Date of Award

Spring 2020

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Honors Bachelor of Arts




David Painter

Committee Member

Raghabendra KC

Committee Member

Brittani Sahm


Professional sports are a rich industry for corporate social responsibility (CSR) research because today’s sports organizations are big businesses that generate shared identities and strong affective connections among fans, teams, and players. Further, today’s professional sports consumers expect organizations to behave in socially responsible ways and to give back to their communities. While nearly every sports organization, like most other major businesses, practices CSR, sports teams are in a unique position because they receive greater media coverage than other businesses. Not all of this coverage is positive, however, as news reports about the controversy over compensation inequities in women’s soccer have elevated conversations about gender equity not just in sports, but also in society at large. Moreover, research suggests that men’s team sports receive much greater coverage than their women counterparts. These differences in media coverage and compensation create a compelling context for comparing news reports of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) team’s socially responsible behaviors. Specifically, this quantitative content analysis compared local newspaper coverage of three NWSL and three MLS teams’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) behaviors. The results indicate that there were significant differences in the quantity, tone, and framing of the CSR coverage. Not only did the MLS receive significantly greater and more positive coverage than the NWSL, but also the issue, source, and visual frames differed significantly between leagues. These findings’ implications in terms of CSR, framing, and gender theories in the context of the professional sports industry as well as practical suggestions for journalists and news consumers are also discussed.

Rights Holder

Paul Schattschneider