Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Travis Bell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janelle Applequist, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Artemio Ramirez, Ph.D.


ESPN, Gatecrasher, Gatecrashing, NFL, sports, SportsCenter, twitter


This study provided a detailed examination into how gatekeeping theory is losing its traditional impact due to the increased opportunities social media has afforded the modern athlete. For the purposes of this research, those athletes who communicate through social media were able to circumvent traditional mainstream media (MSM) to broadcast their own messaging and as a result, the exclusivity of their respective content is frequently relevant to contemporary news organizations. The research explored how the MSM uses the content it airs from these athletes. An important distinction and goal of this study was to determine whether this messaging used by the MSM serves to break news or just support stories they were already planning to broadcast. This research concluded it accomplished both.

Using thematic analysis, this study coded six weeks of ESPN’s SportsCenter, the longest running daily sportscast in American history (Fang, 2014). The research evaluated 30 hours of programming and found the athletes’ impact was profound. SportsCenter aired a story which originated from a social media post 27 of the 30 days which often resulted in stories deemed the most meaningful in the show’s daily rundown. Nearly one third of the shows led with a story that originated from the athletes’ messaging while more than a third of the SportsCenter episodes researched aired content which was categorized as breaking news. The research illustrated the heighted trend of how these stories impacted traditional gatekeepers in terms of the premium by which the messages were received and ultimately broadcast.

This study characterized those athletes who provided traditional gatekeeping MSM platforms with meaningful content as gatecrashers. The research specifically illustrated how their content routinely resulted in the biggest stories on SportsCenter.

The results define a gatecrasher by showing the content which exploited the depth of how their impact has evolved. This study provided context on the evolution of the athlete on social media, including how it started, matured and escalated. The findings revealed the importance of that process in an increasingly relevant role of the gatecrasher.