Seeing Is Believing: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Media Representations of Domestic Violence in Sport

by Lauren Christine Anderson

Institution: Florida State University
Year: 2017
Keywords: Communication; Sports administration; Gender expression; Gender identity; Study and teaching
Posted: 02/01/2018
Record ID: 2167219
Full text PDF: http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_2017SP_Anderson_fsu_0071E_13850;


On February 15, 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested for assaulting his then fianc, Janay Palmer, at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City (Bien, 2014). Four days later, a video surfaced via TMZ, which showed Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator at the casino. In June, the NFL held a disciplinary hearing with Rice, and on July 24, the league suspended Rice for two games. Fast-forward a month and a half, on September 8, TMZ released another video, which showed Rice punching Palmer in the face inside the elevator at the casino back in February (Bien, 2014). That same day, the Ravens terminated their contract with Rice and released him from the team, and shortly thereafter, the NFL suspended Rice from the league indefinitely. The public outcry over the assault video generated a national conversation around intimate partner violence unlike anything seen before (Blow, 2014). Rice's assault arguably became the most publicized incident of domestic violence since O.J. Simpson, and therefore, it is important to analyze the media narratives surrounding it. As McDonald (1999) noted, media coverage of domestic abuse committed by male athletes may "offer some of the most visible cases of domestic violence available for public consumption," functioning "as significant sites where larger cultural understandings of domestic violence are constructed, contested, and struggled over" (p. 112-113). With the purpose of discovering how journalists construct particular understandings of domestic violence that (re)produce dominant ideologies, I conducted a critical discourse analysis of multiple mainstream media sources, including national newspapers, local Baltimore newspapers, online sports news, and women's magazines. Additionally, because the entire Ray Rice assault casefrom his initial arrest until he appealed his suspensionoccurred over a seven-month timespan, it was important to map the (re)construction of the assault over time. Thus, I isolated five important time frames for analysis, broken into one-week intervals, in order to examine the initial framing of each event. The research questions that I sought to address were as follows: 1) Do journalists give voice to domestic violence victims, or do they continue to silence the voices of victims and support the hegemonic structure of oppression? 2) Do journalists discuss the larger cultural problem of domestic violence, or do they continue to treat domestic violence as an individual issue? 3) As new information is released and different events unfold, does the narrative change, and if so, what is the instigating factor? That is, how do different objects of reference construct particular understandings of domestic violence and possibly change the narrative? In answering these research questions, I argue that, after Rice's initial arrest and through his two-game suspension, many journalists conformed to previous patriarchal narratives that have consistently blamed the victim, excused the perpetrator, and ignored the social problem of domesticAdvisors/Committee Members: Joshua I. Newman (professor co-directing dissertation), Arthur A. Raney (professor co-directing dissertation), Michael D. Giardina (university representative), Donna M. Nudd (committee member), Brian Graves (committee member).