Masculinity and Sports Media

Sports media also contributes to the construction of masculinity in contemporary society.

More than nineteen in twenty teens think of themselves as sports fans (though just a third consider themselves “avid” fans.)[1] Since professional sports are stereotypically dominated by men, sports media has the potential to transmit powerful ideas about manliness and masculinity.[2]

The male-dominated world of sports commentary also reinforces that women aren’t welcome in the male-majority world of sports. 90 percent of sports commentators in the United States are men; neither Monday Night Football nor college basketball’s “March Madness” tournament had any women as commentators until 2017.[3] By praising athletes who continue to play while injured, and by using language of conflict and war to describe action, sports commentary reinforces violence and aggression as exciting and rewarding behaviour. Speaking about male athletes, commentators most often use verbs such as “mastermind” “beat” “win” “battle” and “dominate,” while verbs used to describe women in sports include “compete” “participate” and “strive.”[4] Athletes and officials themselves frequently use homophobic language, which can both make sports and unwelcoming space for 2SLGBTQ+ boys and make it more difficult for them to be open about themselves. Andrea Barone, the first openly gay man in professional hockey, has said that “the homophobic language being used both on and off the ice […] only added to the hyper-masculine culture of the sport."[5]

Studies of video games and e-sports have had similar findings. Male characters in video games, for instance, are highly stereotyped, while video game “streamers” (who broadcast themselves playing video games) actually engage in more stereotyped behaviour than the games they stream, with one analysis finding they reinforced the “Man Box” in more than ninety-five percent of segments. This, in turn, appears to influence those viewing them: “where streamers use sexist, racist, homophobic, sizeist, ableist, or ageist language, we see a significant increase in this language use from viewers in the chat.”[6]

This focus on personal rivalry, conflict and fierce competition reinforces the social attitude that violence and aggression are normal and natural expressions of masculine identity. However, there are encouraging signs that sport culture is beginning to change, such as the You Can Play project, which has enlisted NHL teams, sports broadcasters and hockey stars to fight homophobia in hockey.[7] 

[1] Paquette, A. (2021) Teens Tune Out of Pro Sports. MediaPost. Retrieved from

[2] Vezzali, L., Visintin, E. P., Bisagno, E., Bröker, L., Cadamuro, A., Crapolicchio, E., ... & Harwood, J. (2023). Using sport media exposure to promote gender equality: Counter-stereotypical gender perceptions and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 26(2), 265-283.

[3] Serazio, M (2019) The enduring power of sexism in sports media. CNN. Retrieved from

[4] University of Cambridge (2016) Aesthetics over athletes when it comes to women in sports. Retrieved from

[5] CBC Sports. (2019) Hockey culture promotes homophobic language despite progressive attitude: study. CBC News.

[6] Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Oak Foundation and Promundo. (2021) ‘The Double-Edged Sword of Online Gaming: An Analysis of Masculinity in Video Games and the Gaming Community.’

[7] Johnston, Chris. NHL stars back Patrick Burke’s push to eliminate homophobia in hockey. Canadian Press, March 4 2012.