A comparative content analysis about athletes involved in sexual assault cases using situational crisis communication theory



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Sexual assault in athletics has become a prevalent issue across college campuses (Benedict, Crosset, & McDonald, 1995). These sexual assaults cases have turned into public relations crises requiring those who serve as crisis mangers to come up with response strategies to best protect the reputation of the athlete involved. The present study is a comparative content analysis that uses Situational Crisis Communication Theory to evaluate the use of response strategies in newspaper articles during the initial response period of two athlete’s sexual assault cases. Articles from the first week of the Treon Harris, University of Florida quarterback, and Jameis Winston, Florida State University quarterback, sexual assault cases were selected from top circulating Florida and national newspapers. Eighty-two online articles were coded to identify the crisis response strategy used by the spokesperson, the affect of the article and type of spokesperson identified/mentioned in the article. The primary aim of this research is to compare how two different cases involving sexual assault were presented in the media and, based on this initial media coverage, to evaluate how much initial crisis responsibility was taken in each case. Implications for stakeholder perceptions of organization and player reputations will be discussed.



Situational Crisis Communication Theory