Elevating all-stars to superstars: an examination of the framing practices of ESPN

Volker, Christopher Andrew
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University of Delaware
The idea of celebrity in sport is a familiar conception within our current media landscape. Professional athletes have always maintained a level of celebrity status due to the popularity of sports within the American culture. Much research in the area of communication and sport seeks to tackle themes of race, gender, and in-game coverage portrayal. However, little examines what sports highlights and sports news programs offer towards continuing or challenging ingrained stereotypes, and how such coverage elevates (or diminishes) the celebrity status of these athletes. This study seeks to expand upon this current mass and sports communication research. Using theoretical perspectives of celebrity attribution, framing, and sports framing methodologies, the current study is a content analysis of the main network of ESPN in the summer of 2013. Results indicate specific athletes garner much of the descriptive coverage spoken by ESPN employees. In addition, women athletes remain underrepresented and misrepresented through the spoken descriptive phrases. Finally, results indicate significant differences emerge in the ways specific athletes are described based on athletic and intellectual ability. It is through these types of representation where one may see a clear elevation of celebrity status.