Tag Archives: Sports Communication

Spring 2019 is a wrap, well almost …

Ah another semester teaching is in the books, well almost. Final grading hell is just commencing but I am super proud of the many things my students have accomplished this semester. My graduate seminar COMM 5710 Intro to Media Studies dug deep into various debates, critical frameworks, concepts, methods, and theories surrounding critical media studies (CMS). Given that this was an intro course, we mapped the contours of the field using rather broad strokes. Our interdisciplinary inquiry included media and cultural studies, feminist, critical race, and queer theory, as well as popular music and surveillance studies. For 15 weeks we considered the critiques and possibilities this work generates concerning various aspects of media production, reception, and the text themselves. Our readings and objects of study encompassed a wide variety of media, including radio, film, TV, social media, and music among others. After developing a toolbox consisting of key theories informing CMS, we started applying our knowledge to examine various domains of contemporary media culture, including, for example, popular feminism and the #MeToo movement, racialized algorithms, and digital surveillance. Our overall aim has been to develop critical approaches for examining media as both a key part of our everyday lives and as an object of scholarly inquiry. I can’t wait to read/watch all their fascinating final projects!


My undergrads in COMM 4000/5000 Communication & Sport really blew me away this semester, it was such an engaged, motivated, and smart bunch! We spent a lot of time assessing how the business of sports is fundamentally changing through new technology developments, especially in regard to streaming platforms and social media. We also reflected on how our own social identities shape our participation with sports. While the readings were at times long and theoretically dense, the exposure to differing approaches to the study of sports media allowed us to recognize how power, privilege, and difference (including race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, and nationality) intersect with sports and how sports reinforce, and sometimes challenge, socio-cultural norms.

Nothing better probably exemplifies these paradoxes than our final unit on sports activism, in which we examined the impact of Muhammad Ali and his legacy on contemporary forms of sports activism, whether it is Colin Kaepernick protesting police brutality, LeBron James starting the I Promise School, or Kyle Korver calling on fellow white athletes to recognize and use their privilege for those who remain marginalized and oppressed. Students really let their knowledge, critical thinking and media production skills shine with their final video projects. They tackled anything from pay inequalities between the women’s and men’s US Soccer team, paid patriotism, exorbitant MLB contracts, the sexual harassment many female gamers encounter in esports, the challenges of trans and intersex athletes, to heroic willpower of adaptive athletes. Below are links to some of my favorite clips from this semester – enjoy!





In the meantime, happy grading to all my fellow educators and summer break is near!

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Reflections on COMM 4000/5000 “Communication and Sport”

My apologies for being super tardy with keeping the blog updated – the Spring semester simply got the best of me, yikes. But I survived year one on the tenure-track – yay. And now summer is here with time for research, writing, and yes – getting that blog updated.

I want to start with some reflections on my COMM 4000/5000 “Sports Communication” class from Spring 2017.

Sports are an integral part of everyday life in the United States. Americans frequently dedicate their time, energy, and money to recreational sports leagues, yoga classes, and athletic gyms.  Furthermore, collegiate and professional sports such as NCAA athletics or the NFL, movies, video games and sports betting as well as fantasy leagues comprise multi-billion dollar industries in the “sports‐media-complex.” The course took as its premise that the experience of participating in and/or watching sports is more than “just a game”: sport not only reflects broader social structures but also actively (re)produces cultural values, for example, about hegemonic masculinities. By the end of the semester students gained a critical understanding that sports are not only sought out for healthy life-styles and stress-relief, but that sport is, and always has been, a political institution. While it may promote athletic beauty or temporarily divert us from our problems, it just as often mobilizes power, disciplines bodies, and reifies structures of oppression, for example, the persistent racism Jackie Robinson faced. Throughout the semester we paid attention to issues of diversity, resistance, and social justice as they have and continue to play out in the world of sport. How we communicate about sport, how sport is communicated to us, and what is communicated by sport each represent critical opportunities to evaluate, critique, and improve our society.

Part of what made this course special for me and my students was our ability to listen to and learn from a variety of guest speakers throughout the semester. Dr. Kate Ranachan from the University of Minnesota talked to us about questions of athletic labor and post-colonialism, specifically in the context of Brazilian soccer; Dr. Michael L. Butterworth guided students through a discussion on race and baseball. Especially memorable was a virtual visit from Kye Allums, the first openly trans man to play NCAA Division I basketball for George Washington University. Kye provided a candid account of the barriers sex-segregated sports  present to transgender athletes and encouraged students to get involved on their own campus to fight discriminatory bathroom laws. Finally, Dave Zirin, The Nation’s sports editor and host of the Edge of Sports podcast, engaged us in a lively discussion on the impact of  Muhammad Ali’s legacy for contemporary social justice activism by athletes such as Colin Kaepernick – who many believe still remains unsigned precisely because of his outspoken support for #BlackLivesMatter.

We covered a lot of topics and theoretical ground over the course of the semester, including why sex sells, but not women’s sports; the erotic gaze in the NFL draft; the impact of streaming deals on traditional sports broadcasting models; and the NFL’s concussion crisis to name a few.

Students’ critical engagements with the political nature of sports really came to light with their final video projects. You can see some of their videos engaging, for example, pay inequality in U.S. Women’s soccer, the role race plays in the coverage of Ray Rice and Ben Roethlisberger, or why Serena Williams deserves the title of Greatest Athlete of All Times below. Enjoy!



If you’d like to take a look at all of the video projects and want to know more about Communication and Sports, you are welcome to check out more projects and posts on our COMM 4000 Tumblr.



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