ESPN’s coverage of intimate partner violence in the National Football League

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On September 8, 2014, a graphic video showing Ray Rice punch and render his fiancée unconscious was released to the public. This event was a catalyst for discussion into how the media cover intimate partner violence (IPV) committed by National Football League (NFL) players. Media frames can shape the way audiences make sense of an issue. As the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) has a journalistic responsibility to frame and address sociocultural issues related to sports, especially those involving crime, health, and safety. IPV is a pervasive sociocultural issue affecting millions of people in the United States, and media frames can shape the way audiences understand the subject matter and the themes surrounding IPV. This research used qualitative textual analysis to examine ESPN’s website coverage of IPV incidents committed by NFL players 2 years prior to and after the Ray Rice incident. Our findings show that instances of IPV were more episodically than thematically framed before the Ray Rice incident. Framing of IPV was revealed in four themes: focus on the individual player, problem for the team, the NFL’s problem, and missing the point. Further analysis and theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3-25
JournalCommunication and Sport
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


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