Communication Sports Communication
Bryan E. Denham
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0073


Amateur and professional sports play a significant role in society and popular culture, and scholars have increasingly used sports as a backdrop for studying both human and mass communication processes. Studies in sports communication have addressed subjects such as audience reactions to mediated sporting contests; communication between coaches and athletes; media portrayals of athletes based on considerations such as gender, race, and nationality; and the professional routines of sports media practitioners. Methodologically, researchers have used both quantitative and qualitative approaches and have also approached scholarship through frameworks in critical and cultural studies. Although much of the scholarly literature in sports communication appears in peer-reviewed journals, researchers will find certain texts referenced in this article especially useful for surveying the field.

Introductory Works

In sports communication a series of texts provides valuable information for scholarly research. In these volumes authors discuss topics such as the history of sports coverage, media production processes, media constructions of high-profile athletes, and sports media audiences. Articles in these texts cite the most important studies in their respective areas and thus offer an excellent starting point for scholarship. Perhaps the broadest resource among these volumes is the handbook Raney and Bryant 2006. Wenner 1989 contains chapters from scholars who pioneered research in sports media. Hundley and Billings 2009 and Wenner 1998 address media constructions of athletes based on considerations such as gender, race, and nationality. Bernstein and Blain 2002 uses a case-analysis approach in studying media portrayals; Brown and O’Rourke 2003 approaches media constructions through rhetorical analyses; Hugenberg, et al. 2008 explores fan cultures; and Rowe 2004 visits the political economy of sports media. In addition to edited texts, Kassing, et al. 2004 offers a comprehensive review of the literature. The chapter is an excellent resource for identifying different topics and approaches to research in sports communication.

  • Bernstein, Alina, and Neil Blain, eds. 2002. Sport, media, culture: Global and local dimensions. London: Frank Cass.

    This book discusses issues such as the Olympics as a global media event, Muhammad Ali and the politics of cultural identity, media characterizations of the soccer great Stanley Matthews following his death, press portrayals of German soccer, and coverage of the Women’s National Basketball Association.

  • Brown, Robert S., and Daniel J. O’Rourke III, eds. 2003. Case studies in sport communication. Westport, CT: Praeger.

    This text contains a series of rhetorical analyses by sports scholars. Topics include the resurgence of Pete Rose, press coverage of professional basketball and tennis, constructions of disability in sports, moral controversies associated with ultimate fighting, coaches’ characterizations of winning and losing efforts, risk in whitewater sports, and soccer violence.

  • Hugenberg, Lawrence W., Paul M. Haridakis, and Adam C. Earnheardt, eds. 2008. Sports mania: Essays on fandom and the media in the 21st century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

    This text examines differing aspects of fan culture, exploring psychological motivations, issues in identity, and the role of mass media in sports spectatorship. Researchers interested in audience studies will find this volume especially helpful.

  • Hundley, Heather L., and Andrew C. Billings, eds. 2009. Examining identity in sports media. London: SAGE.

    This volume focuses on the role of mass media in constructing sport-related identities based on factors such as sexuality, gender, nationalism, disability, race, and ethnicity. Chapter authors use both quantitative and qualitative methods and also situate topics within critical and cultural frameworks.

  • Kassing, Jeffrey W., Andrew C. Billings, Robert S. Brown, et al. 2004. Communication in the community of sport: The process of enacting, (re)producing, consuming, and organizing sport. In Communication Yearbook. Vol. 28. Edited by Pamela J. Kalbfleisch, 357–392. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    This chapter offers a comprehensive examination of the depth and breadth of sports research in communication and also identifies worthwhile areas for future investigations.

  • Raney, Arthur A., and Jennings Bryant, eds. 2006. Handbook of sports and media. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    This text contains over thirty chapters addressing subjects such as the business of sports media, sports media audiences, and critical perspectives on how the mass media cover sports. This is a very good resource for those undertaking initial research projects in sports communication.

  • Rowe, David, ed. 2004. Sport, culture, and the media. Maidenhead, UK: Open Univ. Press.

    Rowe addresses sports journalism and the political economy of sports media. He also discusses sports commentating as well as still and moving images in mediated sport.

  • Wenner, Lawrence A., ed. 1989. Media, sports, and society. London: SAGE.

    An important volume containing sections on the history of sports coverage, media production processes, the content of mediated sport, and sports audiences. Chapters were written by some of the pioneers in sports-media studies.

  • Wenner, Lawrence A., ed. 1998. MediaSport. London: Routledge.

    This volume contains chapters on sports marketing as well as media constructions of athletes based on gender, race, and nationality. The book also contains materials on media audiences and, like other volumes, offers an extensive list of references.

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