amphetamines. With contaminated supplements now causing athletes to fail drug tests and, in some instances, threatening public health, it becomes important to examine sources of supplement information. This article reviews 53 studies that have addressed athlete information sources about dietary supplements. It finds that athletes, in general, rely heavily on coaches and trainers as well as friends and family for information. Relative to U.S. athletes, those competing internationally appear more likely to seek information from a physician or nutritionist. The article offers recommendations for individuals and organizations based on the most frequent information sources identified by athletes.

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Bryan E. Denham, Andrew C. Billings and Kelby K. Halone

A consistent finding in studies surrounding sports commentary on white and black athletes is that (a) white athletes are frequently praised for their perceived “intellect” and “leadership capacity,” while (b) black athletes are often praised for being “naturally talented” (Davis & Harris, 1998). A mediated conclusion that one could derive from such findings is that black athletes are expected to succeed athletically; conversely, white athletes are expected to have an innate ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to accomplish their athletic stature. This study examined the broadcast commentary surrounding white and black athletes at the 2000 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four College Basketball Tournaments. The content analysis of 1,118 descriptors embedded in commentator discourse revealed that, while black athletes continue to be praised for their athleticism and physicality, they also are receiving a greater number of comments about their intelligence and ability to lead.