Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Communication & Sport


Article in Press




This study explored how one United States-based sports media company (SMC) represents disability through their Twitter account. A directed content analysis approach was utilized to analyze the tweets of the SMC for calendar year 2019. Of 6080 tweets reviewed, 126 (2.1%) were determined to represent disabled athletes or individuals. 43 (34.1%) tweets represented disabled athletes or individuals in participant roles while 83 (65.9%) represented disabled individuals in spectator or nonathlete roles. The tweets were coded into one of four categories of disability portrayal (Garland-Thomson, 2002): wonderous (n = 73), sentimental (n = 43), realistic (n = 7), and exotic (n = 3). They were then open coded into relevant subcategories to provide more context. Findings demonstrate that despite the flexibility and opportunity to feature more diverse sports and athletes through one of their social media platforms (Twitter), the SMC chooses to continue the hegemonic practices deployed in their traditional outlets that focus on nondisabled athletes, popular sports, and representing disabled athletes and individuals through ableist and charity-focused narratives. By drawing attention to these inequities, we may be able to promote change and more equitable opportunities for disabled athletes as sports journalism is cemented in digital platforms.


© The Authors 2023.

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.

Original Publication Citation

Holland, K., Holland, S. K., & Haegele, J. A. (2023). Inspirational and worthy of charity: (Mis)representations of disability in sport media. Communication & Sport, 1-20.


0000-0002-8580-4782 (Haegele)