Perception versus reality: Media framing and the relationship between the positive and negative media coverage of professional athletes


Perception versus reality: Media framing and the relationship between the positive and negative media coverage of professional athletes

Type of paper:

Research paper


Mass Communications

Format or citation style:

I. Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to determine the relationship if any between the media portrayal of troubledathletes and their race. In recent times, several professional American athletes have had problems with the law. The media portrays various athletes and their stories in different ways depending upon who the player is and their status in their respective sport. Many players’ stories quietly become of part of their past while other athletes are linked with their issues, often for the remainder of their careers. With research I want to determine if Caucasian athletes’ careers are affected in a fashionsimilar to black athletes when they run into illegal issues. I want to see if their problems die down or have little coverage in the media. It seems whenblack athletes commit crimes they aren’t viewed the same anymore due to media coverage. I believe the media delves deeply into the stories involving black/minority athletes, and their issuesstay with them and labelthem as criminal. By reading up on some athletes who have taken this path and by asking many peers to sit down and talk about the issue I will find out if there is a link between the media portrayal of troubled athletes and their race.

II. Problem
The problem in this study is that when minority athletes’ careers are tainted by crimes they’ve committed they are viewed as criminals for the rest of their careers and the media maintains coverage of their story so the public retains a negative image of the athlete. I want to investigate if when Caucasian athletes commit crimes are they still accepted in their sport without teams second-guessing their character. I feel the media tends not to give much coverage of their stories by talking a quick minute segment on television and the radio, which doesn’t give the public a good grasp of the details of the crimes, therefore,I want to investigate Caucasian athletes’ stories in this study. I believe many neverget called into courtfor their crimes andin some cases many should be appointed to trial. When the case in dropped in court or even when the athletes’ sport is investigating it shows that the judicial system is not fair and balanced to both black and white athletes. Black athletes, accused of crimes, even have a hard time trying to find a job in their sport because of their charges and when they are given a second chance many people still dislike them or, even still,don’t want them playing due to the media’s coverage and portrayal of the athlete. In this study the FOUR OR FIVE? troubled athletes were chosen are Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods and Plaxico Burress. Each of these athletes has had off-field issues; some of them have committed felonies and others haven’t, and some of these athletes received suspensions from their employers. In this study we want to see the coverage media gives an athlete and see if they are mainly focusing on these stories besides on sport-related topics because media has the power to color athletes negative or positive. The primary focus of this study is to see if people feel that when athletes have off field problems does the media have different coverage or focusing on the stories more according to an athlete’s race.

III. Review of Literature
The literature reviewed for this study is from ESPN’s official website, ESPN magazine, Sport Center episodes at the time of these athletes’ troubles, and variousnewspapers. ESPN is one of the best sport networks around the world that gives coverage and updates that happens all over the world in sports. One piece of literature in this study is an article by Sal Palantonio, a famous football spokesperson. Plaxico Burress is a former Super Bowl champion for the New York Giants. Burress accidently shot himself in the leg one night when he went out to a club. The problem that Burress ran into is New York has strict gun laws about unlicensed guns. Burress was released from his team soon after his story hit the media and he wasn’t picked up by another organization due to his case. Since this is a crime in New York Burress went to court and the article says he agreed to a plea deal – 20 months on good behavior. When his case was given the mayor of New York even stepped in on this case and said that the state needs to make an example of someone and that is exactly what they did by putting Burress behind bars for two years. ESPN showed many tweets and comments from Burress’ former. At the end of his trial Burress stated he will be 33 when he gets out so he would still love to be a part of the NFL then. Other literature reviewed concerned Brett Favre and his “sexts” scandal. Reports have shown Favre is arguably one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game of football. He is being accused of sending lewd pictures to a cheerleader of his former team, the New York Jets. Favre played for the Jets for one season in which reports say he had relations with a cheerleader named Jennifer Sterger, reports says Favre was trying to have an affair with the cheerleader and was sending her disrespectful pictures of his privates. The NFL has investigated the issue to lead to some type of suspension for Favre but due to Favre not wanting to cooperate with the investigation, meaning he didn’t want to speak public or help the NFL personal investigators, Favre was fined 50,000 dollars. Why is it that because the athlete didn’t want to cooperate the case gets dropped? This seems real weird in this study that a case just gets dropped. In this study I want to see why some athletes get certain privileges before others. Are both of these athletes’ careers tarnished due to these issues they have had?

IV. Research Questions
Does race play a part in an athlete’s image? Why do minority athletes have more in-depth coverage of their crimes? Do minority athletes’ troubles lead to more suspensions or jail time? How does a minority athlete feel he/she is viewed after their troubles have arisen? How many minority athletes have received suspensions and jail time versus Caucasian athletes? Do feel people feel Caucasian athletes have an overall better image?

V. Methodology
In this study I will have two focus groups get together and discuss many athletes that have ran into crimes and give their opinion on how they feel about the certain athletes. I want to see if they feel that media has covered both Caucasian and minority athletes the same. If they know about what the athletes have done I would want them to tell me about some of the crimes committed and what they know because everyone has their own information on a story. I will ask numerous questions on the crimes and how serious they feel the crimes were and what they think an acceptable punishment should be, do they feel the punishment or non- punishments athletes received were unjust and justified. As the director I will select randomly people that watch ESPN every day. This study would also need a chart of athletes that get in off court/field troubles to see what race dominates this category. The focus group will have to discuss why they feel things happen this way, and how certain races are portrayed in different sports because different sports are dominated by a certain ethnicity.

VI. The Results
When having my two focus groups I gathered 9 different people in both of the groups I have. In the first group I had a black male be the moderator, and in the second group I had a white male be the moderator to see if there is a difference in the answers or views that they have on this issue. In the first group I had 3 people of each ethnicity which were black, white, and Spanish so I could possibly have different perspectives on the issue. The first group said that they don’t think race plays a part in an athlete’s image because the image of someone is what they portray to the world on and off cameras. When I asked if minority athletes’ have more coverage of their crimes the moderator of the discussion seemed enthused because he believed this, and when he started throwing out Michael Vicks name and his issue he compared it to how Ben Roethlisberger’s problem had just died out of nowhere with a potential rape case. The group felt Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress got “butchered” for their wrong doings and Favre and Roethlisberger’s stories just feel of the earth and were still considered as a “saint” in their sports and in society. When hearing such things like this from the focus group I felt my hypothesis was true and what I thought they had took the words out of my mouth. I asked do they feel Caucasian athletes have a better image and they said no but when a Caucasian athlete and a minority athlete have a negative off field issue the Caucasian athletes tend to be forgiving and their stories tend not to be talked about again but minority athletes issues are attached with them forever. The second focus group I had four black and four white and one Spanish person participate in this discussion. This discussion I started by asking does race play a part in an athlete’s image, they said yes because at the end of the day athletes are representing more than just themselves and sometimes don’t realize it. I decided to take a different angle on this group and the moderator; I just asked what do them about certain athletes such as Plaxico Burress, Brett Favre, Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger, and Michael Vick. The moderator wasn’t as bias as I thought he would be because he said Ben Roethlisberger is wrong for what he did and just because he’s loved by the Caucasian community and plays for a famous franchise his stories will be forgotten. The group said that the black athletes do things as wrong as whites but they just tend to be “crucified” by the media because black athletes are ahead in sports. When I heard this it was very interesting to me that they would all agree on that similar point. So I then asked the question of my study if there is a link between media portrayal of troubled athletes and race. They all said yes because they took the example of Brett Favre and said they didn’t even know he got into some illegal troubles with the “sexts” scandal but with all the black athletes they knew all the stories and the details into it.

VII. Discussion
The results from my focus group showed that my hypothesis and opinion was true. According to the people I had discuss the issue of my research they feel the same way as me. I know that some of the athletes I was discussing weren’t even recognized by the person in the focus groups which was very interesting to me because it showed how the media covers different athletes. I did this issue because I watch sport center everyday and I see the coverage that certain troubled athletes receive and I feel it is wrong for the media to portray an image to certain athletes with race relating both. The limitations to my project is that I would of liked to call ESPN and see why they do the things with the coverage on certain athletes to get the information directly from th source.

Works Cited
• Paolantonio, Sal “Plaxico Burress sentenced to two years in prison on firearms charge – ESPN.” ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. Sal Paolantonio, 23 Oct. 2009. Web. 23 Jan. 2011. .
• Hill, Jemele. “Brett Favre allegedly sent lewd photos and texts to a team employee when he played for the New York Jets; if it’s true, he behaved even worse than Tiger Woods did – ESPN.” ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. N.p., 12 Oct. 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2011. .
• KENNELS, BAD NEWS. “NFL star indicted over dog fighting – CNN.” Featured Articles from CNN. N.p., 17 July 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2011. .

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