The Players Tribune and the Ethically Iffy Practice of Ghostwriting

By John Carvalho

As a recent Mashable article noted, there’s a lot to admire and enjoy about the Players Tribune.

Derek Jeter’s sports website has become a powerhouse, attracting audiences and investors with its promise of content produced by an impressive roster of superstar athletes.

The website’s concept, however, is nothing new.  It has merely refined the ethically iffy practice of ghostwriting.

Since the late 19th century, newspapers realized that articles “written” by athletes would attract readers eager to get closer to superstar athletes and their thoughts.

As the United States left World War I behind and plunged into the Jazz Age, Christy Walsh–probably the first true sports agent–took ghostwriting to a new level, matching sportswriters with the iconic sports celebrities of the age (Babe Ruth, Knute Rockne) to generate copy and lots of money.

Jeter’s site certainly takes the athletes’ contribution more seriously than did Walsh, who bragged about the deceptiveness of his practice. (Sometimes his athletes never saw what went out under their “bylines.”)

However, Walsh and Jeter do share one practice in common:  The professional(s) providing the help for the athletes get zero credit.

Players Tribune gives the impression that the contribution is 100 percent the players’ words–unfiltered, as Jeter is fond of saying.

Of course, no one 100 percent believes that. Nor did they back in the early days of ghostwriting.

It’s nothing against the athletes themselves. Writing, like anything, is a craft that takes practice and a little skill. It’s no shame to need help with it.

A good editor can identify a lead and make a written piece flow better. All those Web pages and videos don’t create themselves.

Why, then, won’t Players Tribune give those trained professionals the “as told to” credit they deserve, for the work everyone knows they are doing?

Note: Don’t go telling me that this is not true journalism, that it’s a form of public relations, and that PR staff don’t get credit. Jeter promotes this as a form of journalism, with the same benefits to a trusting audience.

And since Jeter and his staff are practicing a form of journalism, they should be aware of the rules of that game, and the fair play that is expected.

The ethical concept of “transparency” is a fairly recent addition to the canons of journalism, the result of the changes wrought to the profession and industry by the Internet, and of the same decline in respect for journalism that fueled projects like Players Tribune.

As the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics describes the concept, transparency involves explaining processes and decisions to the public, particularly as they relate to ethics.

As it relates to The Players Tribune, everyone knows the process requires the involvement of a professional staff, so give them credit, Derek.

They’ve taken steps in that direction.  Last year, the Players Tribune added a staff page, titled, “The Team” (and isn’t it awesome to see Walter Iooss Jr. listed as a “photographer-at-large” there).

But it’s up to Jeter and his site to raise their game. They need to credit the individual contributions of these professionals who help create the memorable stories of The Players Tribune.

When Sports Illustrated got the exclusive to LeBron James’ 2014 announcement, “I’m Coming Home,” James and SI also credited Lee Jenkins, who helped James write it.

Such credit recognizes that journalism is also a team sport, with its superstars and its role players, its coaches and trainers.

So be a team player, Derek; give your teammates all the credit they deserve.



5 Ways Sports Communication Researchers Make a Difference

By Betsy Emmons

Whenever I think about my academic research home, I think of the fun first. We get to research sport, an aspect of the human experience that at its best, is the best of us. Many of us have been participants and fans of sports for much of our lives, and to keep investing in something that been such a big part of us is immensely fulfilling. Because our field includes fun, though, I sometimes get a jolt of imposter syndrome, like I’m sitting at the kids table while the adults are wrestling with the real problems at the grown-up table. I could not be more wrong in those moments. I know, because I hear and see it every day, that sports communication research matters. Here are five ways sport communication research makes a difference:

1. We look for underlying meanings in the ritual in sport.

Sport communication researchers have long known that the ritual of sport, from fan behaviors to athlete actions, say important things about what cultures value. Thanks to continued study, such meanings become mainstream fodder for the public forum, whether it’s Colin Kaepernick using the ritual of the national anthem as racial protest or Tim Tebow’s popularization of “The Tebow” pose. Public debate is important and healthy for society, and the common understandings sports communication researchers discuss in our sports rituals help facilitate it.

2. We discuss physical health as it bridges the context of sport to society.

Research by sports communication academics has paved the way for communicating about healthier eating, more diverse depictions of athletic bodies, broader discussion of senior citizens and exercise, and what a body is capable of, regardless of gender. Awareness of personal physical health has no doubt been shaped in part by sport communication research of health and exercise messaging, helping make messages clearer and more positive.

3. We expand the conversation about gender in sport to be more inclusive.

Whether it’s demonstrating that female soccer players have just as much audience interest as male soccer players or arguing that women athletes can be portrayed in the media without sexualizing them, sports communication researchers have helped make active strides toward gender equality.

4. We revisit “the way we’ve always done things.”

Important societal conversations have occurred because of research about the way concussions are discussed in sports. Rhetorical criticisms behind paying college athletes and challenging the ethics of bidding wars for international competitions when local populations suffer also challenge the notion of doing things the way they’ve always been done. Looking for humanity and ethics under why things are done is vital for making sure that there isn’t a better way.

5. We show that sport matters.

As an enormous economic, political, and entertainment juggernaut of the modern era, sports matter as much as they ever have. When billions of dollars, media hours, social media discussions, and international regulating bodies have a stake in sports, it is important for sports communication researchers to continue analyzing and learning.

As we continue to move discussions about sport into ever-evolving directions, I look forward to seeing how our research continues to dig deeper and look closer at an important, and yes, fun, discipline.

Future Grad Student Involvement

By Alexander Moe

Last years’ AEJMC Conference showed the range of topics and papers where students and faculty contributed in their pursuit of considering issues related to sports at the focal point of their inquiries. As the world of sports is as dynamic and complex as any other realm, grad student involvement is key for further development of the Sports Communication Interest Group (SCIG) as issues with today’s access to information will continue to evolve as issues in sport and society are arguably intertwined, yet to some degree the ones that occur within the boundaries of sport can also remain quite unique.

Grad students contribute in these efforts by bringing in phenomenological experience, maybe for the very first time, to be paired with empirical testing, analysis and evaluation. To focus on the inclusion of grad students from a range of methodological orientations as well as prior experience is vital for a dynamic and engaging interest group such as this one.

Here are some thoughts I have being provided the opportunity to share towards furthering graduate student engagement in, and exposing them toward the very possibility to do research, or being involved with other engagements as it pertains to the vast field of sports communication:

First, the establishment of a social media presence using specifically selected social media platforms that is thought to best serve the interest group: One idea could be to establish accounts using select platforms similar to other interest groups at other conferences. For instance, the creation of an Instagram account and/or a Facebook page that is officially linked to the AEJMC Sports Interest group could have an engaging factor in the utilization of such an alternative platform to spread information, along with highlighting latest news and perhaps closely aligned interest groups and divisions that are going on around the country, as well as around the world. The recruitment of graduate students to run these accounts, one may also introduce both engagement and recruitment through the development, and spreading of such online profiles.

Secondly, then, In the words of the great Bill Walsh; “let the score take care of itself,” through these channels, then, it can be assumed the ability to reach graduate students, as well as undergraduates pondering potential graduate school routes may become simpler due to some level of congruency with the direction of the AEJMC Sports Communication Interest Group as well as an indirect effort to tailor message designs that are unique to each platform (e.g., the use of pictures, videos, spread of newsletters and blog posts etc., and how these may differ).The potential and perhaps, need to foster such engagement with the variety in methodological approaches that were seen during previous year’s conferences, as well as outspoken promotions regarding hands-on symposiums that cover the range of sports communication as a field.

Lastly, the promotion of the variety toward how graduate and undergraduate classroom settings can take advantage of this spectrum may create a push/pull relationship among aspiring students who, as far as I believe, wish to contribute, but may in most cases lack a clear path toward how to do so, or even get started.

Thank you for your time, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone in Chicago in August!

Chicago Preview

by Molly Yanity

Chicago is one of the country’s finest sports cities with iconic franchises, historic venues and the shadows of some of sports’ all-time great athletes and personalities cast throughout.

AEJMC’s Sports Communication Interest Group had a high bar to reach given the rich history and current sports climate of this year’s host city. We believe we have done it, too.

Our members conjured up some fascinating and timely panels. We collaborated with critical partners. And, as always, our scholarship brings both theory and pragmatism to the halls of the academy, as well as those of the press boxes and boardrooms.

The Sports Comm Interest Group’s schedule is prime, too, with events scheduled Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, leaving the weekend for you to dive into Chicago’s lore (a burger and beer at The Billy Goat Tavern), its competitive nature (the White Sox host the Kansas City Royals) or its beauty (a tour of Wrigley Field, or the sports museum at Harry Caray’s.)

Our programming kicks off Wednesday, Aug. 9 (1:30 to 3 p.m.) with one of our two refereed research panels. Immediately after is a powerhouse panel co-sponsored by the Electonic News Interest Group entitled “#MoreThanMean: How Chicago Women in Sports and Media Fought Back Against Cyber Bullies.” Moderated by Nebraska-Omaha’s Jeremy Lipschultz, it features Julie DiCaro of 670 The Score, Cubs beat writer Carrie Muscrat, WGN’s Amy Guth and Quinnipiac University’s Molly Yanity.

The annual members’ meeting and awards presentation will take place on Thursday, Aug. 10 (1:30-3 p.m.), followed by our second refereed research presentations.

And, on Friday, Aug. 11, we host our grand finale – two more MVP panels.

Wake up early to get a seat at our star-studded research panel at 8:15 a.m., “Much More Than the Toy Department: The Role of Sports Media in Shaping the Discussion about Major Issues in Society,” co-hosted with the LGBTQ Interest Group.

Penn State professor Jan Boehmer moderates this panel of the field’s pre-eminent scholars, Andy Billings (Alabama), Edward “Ted” Kian (Oklahoma State) and Joseph Michael Cabosky (UNC-Chapel Hill), pros-turned-profs John Affleck (Penn State) and Kevin Blackistone (Maryland), as well as USA Today national sports writer Nancy Armour.

We wrap up programming at 1:45 p.m., Friday as we share the stage with the Media Management, Economics & Entrepreneurship Division. “The Future of Online Sports Content” will be moderated by South Carolina professor Kevin Hull and feature Ronen Shay of St. John Fisher College, WGN’s Elyse Russo and a representative from Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox.

Of course, you will be able to see your colleagues’ research on display in the Peer-to-Peer Research sessions, and social functions will be added to our calendar soon. We look forward to seeing you in the Windy City in August.

2016 Conference Program

Thursday, 10 am to 11:30 am

Refereed Research Paper Session: How Do You Identify? Fans, Journalists and Identification

Danielle Coombs, Kent State

“I’m Not a Fan. I’m a Journalist!” Measuring American Sports Journalists’ Sports Enthusiasm
Sada Reed, Arizona State

Perennial Performance and Fan Identification: Beyond BIRGing and CORFing Theory**
Stan Diel, Alabama

Sports Team Identity & Sports Media Consumption Motivation as Predictors of Total Sports Media Consumption*
Daniel Krier, Michigan State

Team Identification in Traditional and Fantasy Football Fandom: Contradictory of Complementary Concepts?
Yiyi Yang and Andrew Billings, Alabama, and Brody Ruihley, Cincinnati

The Mascot That Wouldn’t Die: A Case Study of Fan Identification and Mascot Loyalty
Brad Schultz, Mississippi, and Mary Lou Sheffer, Southern Mississippi

Elizabeth Emmons, Samford

Thursday, 5 pm to 6:30 pm

Research Panel Session: From Kane to Cooky and Beyond: Research on Women, Sport and Media

Sports Communication Interest Group and Newspaper and Online News Division

Molly Yanity, Quinnipiac

Nicole LaVoi, University of Minnesota, Tucker Center
Mary Jo Kane, University of Minnesota, Tucker Center
Susan Dun, Northwestern University in Qatar


Friday, 1:30 pm to 3 pm

Research Paper Session

Sports Communication Interest Group

High Power Kick: Framing of the USWNT 2015 World Cup Victory on American Front Pages
Roxane Coche, Memphis and Travis Bell, South Florida

How the West Was Lost: Geographic Bias on Sports Network Highlight Shows
Rich Johnson, Creighton and Miles Romney, South Carolina

Perceptions of Credibility and Likability in Broadcast Commentators of Women’s Sports
Angela Pratt, Morgan Tedlock, Lauren Watts, Taylor Wilson and Bryan Denham, Clemson

Toward a Better Understanding of Sport Fanship: Comparing Objective Sport Knowledge and Subjective Self-Identification
Dustin Hahn, West Texas A&M and Glenn Cummins, Texas Tech

“Crammed in the Locker Room:” Sports Journalists and Access to Sources
Brian Moritz, Oswego

John Carvalho, Auburn


Friday, 5 pm to 6:30 pm

Research Panel Session: Sports, Religion, and Media: Exploring a Postmodern Belief System

Sports Communication and Religion and Media Interest Groups
Quint Randle, Brigham Young

Jan Slater, Illinois at Urbana
John Shrader, California State University, Long Beach
Daniel Stout, Brigham Young – Hawaii
Ben Burroughs, Nevada, Las Vegas


Friday, 8:30 pm to 10 pm

Business Session: Members’ Meeting

Sports Communication Interest Group

Danielle Coombs, Kent State


Saturday, 8:15 am to 9:45 am

Teaching Panel Session: E-Crowding the Gridiron: Balancing Journalism Practices and Online

Community Journalism and Sports Communication Interest Groups

Community Building in Local Sports Journalism

Marcus Funk, Sam Houston State

Michael Rand, Digital Sports Editor, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Sada Reed, Arizona State
Ted Kian, Oklahoma State
Rich Johnson, Creighton


Saturday, 3:30 pm to 5 pm

Refereed Paper Research Session: Frames and Games in America’s Sport

Sports Communication Interest Group

John Shrader, California State University, Long Beach

Michael Sam’s Coming Out: Media Frames of an Openly Gay Athlete
Jane O’Boyle and Leigh Moscowitz, South Carolina and Andrew Billings, Alabama

More Than the Usual Suspects
Bill Cassidy, Northern Illinois

Race and the Deep Ball: Applying Stereotypes to NFL Quarterbacks*
Patrick Ferrucci, Colorado and Edson Tandoc, Nanyang Technological University

Understanding Motivations and Engagement Outcomes of Social TV Participation: A Case Study of the Super Bowl
Di Wu and Eunice Kim, Florida

‘I Don’t Think It’s Worth the Risk:’ Media Framing of the Chris Borland Retirement in Digital and Print Media**
David Cassilo, Kent State and Jimmy Sanderson, Clemson

Molly Yanity, Quinnipiac

* First Place, Faculty Paper Competition
** Second Place, Faculty Paper Competition


Sunday, 8:15 am to 9:45 am

PF&R Panel Session:  Double Dribble: Why Does the Double Standard with Coverage of Women’s Sports Live On?

Steve Fox, Massachusetts-Amherst
Tracy Everbach, North Texas
Danielle Sarver Coombs, Kent State
John Shrader, Cal State-Long Beach

AEJMC 2016: Call for Reviewers

Dear Sports Interest Group members & friends,

It is time to think about signing up to be a reviewer for the AEJMC Sports Communication Interest Group 2016 paper competition. I know that this is a major undertaking, and I appreciate your willingness to judge papers for the group this year.

To review for SPIG, I ask that you take two steps right now:

  • Please go to the All-Academic site through the AEJMC website and create an account (username and password) in the All-Academic System. Go to the right side of the page and scroll down until you come to “Click here to create new username and password.” NOTE: Even if you did this last year, you must do it again for this summer’s conference.
    I would like for you to create your account by Friday, March 11. This will allow for assignments of papers to proceed quickly and you will have immediate access to your assigned papers to judge soon after the All-Academic system closes for paper uploading. Creating your username and password will also allow you to submit, judge and download papers all from the same created account. You will not be able to view anything yet with All-Academic, but creating your username and password will allow us to complete the process of updating the site for the Minneapolis 2016 Paper Competition. Again, each year is unique, and if you created an account last year, you will need to do so again this year.
  • Once you’ve created an account in All-Academic, please go to this link and fill out this brief survey. This will give us a little bit of information about you, your research interests, and how much you feel you can review for us this year. We can’t always honor your requests, but will attempt to match your interests as much as is possible based on our reviewer pool.

Thank you for assisting the Sports Interest Group. Your willingness to help is invaluable as we expand and strengthen our group. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or John Carvalho. I look forward to working with you this year.

Molly Yanity, Ph.D.
Co-Chair, Research, Sports Interest Group, AEJMC



Paper Call: AEJMC 2016 Sports Communication Interest Group

AEJMC 2016

AEJMC’s 99th Annual Conference will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota • August 4-7

The Sports Communication Interest Group invites faculty and student submission of original research papers that focus on sports. Submissions must contain a clear media dimension such as traditional media (newspapers, TV, radio), digital or social media or strategic communication (PR, advertising, or sports marketing).

Submissions should be theoretically grounded and offer tangible evidence of scholarly rigor. We welcome qualitative and quantitative research methods; we encourage a broad spectrum of approaches, including sociological, historical, critical, pedagogical, and cultural research. Only one paper per author will be accepted for review. Submissions must not be under consideration elsewhere for presentation or publication.

Please see the AEJMC Uniform Call for Papers for applicable submission requirements and instructions to upload to the All-Academic site and on how to successfully remove identifying information. We strongly recommend submitting early so you have time to check your uploaded document to ensure no identifying information is included. Papers should be no longer than 25 pages, double-spaced (not including tables, figures and references), using a standard 12-point font. Papers that do not meet the AEJMC Uniform Call for Papers requirements will not be accepted.

Faculty and student submissions will undergo separate blind review processes by faculty-only judges. Student papers coauthored by faculty will be inserted into the faculty pool, regardless of lead author status. Student authors — undergraduate and graduate students enrolled during the 2015-2016 school year — should include a cover sheet that clearly states the paper is a student submission. Submissions should contain no identifying information, such as name, university affiliation, or job title. Please be certain that any identification that may occur via electronic means is fully removed, as the presence of any identifying information, whether intended or unintended, will result in removal from consideration.

Please direct questions about submissions to John Carvalho at Auburn University ( or Molly K. Yanity at Quinnipiac University (