Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Joy DeSensi, James Bemiller, Erin Whiteside
The sport industry came to a standstill after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Major sporting events were postponed or canceled in lieu of the tragedy and for a week, while the nation mourned, the country went without sports. For many of the leagues it was the first extended hiatus for a non-labor dispute in nearly a century. On September 17, Major League Baseball returned, the first sport to resume, and when the games did recommence there were noticeable changes. Throughout this period, the New York Times, one of the country’s most prestigious newspapers, produced a sports section in every edition. The purpose of this study was to examine how the New York Times framed sport’s response to 9/11.
Framing theory provided the theoretical framework of this examination, which incorporated a textual analysis of each article printed from September 12, 2001 to December 31, 2001. Additionally, four journalists from the Times were interviewed to provide supplementary context to the framing of sport’s response to tragedy. The culmination of this methodological procedure produced five frames: diminished significance of sport, sport as a distraction, united community symbolically moving onward, logistical understanding, and loss of innocence. Each contributed to the overall framing, or understanding, of 9/11. Diminished significance of sport defined the re-evaluated importance of sport in contrast to the tragic realities illuminated by terrorism. The sportswriters often referred to sport as a couple hours away from reality, assuming the role of a distraction. Many of the sporting events following the attacks held ceremonies or tributes that were heavily reliant on the use of symbolism, which was representative of the nation’s feelings. There were also logistical measures described in order for sport to navigate the upheaval of scheduling caused by 9/11. Finally, there was a demarcation of pre- and post-9/11 infused with loss that shaped the loss of innocence frame.
The conclusion was an understanding that sport was less important comparatively to the tragedy, but through symbolism and distraction did play a distinctive role in the recovery. There were logistical challenges in resuming and when the games did return, they were not the same.
Mirabito, Gerard Timothy, "Reporting Crisis: An Analysis of the New York Times’ Sports Section Following the Tragedies of September 11, 2001. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2013.