Date of Award

Fall 12-2013

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Mary Lou Sheffer

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism


In recent years many elite professional athletes have been criticized in the media for questionable on and off the field behavior. How these athletes use social media to reframe or repair their public images was the focus of this research. Research on social media has grown in recent years, but still remains relatively shallow, making the strong correlation between social media and sport the ideal breeding ground for this exploratory research. This study confined social media use to the way in which two purposefully selected professional athletes - Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong - use Twitter to self-present and directly communicate with their followers. A quantitative content analysis was conducted to collect data for this research. To quantify the information, 592 Tweets were coded and then analyzed using SPSS. Previous literature (Dittmer, 2010; Hambrick, Frederick & Sanderson, 2013) suggested heavily scrutinized professional athletes used Twitter to promote a personal brand and challenge competing media narratives, in turn compromising the media’s role as agenda setter (Cohen, 1963). According to Cassidy (2006), such athletes are overriding the journalist’s traditional role as gatekeeper, thus redefining selective exposure’s impact in today’s changing media landscape (Messing & Westwood, 2012). This study found that elite professional athletes are using this new flow of information to promote images of self that bypass media misrepresentation (Goffman, 1959). This research further concluded that such athletes use Twitter to unhinge their images from the association of negative press, but in fundamentally different ways.

Included in

Social Media Commons