This is an excerpt from Social Issues in Sport 4th Edition With HKPropel Access by Ronald B. Woods & B. Nalani Butler.
In order to appeal to mainstream America, the media in general reflects the cultural norms and values of the society in which it operates. Although most media companies were originally owned by wealthy White males, they have gradually morphed into corporate giants and employ thousands of people. In many cases, the media has struggled to keep up with changing times by having hiring practices and employee training programs that are insensitive to gender and people of color. Most employees are White middle-class men who work their way up the ladder but are often out of step with a changing society that is their audience. Perhaps it is not surprising that people of color and women own, respectively, 7.1 percent and 7.4 percent of the available broadcast media (Jones 2019).
Two relatively recent major media stories have challenged the media on the social issues of race and gender. Both stories have attracted major attention from within the sports world but also among the American public. The first is the NFL controversy initiated by Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers over players kneeling during the national anthem to protest a succession of high-profile police mistreatment and brutality cases by police officers against Black citizens and other minorities. The conflict escalated perhaps due to the involvement of President Trump and his supporters, viewership declined for NFL games, and NFL owners and management were conflicted about whether to side with their players or disgruntled fans (Wyche 2016).
The second landmark controversy centered on the U.S. women’s soccer team during the 2019 World Cup, which set global viewing records estimated at over one billion viewers (Roxborough 2019). Questions arose through the media about U.S. team members suing USA Soccer for unequal treatment overall compared to the men’s team, but especially the unequal pay between the two teams. The controversy stirred by the media and some of the players became so heated that during the championship game, fans were chanting “equal pay,” thereby siding with the U.S. players in spite of the game’s location in France (De Lea 2019).
Professional athletes protesting social issues that transcend sport initiated both controversies. The media cooperated with the athletes by regularly reporting on the issues and interviewing representatives of different points of view. Although both protests were aimed at the larger social problems of the mistreatment of others based on race, ethnicity, or gender, they played out through the platform of professional sport with the help of the media. In these two examples, sports media took a stand against just “sticking to sports reporting because sports don’t stick to sports” (Granderson 2019).