Historically, the world of sport has served as a symbolic site for social justice, ushering change in the wider society and inspiring movements that often do not directly or solely tie to sport. Recently, academics and sports journalists have noted a “rebirth” of athlete activism in the United States. Despite the activism of women of color, who have initiated and been at the center of these movements, and sportswomen’s outspokenness on a variety of social justice issues, women’s roles are rendered invisible in narratives that instead privilege sportsmen or men’s professional leagues. We examine articulations of feminism in the context of athlete activism and re-center the role of sportswomen. Drawing upon social media, official statements from athletes, and online news media coverage, we locate feminist narratives in networked communication, specifically in the Women’s National Basketball Association’s activism as it relates to #BlackLivesMatter and the U.S. women’s soccer equal pay lawsuit. Our analytical approach is attuned to how feminism circulates in an economy of visibility, where certain feminisms become more visible than others. Our findings illustrate how narratives of solidarity and collectivism are informed by articulations of intersectional and neoliberal feminisms. This article concludes with a call for sports media scholars to tell stories differently.
- athlete activism
- equal pay
- United States Women’s National Team
- Women’s National Basketball Association