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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Do the best MLB athletes receive coverage regardless of race and nationality? A content analysis of sport magazines. A content analysis of sport magazines Journal of Contemporary Athletics,

Fifteen of the featured athletes were rookies in their first year in the league , and one athlete had been in the league for 24 years. In terms of the magazine cover, athletes who had played in MLB longer were more prominent on magazine covers, as the average number of years spent in the league by these athletes was With regard to which of the two magazines the athletes appeared in, Sports Illustrated seems to feature athletes with Andrea N.

Eagleman more experience, as the average number of years in the league for this magazine was 9.

Athlete's Team The team the athlete played for at the time of the publication was the next measure coded. Of the league's 30 teams, only one, the Washington Nationals, did not have any athletes featured, although this team was formed in The Nationals were previously known as the Montreal Expos, which did have players featured in the magazines.

The team whose athletes were most frequently featured was the San Francisco Giants, with 18 articles. This does not come as a surprise, because Barry Bonds, the most-featured athlete, played for the Giants during all of the years in which these magazines were published.

The New York Yankees ranked second with 14 articles, and the Seattle Mariners were third with 10 articles. The teams with the fewest articles included the Milwaukee Brewers with two articles, and the Pittsburgh Pirates with one. Best Players List Coders assigned an answer of either "yes" or "no" when coding whether or not the player was on the list of best players for the year in which the article was published.

Each coder had a list of the best athletes - both pitchers and hitters - to use while coding this measure. The year in which the most athletes from the best athletes list were featured was , with Player Ranking If the coder answered "yes" to the best athlete measure, they were then instructed to code the player's ranking for the year in which the article was coded, which was included on the best athlete list that both coders received.

A total of athletes were coded for this measure, with rankings ranging from first to 33rd. Athletes who ranked number one on either the list of best hitters or best pitchers were featured 17 times in the two magazines, and the second- ranked athletes were featured 11 times.

Nine athletes were featured on magazine covers multiple times. The longer the article, the greater the chance that the athlete featured in that article would appear on the magazine cover. Research Questions Seven research questions were developed to guide this study. The following section provides answers for each research question. RQ1 - What proportion of feature story coverage is devoted to MLB athletes who appear on the list of best athletes for the season in which the story was published?

In looking at this question from a year-by-year perspective, the results show that the percentage of featured athletes on the best athletes list ranges from a low of While some years featured more athletes on the best athletes list than others, no clear pattern of coverage emerged from the results. It is possible that the differences between years were caused by articles based on non-performance factors, such as performance-enhancing drug issues, personal strife, or other human interest story topics that were not necessarily directly related to a player's on-field performance.

RQ2 - Are there significant differences in the percentage of MLB players of a certain race on the best athletes list and the percentage of players of this race featured in magazine article coverage?

Overall results show that white players appearing on the best athletes list were underrepresented, while minority athletes were overrepresented based on the expected results. However, in terms of athletes not on the best athletes list, white athletes were actually over- represented. This research question was also broken down to reveal the results from each year. While chi-square analysis did not reveal statistically significant differences for any individual year, it should be noted that crosstabulations revealed that certain racial groups were either underrepresented or overrepresented each year in which the study took place.

In , white and Latino players on the best athletes list were overrepresented, while black athletes were underrepresented. Eagleman Table 1. The reverse was true for athletes not on the list of best athletes.

The years and both yielded slightly different results than , with Asian and Latino players on the best athletes list overrepresented, and white and black athletes underrepresented. In , Latino athletes on the best athletes list were featured exactly the same number of times as expected, while black athletes were overrepresented and white and Asian athletes on the best athletes list were underrepresented.

Latino athletes on the list were overrepresented in , , , and , with black athletes joining them as overrepresented in , , and White athletes on the best athletes list were underrepresented each of those years.

Asian athletes received exactly the amount of coverage expected from to RQ3 - Are there significant differences in the percentage of international MLB players on the best athletes list and the percentage of international players featured in magazine article coverage?

Although chi-square analysis revealed no statistically significant differences, crosstabulation results show that differences did exist, as U. However, the opposite was true for athletes not on the list of best athletes, as U. Examining this question from a year-by-year perspective, the results were very similar to the overall results. For the years through , U. In , however, those results shifted, and U.

Chi-square analysis did not reveal any significant differences for any of the years studied. RQ4 - Do trends or patterns relating to race exist regarding the proportion of coverage given to the best athletes over the eight-year time period of the study? Examining the year-by-year results, it appears that trends did exist. With the exception of the year , white MLB players on the best athletes list were underrepresented in magazine feature story coverage every year.

Latino athletes on the best athletes list were overrepresented every year in which magazines were studied. Black athletes on the best athletes list appeared to be underrepresented during the first half of the study , , , and , but that Do the Best MLB Athletes Receive Coverage Regardless of Race. Asian athletes were overrepresented early in the study and , underrepresented in , and were granted as much coverage as expected in the remaining years of the study.

These results show that ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated provided more coverage to minority MLB players on the best players list over time, and continually provided less coverage to the white best athletes each year.

Conversely, both magazines provided more coverage to white athletes who were not on the list of best athletes, which coufd signify a bias in reporting since more white athletes featured in these two magazines over the period of the study were not on the best athletes list. It is possible that the magazine writers focus on personal interest stories rather than results-driven stories in the case of white athletes. As mentioned above, ANOVA results showed that a correlation exists between the featured athletes' race and number of years in the league.

On average, more inexperienced white players were featured, while more experienced minority players received coverage. This might help to explain why white athletes not appearing on the best athletes list were overrepresented, as it could be possible that the majority of white athletes on the best athletes list have spent more years in the league. RQ5 - Do trends or patterns relating to nationality exist regarding the proportion of coverage given to the best athletes over the eight-year time period of the study?

The fifth research question of this study asked if trends or patterns relating to nationality existed regarding the proportion of coverage given to the best athletes over the eight-year time period of the study.

Indeed, one major trend stands out when examining the data. From the years through , U. This trend changed in , however, with U.

Although differences between the expected and actual number of articles occurred, chi-square analysis revealed no statistically significant differences in coverage based on nationality. While it is not known why non-best U. RQ6 - Do racial differences exist between the two magazines being studied and their proportions of coverage given to MLB athletes appearing on the best athletes list? In terms of how many athletes of each race were featured in the two magazines, Sports Illustrated provided slightly more equitable coverage of the four races involved in this study, regardless of whether or not the athlete appeared on the best athletes list, providing ESPN, in contrast, allotted almost half of its coverage to white athletes, with See Table 2 for complete results.

ESPN The Magazine granted white athletes on the best athletes list less coverage than expected, and more coverage for the other three groups than expected. White athletes not appearing on the best athlete list, however, were overrepresented, and the other three groups were underrepresented. Eagleman Table 2.

In terms of race, it appears that Sports Illustrated provided more equitable coverage for the four races involved, while ESPN The Magazine's coverage was biased in favor of white athletes not appearing on the best athletes list, and minority athletes who did appear on the list. RQ7 - Do nationality-based differences exist between the two magazines being studied and their proportions of coverage given to MLB athletes appearing on the best athletes list?

Both magazines provided the majority of their coverage to athletes born in the United States. However, Sports Illustrated seemed to provide more equitable coverage, as its percentage of articles focused on U.

ESPN, however, provided less proportionate coverage, as With regard to the athletes featured who were on the best athletes list, Sports Illustrated provided almost exactly the same amount of coverage to both U. The same could not be said for ESPN, which afforded significantly different amounts of coverage to U.

See Table 3 for complete results. Discussion and Conclusions While this study revealed a great deal of information on the amount of coverage given to MLB athletes in the nation's top two general-interest sport magazines, Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine, it seems that three significant findings stand out above the rest, and merit further discussion. First, the finding that players on the best athletes list were only featured in half of the feature stories was much different than the expected result, that an athlete's on-field performance would be the major driver of coverage for that athlete.

Based on this finding, it was apparent that other factors were often equally powerful in the writers' and editors' minds for determining which athletes should receive coverage. While this study does not reveal what those reasons were, it was evident that factors other than on-field performance drive at least half of the coverage.

It is possible that these other factors could be related to athletes' personal Andrea N. Eagleman lives, and on- or off-field strife such as overcoming obstacles, learning to cope on a new team, family issues, performance-enhancing drugs, or issues relating to the athlete's nationality or race.

While this study did not seek to determine what those other factors were, it is suggested that future qualitative research be conducted on this topic in order to determine the themes that emerge from these articles. This will help researchers develop a better understanding of the decisions made by writers and editors in determining which athletes to cover, and conversely, which athletes not to cover.

The second major finding of this study was that U. The opposite was true for both international and minority athletes. Because there are more U. With regards to race, similar arguments can be made. Many of the minority athletes are also international athletes, thus it could be possible that with a smaller pool of athletes to choose from in this category, writers and editors focus on the ones with the best on-field production.

It is also a possibility that the athletes who receive coverage are those who are most highly publicized or promoted by team or league public relations personnel. Yet another possibility for this finding could be that certain athletes make themselves more accessible to the media than others, or that language issues are a factor in selecting an athlete to interview. With so many questions as to why these differences in coverage occur, it is suggested that these possibilities be addressed in future research.

The third major finding of this study deals with the differences found between the two magazines. Sports Illustrated provides more equitable coverage in terms of race and nationality, as crosstabulations show that the number of expected stories of each race and nationality match up almost perfectly with the actual number of stories of each race and nationality in this magazine.

In contrast, ESPN provides less equitable coverage in both of these categories, as chi-square analysis revealed statistically significant differences between the expected and actual numbers for both race and nationality. This finding should serve as a challenge for ESPN to begin providing more equitable coverage as its closest rival, Sports Illustrated, does.

Some business analysts might argue that ESPNs choice in which athletes to cover is driven by which athletes will sell the most magazines, yet this argument does not hold true in this particular case.

Sports Illustrated maintains a larger subscription base and brings in more advertising revenue than ESPN on a consistent basis, and is doing so while providing more equitable coverage to MLB players of all races and nationalities.

ESPN's editors should take note of this, and strive to match Sports Illustrated in its equitable coverage. This study was based on agenda-setting theory, and it seems that the two magazines studied are setting an agenda in which on-field performance is not as important as other factors surrounding an MLB athlete, although these other factors are currently unknown.

An athlete's on-field performance is an important determinant of success in terms of the size and length of an athlete's contract with his team. Thus it is interesting to find that on-field performance is not a prominent factor determining an athlete's success in terms of receiving media coverage.

Also, by providing less equitable coverage of minority and international athletes, ESPN sets the agenda for its readers that such players do not matter as much as white and U. This undermines the performances and achievements of minority and international athletes, and reinforces racial hierarchy structures in the U. While ESPN is setting an agenda for its readers that minority and international players do not matter as much as white and U. Other media outlets should seek to provide the equal level of coverage of athletes that Sports Illustrated has exemplified in the last eight years of publication.

The findings of this study should serve as a notice to sport journalists of their exclusionary practices and underrepresentation of certain racial or international groups. In order to promote social justice in both the sport of baseball, and on a larger scale in our country, more equitable coverage is needed. For example, ESPN should focus on including more athletes of diverse racial and nationalistic backgrounds in its coverage, and Sports Illustrated, which currently provides more equitable coverage, should focus on providing greater coverage of athletes deemed the best in the league by their on-field performance figures.

Two key findings were that only half of the best athletes from the past eight years were granted feature story coverage in these two magazines, and Sports Illustrated seems to provide more equitable coverage than their competitor. This study should serve as a starting point for other researchers to conduct race and nationality-based studies on not only MLB athletes, but also athletes competing in other sports and leagues. While several previous studies have focused on either race or nationality, few have focused on both constructs.

As previously mentioned, further research is needed to explain why and how editors and reporters select certain athletes to feature in their publications, what other factors drive coverage aside from on-field performance, and what role public relations professionals or other factors such as language and accessibility play in the selection process. References Baldassaro, L. Dashing dagos and walloping wops: NINE, 14 1 , Billings, A.

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Calling the plays in black and white. Boston Globe, pp. A30, A Juffer, J. Who's the man? Sammy Sosa, Latinos, and televisual redefinitions of the "American" pastime. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 26 4 , Knoppers, A.

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Examining equity in newspaper photographs.


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