Sport, Media and {Global-National} Identities

The Sport Broadcasting module has entered its second big area – media representations – and we have kicked off the discussion by looking at how sports media talk about distinct global and national identities. It is commonly said that the current mediatisation of professional sports has not only made it available 24/7 in multiple media platforms (see post on new media and sport here; and post on sports broadcasting panorama here) but it did also across diverse places around the world. In a sense, professional sport is now permanently available across time and space.

Moreover, sports mediatisation is commonly associated with globalisation and specifically one form of understanding it – as a ever increasing movement towards homogeneity as in the figure of McDonaldisation when we look at cultural globalisation. Nevertheless, this is far from true as what we encounter when looking at {global and national} sports media is a form of syncretism (hybridisation) where the local and global are meshed together. On the machine learning analysis I have performed on 10 different print media (five from the UK, one from France, one from the USA, one from Italy, one from Spain, and one from Argentina) the publication pattern I have encountered is something I conceptualised as the sport national cultural bias; where both global and national elements are present (see my post here [use the translation function on iOS 14 Safari or on Google Chrome]).

Another way of looking global and national identities in regards of sports media is to reflect on how those identities are portrayed or represented through the different narratives. What is commonly found is a we versus them narrative where the them is created as oppositely different to the we (othering). Similar to what Edward Said has shown in regards of Orientalism and other cultural elements such as books and plays (see YouTube video below), sports media do use similar narratives when representing others irrespectively if they are a global far other or a closer local other (think about regionalism and how different regions in the UK are portrayed in the media).

And what better than a worldwide event such as the FIFA Men’s World Cup to see how those representations are present. As I have shown in this blog post (link here) questions of belongingness are commonly portrayed in sports and non-sports media as with this Instagram post from Trevor Noah and the subsequent letter from the French Ambassador to the USA and Noah’s discussion on his TV show (YouTube link below).

View this post on Instagram

Artwork by M.Rifaï

A post shared by Trevor Noah (@trevornoah) on

As I have argued before, both Noah and the French Ambassador fell in the territorial prison of identity trap by focusing on homogeneity in regards of national identity by forgetting the long historical cultural syncretism between Africa and Europe.

Another way of looking at global and national identities in sports media by using FIFA World Cups as example is to reflect on banal nationalism and how this same global event is re-interpreted locally by the myriad of media platforms. As I have discussed previously in this blog post (link here) supporters tend to connect with their local media and commonly this local media uses othering narratives to construct the World Cup as an event.

We might argue that othering is not good in an ethical perspective as those narratives are intrinsically hierarchical, but is this good in making the event more attractive for viewers and sponsors? What should be the role of media? Are those narratives a true reflection of reality or are they intentional? And what would be those intentions?

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