Modern media – Given athletes a voice or increased the level of scrutiny?

Through the globalisation of sport via traditional media outlets such as radio, newspaper, television and magazines, the top sports athletes began to be house-hold names on a global scale. However, due to the disruptive nature of new media technologies, the insatiable appetite for sports content has long surpassed just the on-field action (Bellamy, 2013; Rowe, 2013). Modern media such as social media (Twitter, instagram, Facebook) has provided athletes the ability to have a voice and express their opinions, in the hope of being seen as more relatable to their many followers on the platform. However, with the level of interest in athletes and the sport they participate in, athletes have never been scrutinised more from the public and ex professionals in their field. This raises the question has modern media given athletes a voice or just put them in the firing line for extra criticism?

Due to the disruptive nature of new media technologies, the insatiable appetite for sports content has long surpassed just the on-field action.’

(Rowe, 2013)

Instagram is arguably the most influential of all the social networks, allowing sports athletes the opportunity to interact with their followers and allow insight into their private lives in a way in which hasn’t been possible before. However, opening the door to aspects of your personal life to millions of people from around the world doesn’t come without its issues.

Sport is now easily streamed all over the world, allowing sports fans to become accustom to enjoying new and different sports to that of what they wouldn’t of been able to access before, with advancements in technology, digital media and consumption behaviours evolving

Before social media, sports athletes were largely unknown apart from their glaring sporting ability. With traditional media, sports fans could only hear from their favourite sports stars in very short, robotic tv interviews. Newspapers were the source of most information before the monumental rise of the internet, with media having the power to reach mass audience, providing a degree of consensus of what is true (McQuail & Deuze, 2020). Athletes had to succumb to negative articles published in newspapers across the country, often being taken as gospel without them having an opportunity to explain their side to the stories that were written.

With more interest in sports teams and athletes on a global scale, athletes have more eyes on them than ever before, with brand image and reputation as a professional being questioned. It is not uncommon for a sports athletes ‘off the field’ actions to be mentioned along side what they do in their chosen sport. Marcus Rashford being an example of an athlete using his profile to help important matters in society. However, as soon as he had a dip in performances,

many questioned that his focus was elsewhere and that he should ‘focus on football’. It has never been easier to contact a famous athlete via comment sections and direct messaging. This can be used in many positive ways, however, it appears that there will always be the minority that choose to troll and spout evil things to athletes in the lime light.

Athletes are now becoming established brands, occasionally having more followers online than the team they represent. Sports teams are a businesses after all and merchandise and ticket sales are vital, the marketing of athletes via social media will continue to grow in being an important factor for an athletes longevity. Utilised correctly, sports athletes will raise their profile and gain a larger influence. However, in todays cancel culture, one wrong move and you’re yesterdays news.

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