Wrapping up IACS 2019


The International Association for Communication and Sport summit is my favorite conference to attend. This year’s summit in Boise, Idaho, may just be the best I’ve attended. There were numerous topics covered, with eSports appearing more than I’ve noticed in the past. Also in the conversation were soccer, basketball, Serena Williams, whiteness, hegemonic masculinity, women’s sport, gender equality, freelancing, social media, news routines, combat sports, mental health, terrorism, self-representation, secondary fandom, crisis communication, Muscular Christianity, Ghana, NCAA, disabilities, and national identity, to name a few.

I heard many fascinating research projects. And there were many I didn't see that I would have enjoyed seeing. Here are just a few that should paint a good picture of what goes on at this conference:

  • Roxane Coche showed the ways political leaders used Twitter during the 2018 World Cup to encourage their national teams, but also as a PR tool for their respective nations in “Statesmen, Soccer and Social Media: International Politicians’ Online Posts about the 2018 FIFA World Cup.” For example, as teams made successful runs, their leaders Tweeted about the country’s other assets. (Australia, however, differed in that it had widespread streaming problems and then-Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull took to Twitter to assure Australians the problem was being addressed.) Coche presented another paper, “Women take Power: A Case Study of Ghanaian Journalists at Russia 2018 World Cup” that used in-depth interviews with female sports journalists representing Ghana at the World Cup. What I found intriguing was the role colonialism had on gender relations.

  • Matthew Eichner presented on how college football became a national sport after being more popular regionally, with multiple associations crowing a “national championship team” in “Who’s In, Who’s Out: A Political Economy Study of the College Football Playoff.” He gave a breakdown of NCAA revenue distribution by conference and an “easy to understand” flow chart that I’ll link here.

  • Jason Genovese’s paper, “Collegiate Wrestling and the Resurrection of Muscular Christianity,” was among my favorites. Genovese studied Muscular Christianity through the lens of wrestlers in Pennsylvania. Muscular Christianity embodies values like patriotic duty, manliness, discipline, the moral and physical beauty of athleticism, and a rejection of femininity and excessive intellectualism. Before this presentation, I wasn’t familiar with the term “idols of promotion."

  • Tim Mirabito, Robin Hardin, and Joshua Pate highlighted the time and control broadcast journalists relegate to their companies in, “News Routines in the Sports Department: Changes and Impact.” Some companies not only have daily Tweet requirements in its contracts, but require employees to turn over their personal Twitter accounts.

  • Inga Oelrichs and Franziska Tillman examined how online sports content utilizes social media sources in “Social Media References in Online Sport Reporting.” Quoting someone's tweets can be encouraged or discouraged, depending upon where you work. Oelrichs and Tillman found that social media references are often used in online coverage of less established sports, like eSport and wrestling, then in sports like soccer, which has more developed media structures.

  • Ann Pegoraro and David Berri examined online chatter’s influence on TV viewership in “Who’s Winning President Trump or the NFL?” Based on 2016 Twitter data, the authors concluded that the anthem protests did not harm NFL viewership. In fact, it increased it. They will look at the 2017 data next.

  • William “Roth” Smith used the 9th Street BMX park in Austin, Texas, as his research site in “Organizing Participation of a Lifestyle Sport: The Constitutive Power of New Media Discourse." He examined organizational behavior, particularly “fluid” volunteer collectives, like the ones who designed and maintain this park. These differ from formalized, static organizational structures.

  • My favorite panel was called “Our Brand of Sport is Crisis.” Each of the papers dealt with image repair. There are different strategies for image repair, the most common being denial, evading responsibility, reducing offensiveness, taking corrective action, and expressing mortification. H. Ross Knight, Amanda Bennett, and Karen L. Hartman developed a model in “Gun Violence and eSports: A Proposed Model for Sport Crisis Communication Practitioners" to better prepare sports communication practitioners and managers for crisis situations. Gordon Culletto and Tanya Melendez looked at how expressing mortification over a mistake sets the stage for a redemptive story in “'I ask you to find room in your hearts to one day believe in me again’: Tiger Woods as Redemptive Narrative.” They showed how mainstream media portrayed Woods’ perceived transformation and redemption since 2009. Melissa Dominy and Simon Ličen looked at news coverage of FIFA and human rights abuses in “Media Framing of FIFA’s Human Rights Scandals, 2010-2018.” (Note: Dominy recommended watching The Workers Cup, a documentary about African and Asian migrant workers building the facilities for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It is now on my list.) Evan Frederick, Ann Pegoraro, and Lauren Smith’s paper, “An examination of Michigan State University’s Image Repair via Facebook and the Public Response Following the Larry Nassar Scandal,” examined how MSU used social media as a tool for image repair during and after Nassar's trial and conviction as a serial child molester. Frederick concluded the best way to elicit engagement via social media following an egregious and highly public transgression was to use mortification and corrective action. Going “dark,” or not posting anything on social media, isn’t a strategy.

  • If you haven't read yesterday's blog post about featured speaker Dave Zirin and Shireen Ahmed, please do. They were incredible.

  • On a funny note, I also attended an NCAA-sponsored interactive panel called "Teaching Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Communication and Sport Classes." We spoke as small groups and then to the whole group about what we were doing in our classrooms, departments, and universities to teach inclusion and to give platforms to underrepresented groups, and what we could do to improve. This was informative and therapeutic. The organizers were Amy Wilson and Yannick Kluch and they were fantastic facilitators. My jaw hit the floor when Wilson introduced herself and said she previously worked for Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois. I was a sports writer at the Jacksonville-Journal Courier, which is north on Park Street and east on West State Street from IC. Meeting someone familiar with Morgan County isn't exactly something that happens every day.