Sport, the media, and athlete activism

Doehler, Steph (2024). Sport, the media, and athlete activism. In: Lawrence, Stefan; Hill, Joanne and Mowatt, Rasul eds. Routledge Handbook of Sport, Leisure, and Social Justice. London: Routledge, pp. 446–458.



This chapter explores the evolving role of athlete activism, with a particular focus on American sport, in shedding light on social justice issues. It delves into the historical and contemporary context of athlete activism, drawing inspiration from recent Black Lives Matter protests to examine the development of the athlete activist. While sport provides a unique public platform for athletes to express social grievances, scholars have observed an unwritten understanding that activism should be kept separate from the field of play, leading to reprimands and backlash against athlete activists. The chapter investigates the reasons behind activism within sport, with an inevitable emphasis on racial and social justice issues. It also addresses the role of the media in framing athlete activism, introducing the concept of media framing and its influence on shaping consumer interpretations and emotions. The media’s tendency to focus on the method rather than the message behind activism is explored, alongside the shift in media coverage from portraying athletes as disrespectful and unpatriotic during their activism to more sympathetic characters in hindsight.

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