Via their social-media postings, student-athletes are increasingly creating public relations issues for college athletic programs. With social media’s emergence as a popular communication tool, exploring the messages student-athletes receive from their athletic departments about social-media use is warranted. This research examined social-media policies in student-athlete handbooks from 159 NCAA Division I schools. Using thematic and textual analytic procedures, analysis revealed that policies heavily emphasize content restrictions and external monitoring and frame social media as laden with risk. The results suggest that social-media policies should be more reflexive to identify both positive and negative outcomes for student-athletes. In addition, athletic departments must assertively monitor social-media trends to ensure that policies and training stay relevant.
This research explored how press outlets and fans framed professional golfer Tiger Woods’s marital infidelity. A textual analysis of newspaper reports and discussion postings on Tiger Woods’s official Facebook page was conducted. Analysis revealed that press accounts framed Woods’s actions as a tragic flaw that precipitated his fall from grace, while also reveling in the salacious details of the extramarital affairs. Conversely, fans primarily framed these incidents as private matters that demonstrated Woods’s human nature. The analysis suggests that social-media sites are valuable public relations tools that athletes can use to quickly generate support that counteracts perceived negative media framing. Social-media sites also enable fans to enhance perceptions of closeness with athletes as fans interject themselves into athletes’ media narratives.
This research explored people’s expression of parasocial interaction (PSI) on Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s blog, 38pitches.com. A thematic analysis using grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) and constant comparative methodology of 1,337 postings on Schilling’s blog was conducted. Three parasocial aspects emerged from data analysis: identification, admonishment and advice giving, and criticism. The findings of the study provide support for previous research that suggests identification is a PSI component, and given the large presence of admonishment and criticism, the findings extend PSI theory by suggesting that PSI theory must account for and encompass negative relational behaviors. The results also indicate that people’s use of information and communication technologies is reconfiguring parasocial relationships as fans take an active role in soliciting and communicating with professional athletes, subsequently creating more opportunities for PSI to occur.
This case study examines star Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens’s image-repair strategies during a press conference he held to respond to allegations that he had used steroids and human-growth hormones earlier in his playing career. When professional athletes are confronted with allegations of cheating or illegitimately enhancing their athletic performance, they are faced with a crisis situation, and selecting and performing the appropriate response is paramount in repairing their image and mitigating personal harm (e.g., loss of endorsements). In many cases, however, professional athletes rely on attorneys, agents, or other individuals who might underestimate the relevance of appropriately communicating image repair, thereby resulting in the athlete’s image being further damaged. Although Clemens employed various image-repair strategies during his press conference, his failure to enact these strategies appropriately further harmed his reputation and ultimately raised more questions than he answered.
This case study considers how audience labor performed via information and communication technologies (ICTs) helps sports organizations monitor professional athletes. Three incidents are examined—(a) National Basketball Association (NBA) player Greg Oden participating in a pickup (casual) basketball game while he was rehabilitating an injured knee, (b) photographs posted on the Internet that captured National Football League player Matt Leinart posing with several young women in a hot tub and holding a beer bong, and (c) a video posted on YouTube that depicted NBA player Josh Howard disparaging the U.S. national anthem. The case study explores how ICTs enable sports organizations to capitalize on free labor provided by audience members to intensify surveillance of professional athletes and how fans’ ability to comment on news coverage of these stories reinforces organizational control, further reifying professional athletes as commodities.
Blair Browning and Jimmy Sanderson
Twitter has become a popular topic in sport communication research. Little research to date, however, has examined Twitter from the perspective of student-athletes. This research explored how student-athletes at an NCAA Division I university used Twitter and reacted to critical tweets from fans. Semistructured interviews with 20 student-athletes were conducted. Analysis revealed that student-athletes used Twitter in 3 primary ways: keeping in contact, communicating with followers, and accessing information. With respect to critical tweets, student-athletes reported various perceptions about them and diverse strategies for responding to them. The results suggest that Twitter is a beneficial communicative tool for student-athletes but also presents challenges, given the ease with which fans attack them via this social-media platform. Accordingly, athletic departments must be proactive in helping student-athletes use Twitter strategically, particularly in responding to detractors.
Jimmy Sanderson and Katie Brown
COVID-19 has dramatically altered and disrupted sport in unprecedented ways, and youth sports is one sector that has been profoundly impacted. In the United States, the youth sports industry generates $19 billion dollars annually, while youth sport tourism is estimated at $9 billion annually. With youth sports at a standstill, the effect on the youth sports infrastructure is significant. The purpose of this scholarly commentary was to discuss the psychological, developmental, and economic fallout from the stoppage of youth sports that has touched millions of participants, their families, and a substantial youth sports structural system. This work also addresses the potential restructuring of youth sport megacomplexes, cascading effects of canceled seasons, likely sponsorship losses, and potential growing socioeconomic divide in participation that could result from the pandemic. Thus, there is still much uncertainty about the future of youth sport participation and subsequent adjustments that may impact established participation and consumption norms.
David Cassilo and Jimmy Sanderson
Many professional sport franchises have undergone shifts in talent evaluation strategies by moving to analytic and data-driven approaches. However, National Football League (NFL) franchises have been resistant to fully embrace the analytical model, as NFL organizational management structures tend to be isomorphic. In 2016, the Cleveland Browns initiated an ideological break from this system by hiring “moneyball” guru Paul DePodesta, a move that signaled a shift to an analytics-based model in organizational management. A textual analysis of 120 online media articles was carried out to determine how media reports framed this philosophical shift. Results revealed that frames predominantly portrayed analytics as being in direct opposition to normalized operational structures in the NFL. The results illustrate how difficult it is to change the discourse and embrace new management ideas that are perceived to contrast with dominant ideologies.
Jimmy Sanderson and Blair Browning
This essay discusses how Twitter can be used as a pedagogical tool for sport communication and sport management courses. Given the prevalence with which Twitter has penetrated the sport industry and the frequency with which college students use social media, Twitter is a complementary and viable classroom component. The essay provides ways in which Twitter can be used for formal assignments in the sport communication and sport management classroom. The essay concludes by discussing some challenges to using Twitter in the classroom, describing strategies for overcoming these barriers, and encouraging sport communication and sport management educators to embrace the culture of convergence that Twitter affords. The appendix offers detailed guidelines for the assignments discussed in the essay.