For We See and Know in Part: An Examination of the Portrayal of African-American Female Athletes on the covers of Sports Illustrated
Date of Award
Master of Science
Leslee A. Fisher, Fritz G. Polite
This study examines the print media’s representation of African-American sportswomen’s femininity on the covers of Sport Illustrated. Sport is considered a male-dominated institution; a place where masculinity is expressed. Therefore, in spite of the increased participation for women in sport due to Title IX; the media’s coverage has been minimal and their representation of female athletes has been ambivalent at best, and trivializing at worse. The conveyance of African-American female athletes remains even more complex. Due to historical experiences, African-American women have developed a femininity that falls outside that of mainstream society. Therefore, the lack of coverage African-American female athletes receive may be a combination of racist and sexist ideology. Moreover, the lack of literature on African-American female athletes justifies the need for this study. This study uses a hegemonic framing theory to explore the topic. According to this theory, messages communicated in the media reflect the values and beliefs of those in charge in society. These messages have an influence on the consciousness, perceptions, and beliefs of their audience (Entman, 1993). The study employs a content analysis to examine all 2,865 covers of Sports Illustrated from 1954 to 2008. Content including the gender, race, sport represented, pose, and clothing of the individual(s) on the cover were analyzed. Additionally, a sample of feature articles was analyzed for themes when African-American women appeared on the cover. Results revealed that over the course of the magazine’s history, 35 African-American females appeared on 26 Sports Illustrated covers. Results of those representations on 16 covers could be coded as African-American females. Results confirm that African-American females have had very limited coverage on the covers of Sports Illustrated. In some way their coverage is similar to Caucasian women in that significant portions of feature articles included non-athletic information that reinforced feminine ideology. On the other hand, the African-American females on the cover were more likely found in action poses and representing sports that are oftentimes considered masculine. Results fit with the Afrocentric-Feminist epistemology that states that African-American females’ experiences sometimes correspond more closely with Caucasian women and other times with African-American men
Lattimer, Chanel Leisa, "For We See and Know in Part: An Examination of the Portrayal of African-American Female Athletes on the covers of Sports Illustrated. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2008.