NIU Journalism Professor William P. Cassidy’s latest book, “Sports Journalism and Women Athletes: Coverage of Coming Out Stories,” examines the sports journalism coverage of the coming out stories of three prominent women athletes: tennis legend and feminist icon Billie Jean King, Basketball Hall of Fame Member Sheryl Swoopes and WNBA champion Brittney Griner. The book treads new ground as the first academic book to focus specifically on coming out stories of lesbian athletes and provides in-depth analysis from both a journalistic and scholarly perspective about the stories of these three athletes.
When King was outed in 1981, it marked one of the first times journalists were forced to discuss lesbian athletes in sports. Swoopes’ 2005 coming out was hailed as a historic moment due to her status as one of the best women’s basketball players of all time, while Griner’s casual public acknowledgment of her sexuality came during what many have called a more receptive environment for gay and lesbian athletes. By directly analyzing and comparing the media attention given to these three superstars, Cassidy provides a comprehensive overview of how journalists have historically addressed women and lesbian athletes in professional sports. This book will appeal to readers interested in sports journalism, the role of sport in society and media coverage of gay athletes.
“Women’s sports have typically been grossly under-represented in sports media coverage. Although elite lesbian athletes far outnumber ‘out’ male athletes, media scrutiny of their experiences remains largely non-existent. Largely situated in the context of improved cultural attitudes toward sexual minorities across the west, Cassidy’s [book] is a valuable contribution to the study of sports journalism and media, offering – for the first time – a dedicated and detailed account of the coming out of some of sports’ most high-profile lesbian athletes,” says Rory Magrath, Ph.D., a course leader in the School of Sport, Health and Social Sciences at Solent University in Great Britain.
Wayne Wanta, Ph.D., a professor of journalism at the University of Florida, notes that the book, “Combines two exceedingly important areas of research: sports journalism and media coverage of LGBTQ individuals. The intersection of these two areas are especially significant given the visibility of athletes and the admiration they hold in today’s societies. Cassidy’s previous book provides key insights into news coverage of male athletes’ coming out stories. The current book further adds to our understandings by examining coverage of women. Clearly, how the coverage of lesbian and gay athletes differs would tell us much about the reporting process in sports media and the potential impact this coverage would have on sports fans.”