Suicide on the Sidelines


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Suicide on the Sidelines Media Portrayals of NFL Players' Suicides from June 2000 to September 2012
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1 online resource (129 p.)
Karimipour, Nicki
University of Florida
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Gainesville, Fla.
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Master's ( M.A.M.C.)
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University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Mass Communication, Journalism and Communications
Committee Chair:
Treise, Deborah M
Committee Members:
Duke, Lisa Lee
Baralt, Claire


Subjects / Keywords:
athlete -- framing -- media -- nfl -- qualitative -- suicide
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
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theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
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From 2000 until 2012 there have been more than a dozen suicides by current or retired NFL athletes. Stories about these suicides have made their way into mainstream news and sport-related media coverage. Current research does not fully account for all of the important aspects related to suicide among athletes—especially NFL athletes—nor does it explore the ways in which the suicides have been covered by mass media. Furthermore, there has not been a comprehensive analysis to identify the way in which the media covered the stories or what themes exist in the coverage. This study examines media coverage of NFL athlete suicides from June 2000 to September 2012 in six sources: The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post (print); ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report (online). The study discusses the results of qualitative content analysis performed on the 176 articles, using framing analysis to address the specific research questions. Ultimately, this research presents current media portrayals and discussion of commonly appearing frames, discusses thematic elements and framing tools, gives recommendations for journalists covering suicide, and provides suggestions for future scholarship on the topic.
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by Nicki Karimipour.
Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2013.
Adviser: Treise, Deborah M.
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2 2013 Nicki Karimipour


3 For Rob


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am immensely grateful to Dr. Debbie Treise for her constant and invaluable Always there when I needed her, s he has helped me become a b etter researcher, student and person have asked for a better mentor. She has inspired and influenced me mor I would also like to thank my committee members Dr. Lisa Duke and Claire Baralt for their insight, advice and support along the way Immense thanks are due to m y par ents, Reza and Ashie Karimipour. They have my sincerest gratitude for their unwavering care and guidance throughout my academic career and supporting me wholeheartedly in all of my dreams and endeavors. Particularly, I realize that I am forever indebted to my mom, who convinced me to pursue jou rnalism in the first place who is never to o busy to answer my phone calls, and is the person I strive t o be one day, if I should ever be so lucky. To my little brother Cam eron, thank you for always being proud of me. continue to give you something to brag to your friends about. I could not have come this far without the support and encouragement of the College of Journalism and Communications professors and administrative staff; in addition to my family, f riends and loved ones who have helped me along this journey.


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 7 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 9 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ .......................... 14 The Stigma of Suicide and Mental Illness ................................ ............................... 14 Suicide Risk Factors ................................ ................................ ............................... 16 Suicide Contagion ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 17 Suicide Prevention ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 18 Anthropology of Sport ................................ ................................ ............................. 20 History of the National Football League (NFL) ................................ ........................ 21 Presence of Masculinity and Heroism Mythos in Sports ................................ ......... 23 Hegemonic Masculinity and Football ................................ ................................ ...... 24 Suicide among Athletes ................................ ................................ .......................... 26 NFL ................................ .............................. 27 Motivations for Sport Participation ................................ ................................ .......... 29 Sport related Injuries; Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) .......................... 30 Suicides and CTE ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 32 External Factors for Suicide ................................ ................................ .................... 34 Sports and the Media ................................ ................................ .............................. 36 Framing Theory ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 37 3 METHODOLOGY ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 40 Qualitative Content Analysis ................................ ................................ ................... 40 Framing Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 41 Qualitative Coding Process ................................ ................................ ..................... 42 Source Selection ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 44 Article Selection ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 47 4 RESULTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 49 Results of Article Collection ................................ ................................ .................... 49 Results of Qualitative Framing Analysis ................................ ................................ .. 51 RQ1: What are the Commonly Appearing Frames Found in the Articles? ....... 51 Caus es ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 52 Character: Masculinity ................................ ................................ ............... 54


6 Character: Reputation ................................ ................................ ................ 57 Medical: P revention ................................ ................................ ................... 60 Medical: Research ................................ ................................ ..................... 61 Medical: Last wishes ................................ ................................ .................. 63 Legal ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 65 Religious ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 66 RQ2: How Does the Cove rage of Suicides Change over Time (2000 2012)? .. 68 RQ3: What Specific Language and Framing Tools Do the Media Use to Discuss These Su icides (i.e., Specific Buzzwords And Phrases), and How Often Do They Occur? ................................ ................................ .................. 70 5 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 73 Analysis of Commonly Appearing Frames ................................ .............................. 73 Changes over Time ................................ ................................ ................................ 81 Buzzwords Used as Framing Tools ................................ ................................ ........ 82 Importance of the Issue ................................ ................................ .......................... 86 Theoretical and Practical Implications ................................ ................................ .... 88 Limitations and Future Research ................................ ................................ ............ 94 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 97 APPENDIX: CODING GUIDELINES ................................ ................................ ............. 99 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 102 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 129


7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 4 1 Description of final sample by source ................................ ................................ ...... 50 4 2 Articles by yearly publish date ................................ ................................ ................. 51 4 3 Information about commonly appearing frames ................................ ...................... 52 4 4 s ................................ ............................... 69 4 5 Description of framing tools ................................ ................................ ..................... 71


8 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Arts in Mass Communication SUICIDE ON THE SIDEL INES: MEDIA PORTRAYA SUICIDES FROM JUNE 2000 TO SE PTEMBER 2012 By Nicki Karimipour August 2013 Chair: Debbie Treise Major: Mass Communication From 2000 until 2012 there have been more than a dozen suicides by current or retired NFL athletes. Stories about these suicides have made their way into mainstream news and sport related media coverage. Current research does not fully account for all of t he important aspects related to suicide among athletes especially NFL athletes nor does it explore the ways in which the suicides have been covered by mass media. Furthermore, there has not been a comprehensive analysis to identify the way in which the med ia covered the stories or what themes exist in the coverage. This study examines media coverage of NFL athlete suicides from June 2000 to September 2012 in six sources: The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post (print) ; ESPN, Sports Illust rated and Bleacher Report (online). The study discusses the results of qualitative content analysis performed on the 176 articles, using framing analysis to address the specific research questions. Ultimately, this research presents current media portra yal s and discussion of commonly appearing frames, discusses thematic elements and framing tools, gives recommendations for journalists covering suicide, and provides suggestions for future scholarship on the topic.


9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Every 18 minutes, som eone dies by suicide (Joiner, 2005, p. 29). Worldwide, there are more than half a million suicides per year, and more than 30,000 people in the United States die by suicide annually (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.; Joiner, 2005, p. 29). In 2001, leading cause of death (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.). Despite its position as a leading pub lic health issue, what sets suicide apart from some other leading causes of death is that it is preventable with effective therapeutic and treatment interventions. half of all v iolent deaths and resulting in almost one million fatalities every year, as well its status as a pressing public health issue, suicide is preventable. In light of such statistics, this research examines the ways in which the media discusses the high profile deaths of NFL athletes. Qualitative framing analysis was chosen as the methodology for this study NFL athletes and coverage of their suicide, an area that has not been heavily researched. For that reason, both elite print and popular sport related online outlets were surveyed for content. Established theories on suicide demonstrate that media coverage of high profile use of


10 professional sports, suicide and mental health. When covered incorrectly, articles discussing high profile suicides can even inspire contagions whereby other individuals co mmit suicide around the same time and perhaps in a similar manner (National Institute of Mental Health et al., n.d.; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention et al., n.d). Suicide among athletes is not a new phenomenon, though it has not been heavily res earched. A prevalent issue in the National Football League (NFL), suicide among players has been gaining national media attention in recent years. According to an NFL Mortality Study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (N the general public. The theory was that these men are likely to be risk takers and a nd Health, 1994, p.1). Suicide theories have shown that having a risk taking personality, as many professional football players do, can make an individual more predisposed to suicide, among other prevalent risk factors (Lester, 1989). Due to the inherent p opularity of professional sports, particularly NFL football, it is worthwhile to understand how the media cover s this controversial topic. Depending on the way the issue of suicides in the NFL is framed, there can be potentially adverse effects on viewers, especially adolescents who may idolize these figures. The purpose of this research is to identify the ways in which the mainstream and sports example, whether they possibly aid i n sensationalizing the death, speculating on motives for suicide, or perpetuating the stereotype that men must adhere to


11 unattainable standards of masculinity standards that are often heavily surrounded by famous sports figure. This research will investigate print and online media from six well known media outlets from June 2000 until September 2012 using The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times as print s ources; and, and as online sources. These print sources were chosen because they are among the most elite American newspapers (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996, p. 46), consistently rank among the highest circulati ng daily newspapers, and they represent a wide geographical range within the United States. The aforementioned online websites were chosen because Sports Illustrated and ESPN are consistently ranked in the top 10 among the most popular websites for sports consumers (Fisher; comScore Media Metrix, 2012). Both ESPN and Sports Illustrated are the only websites that also publish in print ESPN The Magazine publishes biweekly and Sports Illustrated publishe s weekly. Some articles from Sports Illustrated and ESPN included in the sample for this research were published in both print and online. The other online source, Bleacher Report, combines a blog format with sport powered sports ccording to commercial web traffic website Alexa (Alexa Internet Inc., 2013). According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 44 million (Newburger, 2001). Accessibil ity and availability of computers and the Internet are important factors to receiving information. The media landscape has shifted greatly from 2000 until 2012, which is why print and online sources were used for data collection.


12 Choosing a time frame wher e there was widespread access and availability of computers and the Internet was an imperative aspect of this time frame, in addition to diversifying media sources to include print and online. Framing theory was utilized to conduct a qualitative content an alysis of the collected articles. This theory sets the foundation for understanding how print and online media depicted the NFL players and how their suicides were discussed. This study contributes to the literature because little research has been conduct ed regarding media coverage of suicide among NFL athletes. NFL players have been dying by suicide since the 1920s when the league was officially instated, but perhaps even earlier. It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many NFL athletes died by suicide over a certain time period because publicity and media coverage of their death is largely contingent upon their fame and media coverage tends from a self inflicted gunsho t wound at the age of 85 (Goldstein, 2000). From June 2000 2000 suicide, two deaths occurred in 2006, then one per year from 2009 to 2011, and five occurring in 2012 alon e. As a result of these suicides, the NFL has gained national media attention. This research looks at the commonly appearing media frames of NFL suicides, how the frames changed over time; trends in the increase of media coverage; specific language and fra ming tools used to discuss the suicides, external factors the media suggest contributed to the suicide, and discussion of motive or the presence of a suicide note or last wishes.


13 The rest of this thesis is arranged as follows: Chapter 2 further pre sents relevant statistics; focuses on the various factors that may influence athlete suicides, and surveys the associated issues using other past relevant research, literature and theories. It also lays out the applicable research questions studied in this analysis. Chapter 3 discusses the criteria used for selecting the print and online articles used in the qualitative framing analysis in addition to explanation of the methodology used in this study. Chapter 4 presents the results of the framing analysis a nd includes a discussion of the salient frames and framing techniques used in the articles using an informational coding sheet that was developed and completed for each article. Along with the framing analysis, there is also a description of how coverage c hanged over time. Findings for each of the research questions also are addressed. Chapter 5 discusses the significance of these findings in relation to already established psychological theories and practical applications. This chapter also reiterates the importance of this topic, discusses theoretical and practical implications, describes the limitations of this study and lays out possibilities for future areas of research.


14 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW The Stigma of Suicide and Mental Illness A very complex topic, suicide (and mental illness) is often stigmatized. Stigmas are present in various forms, whether societal, environmental or religious. Historically, suicide has been stigmatized by religion since ancient times. Although the act of suicide was toler ated by Greeks and Romans, (Alvarez, 1990, p. 59) it was not until Greek that the act was stigmatized (Tadros & Jolley, 2001). Other religions such as Buddhism and Hindui sm did not view suicide as an inherently negative act, as did Judeo Christianity until the 4th century. Suicide is not condemned in the Bible, (Barraclough, 1992, p. 64; Gearing & eptable The City of God, written by Saint Augustine around 413 A.D., de whoever kills a man, ose who 127 4; Gearing & Lizardi, 2008, p. 334). According to Aquinas, confession of sin must be made before leaving Earth thus, suicide is an especially serious sin because those who commit the act are unable to confess and/or repent (Kennedy, 2000; Phipps, 1985, p. 971).


15 The stigma against suicide increased in Europe until it eventually became more than a sin it became a crime (Tadros & Jolley, 2001). Writers such as William Shakespeare attempted to lessen the stigma against suicide by making it a frequent feature in his tragedies: the attitude toward suicide in Shakespeare's plays, pagan and Christian, is generally one of acceptance. Although some resulted from a misunderstanding of the situation (Romeo, Cassius), many of the suicides are depicted as, at the least, n ecessary and honorable (Othello, Antony), while others are noble, even glori ous (Titinius, Eros, Cleopatra) (Kirkland, 1999, p. 662). In many parts of the world, suicide and attempted suicide was illegal for many years. In 1961, it became decriminalized in New Zealand and the United Kingdom (Levine & Pyke, 1999), among the last European countries to do so. Suicide is no states classify attempted suicide as a criminal act, but pr Dictionary, n.d.). The stigma of suicide reaches beyond legal issues, and may also affect emotional and psychological aspects such as grief and bereavement. One study ed to some extent about reason for lying about the cause of death is because bereavement from the loss of a loved one to suicide is different from other types of grief. A study was conducted with relatives of those who have died by suicide, using in depth qualitative interviews to feelings of bereavement (Begley & Quayle, 2007, p. 28). Fou r master themes were uncovered: controlling the impact of the suicide, making sense of the suicide, social


16 uneasiness, and purposefulness (p. 29). Although the relatives of the deceased would go through many different phases of grief, they shared similar l ived experiences when dealing with the suicide of a loved one. The final subtheme purposefulness, suggested magi The attachment meant that participants had adapted to a life without the physical presence of the de ceased and it was achieved Suicide Risk Factors al Health, n.d.). Risk factors include the presence of a mental disorder (such as depression or a substance abuse disorder), family history of mental disorders/substance abuse/suicide, presence of firearms in the home, family violence such as physical or s exual abuse, n.d.). Along with these risk factors, suicide is also associated with neurotransmitter (brain chemical) fluctuations, such as serotonin (National Institute of Mental Health, impulsive disorders, and a history of suicide attempts, and in th e brains of suicide Every year it is estimated that 26.2% of Americans aged 18 and older or one in four adults has a diagnosable mental disorder. Because suicide is heavily associated with mental illne ss, it is often stigmatized as a result. This stigma is particularly present in ethnic minorities African Americans in particular (Joe, Canetto, & Romer, 2008). This is important because many of the NFL athletes who died by suicide from June


17 2000 to Septem ber 2012 were African American. In addition to its presence in minority populations, the stigma may be more pervasive in sports where masculinity and machismo drive each pl explain why so many players stay silent about the emotional, physical and mental issues they face as high profi le, professional athletes. Cases of athletes suffering from a mental illness are under reported (if reported at all). And the instances where depression and mental illness do become a topic of conversation among major news outlets usually follow a tragic event like [N (Ulanday & Crowder, 2011). Suicide C ontagion A cluster of suicides that occur close in time is referred to as a contagion, which ould, Jamieson, & Romer, 2003, p. 1270). It has been proven numerous times that the number of suicides increases following extensive media coverage of a particular suicide case or multiple cases. Suicide contagion is the most prevalent among adolescents (D avidson, 1989; Phillips & Carstensen, 1986). Media related factors that escalate the number of suicides as a result of contagion include: increase in the number of stories about an individual suicide; a particular death reported at length or for a prolonged period of time; the story is prominently fe atured on the front page of a newspaper, at the beginning of a televised broadcast or on the main page of a website; and the headline is dramatic (Phillips, behavior in any way, particularly in ways that romanticize or glorify it, or make it seem


18 easy and normative 2005, p. 43). Related to cases of the media romanticizing and glorifying death by suicide is the case of celebrity deaths to by federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and organiza tions such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and American Association of Suicidology has been shown to decrease suicide rates (Sonneck, Ezterdorfer, & Nagel Kuess, 1994; Etzersdorfer & Sonneck, 1998). Suicide P revention Despite the recent Institute of Medicine report that identified the paucity of research on the stigma of suicide as an important barrier to suicide prevention, no prevention study has focused on reducing the stigma of suicide or examined systematically whether it should be a part of suicide prevention strategies, particularly for ethnic minori ty populations (Joe et al., 2008, p. 6). Suicide prevention is not always easy. Due to the lack of research on stigma reduction and an atmosphere that inspires players to simply undermi ne or ignore their suicidal thoughts, it may be difficult to identify situations in which treatments or interventions might be necessary. inevitably. It is the final step of a progre be Predictors of completed suicide include previous attempts, threats, situational hints, family hints, emotional hints, behavioral hints, and mental illness (Grollman, 1988, p. 63


19 75). Previous attempts indicate intention to die or may serve as a cry for help or intervention. People who want to co mmit suicide may reveal their desire by communicating about it. Indications can be spoken or nonverbal (Grollman, 1988, p. 64). Situational risks include difficult financial times and/or other experiences that may drive someone to kill him or herself. Suic ide risk is high in people who are diagnosed with a progressive illness; or experiencing economic distress, death of a loved one, and/or divorce/domestic difficulties (Grollman, 1988, p. 66). The family hint consists of crisis situations or situations in w hich the suicidal person is exposed to depressing familial circumstances. For example, being around or living with other family members who are depressed. In a study of adolescents who had taken their lives, it was discovered that almost all of the victims preoccupied with suicide. If the person finally decides to take his or her life, it is really an acting out of the antisocial impulses that are covertly present in other family members (Grollman, 1988, p. 67). Interna lizing thoughts and emotions may make an individual more susceptible to personality that changes suddenly the majority of potential suicides suffer from depression. Beha behavior shifts in a markedly different way. This can manifest itself in substance or alcohol abuse. Mental illness affects suicidal individuals and may come in the form of chemical im balances and a family history of depression or mental illness (Grollman, ri sk factors for suicide (Grollman, 1988, p. 73).


20 Anthropology of S port Anyone who reads the newspaper, watches television, or listens to casual conversation on the street is undoubtedly aware of the ubiquitous nature of sport. It is everywhere; it flavors o ur national culture, and permeates every corner of our daily lives. It has almost become i ts own medium of communication (Blanchard, 1995, p. xvii). The popularity of organized sport has been a hallmark of various cultures and societies since ancient time s (Crowther, 2007, p. xxii). Organized sport has been around as long as humans have there are records of many ancient cultures partaking in sport. In contemporary American culture, sports are consistently among the most popular and highest grossing events ever. The Super Bowl brand was rated number one among other sporting events by gross revenue generated per day of competition in 2010, as reported by Forbes Magazine (Schwartz, 2010a). The Super Bowl brand value was rated at $420 million in 2010, attracti ng a record U.S. audience of 106.5 million and NFL generated revenue of $6.03 billion in 2005 and in 2004; the average NFL franchise Sport is a tantalizing subject. N o subject, except sex, is a more constant preoccupation in the physical lives of Americans. We also like t o read about it, in formats ranging from tabloid sports is unsurprising that it has become intricately tied to the social, relational, psychological and financial id entity of the United States.


21 History of the National Football League (NFL) On November 6, 1869, Rutgers University and Princeton played the first ever college football game (, 2012). It was out of the tradition of these intercollegiate games that a precursor to professional football was born (Maltby, 1997, p. 6). During During the nineteenth century, many athletic clubs began dev eloping in urban general financial support necessary for the clubs to function. Beyond that, the athletic associations also fulfilled various social as well as recreational nee 1997, p. 9). Within these athletic associations, various forms of organized sport became prominent, including football. After the Crescent Athletic Club of Brooklyn adopted teams as well as other athletic associations. The athletic clubs loomed large in the popularization of football as a spectator sport in Ame Established in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the early 1890s, the Pittsburgh Athletic Club (PAC) and the Allegheny Athletic Association (AAA) were two athletic clubs with Yale All America guard William Heffelfinger. He was paid $500 by the AAA to play In 1902, Colonel John Rogers formed a professional football team, the Phillies (Maltby, 1997, p. 71). Soon after, plans were made for a National Football League of


22 1902 who led the Pittsburgh franchise and became league president. The NFL of 1902 included two clubs from Philadelphia and teams from Pittsburgh, New York, and Chicago (Maltby, 1997, p. 72). The three NFL teams played each other as well as squads from outside associations. Although it was not successful, the league raise d awareness for professional football and was necessary to its development (Maltby, 1997, p. 73). Thus, professional football The first league of professional football teams, the American Professional Football Association, was created in 1920. The National Football League (NFL) officially began out of this tradition in 1922. In 1936, the first player draft occurred and the game witnessed increased popularity among public fans. Cardinals, the Detroit Lions, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Giants were teams representing major cities from around the country (Zhu & Bolding, n.d.). From increase conducted September 25 27 [2012], found that 59 percent of Americans follow pro football, the highest level of interest in the NFL that Harris has ever found in its regular studie M., 2012).


23 Presence of Masculinity and Heroism Mythos in Sports is a dominant masculinity that has been idealized in U.S. culture (Hardin, Kuehn, Jones, Genovese, & Balaji, 2009, p. 184; Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). It is identif Considering the unparalleled popularity of organized sports in the United States, particularly professional football, team sports particularly conta ct sports have long maintained utility in shaping and Kian, 2012, p. 154; Hargreaves, 1994; Messner, 1992). Going beyond hegemonic masculinity in American football, it i s important to note that the discussion of masculinity and the inherent gender difference also has important implications to suicide. Per year, approximately four times as many men as women die by suicide (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.). Furthe rmore, suicide rates are the highest among white men over the age of 85 (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.). Also within these social constructs is the concept of heroism in sports: In ancient times, the hero, usually a warrior, was a legendary fi gure who performed brave and noble deeds of great significance, who possessed attributes of great stature such as bravery, strength, and steadfastness, and who was th ought to be favored by the gods (Wenner, 1998, p. 134). In the modern age, the traditiona l construction of hero has been replaced by the celebrity 2002, p. 137; Boorstin, 1978, p. 61). In contemporary American sports culture, athletes


24 are considered heroes because of th eir consistently outstanding long term performance, paired with intellect; in addition to qualities of moral and social responsibility (Wenner, 2002, p. 137; Reid & Austin, 2012). Thus, images of celebrity, the concept of traditional heroism and constructi ons of hegemonic masculinity inform the modern creation of the prominence over other players. Sport is not just a symbolic signifier of male competence but assists in the embodiment of hardness, particularly of external muscular hardness. In male sport there is a competitive pitting of the brute force of one's body against the brute force of others, creating both a carapace for the self and a knowledge of one's own forc e and bodily competence. To win is to momentarily become the hero whose sureness of body can be taken for granted. To be is to be powerful, a nd anyone who is not, is flawed (Davies, 1993, p. 95). In addition to being revered as heroes, football players are also viewed as role emulating. Along with athletic ability, the sports star as role mode l embodies many characteristics such as bravery, courage and toughness. In many cases, the sports star is glamourized as a hero, celebrity or role model due to his ubiquitous nature being texts, entertainment p. 287). Hegemonic Masculinity and Football In simple terms, hegemony is broadly defined as a form of cultural control. According to Marxist and Italian critical theorist Antonio Gramsci, hegemony is defined


25 groups in involves persuasion of the greater part of the population, particularly through the media, and th Hegemony permeates many facets of society, particularly in sports. Within the sports arena, hegemony comes into play in situations in whic h athletes establish themselves as dominant, powerful and exert their power through various methods. the ritualistic nature Two important issues related to hegemonic masculinity include heterosexuality and homophobia (Donaldson, 1993, p. 645). A societally accepted criterion for being the archetypal football players tends to be heterosexuality, explicit displays of masculinity and emphasis on athletic prowess Functioning similarly to a brotherhood or fraternity, football as a sport tends to be heterosexually centric and focused on ousting those who do not fit into the norm (Keddie, 2002). Reconstructing the myth that used to surround gladiators and athletes o f antiquity to fit the football players of today is also a common facet of modern sports a myth that has not faded with the passage of time. Thus, it is no wonder that violence is an inherent aspect of hegemonic masculinity in sports. As a practice, sports violence helps


26 create hegemonic masculinity (Messner, 1992). From a young age, boys are indoctrinated to behave a certain way in order to be accepted in their peer groups, especially in sport locker rooms. Boys utilize football culture as a way to establi sh, implement and perform masculinity (Keddie, 2002). Previous studies involving young boys have shown that sports can have positive effects, such as in promoting physical and social skills, friendship and teamwork (Swain, 2000, p. 2). However, it is possi ble that these favorable experiences could be overshadowed by domination and even 2002). Suicide among Athletes Worldwide, there are more than half a million suicides per year and approximately 30,000 people in the United States die by suicide annually (Joiner, 2005, p. 29). With a suicide occurring once every 18 minutes, this mode of dying c onstitutes p. 29). Some groups or individuals have an increased risk for dying by suicide white males over the age of 65 die at the highest rate (National Institute o f Mental Health, n.d.). Past self injury is the most powerful and dangerous way to acquire lethality. According to the present theory, however, it is not the only means. There should be high rates of suicidality in people who have repeatedly experienced an d thus habituated to injury and pain, even if not through self harm per se (Joiner, 2005, p. 68). The aforementioned idea of repeated exposure to injury is thought to be an important determinant for possibility of suicide. Coupled with the statistic that approximately 65% of NFL athletes retire with permanent injuries, prolonged


27 experiences with pain are commonplace (Ruettgers, n.d.). It is also important to note Ruettgers, n.d.). A prominent current theory of suicide maintains that a key factor that makes suicide possible, despite our robust survival instinct, is repeated exposure to injury. This desensitizing process is thought to take some of the fear out of se lf harm, to the extent that depression and despair are able to evol ve into self destructive action (Ellis, 2012). In an article by Smith and Milliner, they investigated the varying emotional and psychological responses that athletes may have to their injur ies. Their findings revealed injured athletes, he/she would experience increased f eelings of depression, anger and other mood disturbances lasting a month or more following injury (p. 337). Furthermore, of five injured athletes, looking for the comm on factors: The five injured athletes who attempted suicide shared several common factors. All had experienced 1) considerable success before sustaining injury; 2) a serious injury requiring surgery; 3) a long, arduous rehabilitation with restriction from their preferred sport; 4) a lack of preinjury competence on return to sport; and 5) being replaced in their positions by teammates (Smith & Milliner, 1994, p. 337). NFL o 2012 In recent years, issues of suicide and depression in NFL athletes have become the focus of media attention. During the time frame of this study, June 2000 to September 2012, 11 NFL players died by suicide: Larry Kelley, Andre Waters, Terry Long, Shane Dronett, Kenny McKinley, Dave Duerson, Mike Current, R ay Easterling, Kurt Crain, Junior Seau, and O.J. Murdock.


28 Larry Kelley died by self inflicted gunshot wound in his New Jersey home in June 2000 (Goldstein, 2000). Andre Waters died in November 2006 by self inflicted gunshot wound in his Tampa home ( m news services, 2006). Terry Long, a lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, ingested antifreeze to commit suicide in June 2006 (Associated died of meningitis due to CTE, but the death certificate has since been revised to football his home in January 2009 after suffering from symptoms such as paranoid outbursts and fits of rage and violence related to a degenerative disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Following his death, Boston University researchers confirmed 2011). Kenny McKinley, who was on injury reserve for the Denver Broncos at the time of his death, shot himself using a .45 caliber semi automatic handgun in September 2010 (Rosenberg, 2012). Ex C hicago Bears safety Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest in February 2011 to preserve his brain for post mortem study (Smith, S., 2011). Once an offensive tackle for the Denver Broncos, Mike Current shot himself in the head in an Oregon wildlife refuge a rea in January 2012 (Steffen, 2012). Former NFL player Kurt Crain was serving as associate head football coach for South Alabama University when he committed suicide in April 2012, at age 47. Before the most recent suicide of Tennessee Titans wide receiver O.J. Murdock in July 2012, retired New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau killed himself in May 2012, and Atlanta Falcons safety


29 Ray Easterling died two weeks before in April 2012 of a self inflicted gunshot wound ( Bishop & Davis, 2012, B13). There w aforementioned athletes died by self inflicted gunsh ot wounds except for Terry Long. Table 2 1. Athlete death information Athlete name Month/year of death Age at death Larry Kelley June 2000 85 Andre Waters November 2006 44 Terry Long June 2006 45 Shane Dronett January 2009 38 Kenny McKinley September 2010 23 Dave Duerson February 2011 50 Mike Current January 2012 66 Ray Easterling April 2012 62 Kurt Crain April 2012 47 Junior Seau May 2012 43 O.J. Murdock July 2012 25 Motivations for Sport Participation There are many different aspects of athletic participation that motivate athletes to partake in organized sports. Among these, the most prevalent conscious reasons include unconscious motivating factors r, 1994, p. 340). Although participating in sports may have positive aspects, it is also important to recognize and understand the negative implications, such as sustaining injury: Psychosocial stressors such as a serious athletic injury prompt depression and, on occasion, even suicidal ideation. It seems likely that serious athletic


30 injury is a psychosocial stressor that is most ominous when it is in the presence of other risk factors (Smith & Milliner, 1994, p. 340). Identifying risk factors for suicide m ay aid in understanding the motivations an psychosocial life events, chronic mental illness, personality traits consistent with maladjustment, a family history of suicidal ten dency/genetic predisposition, and a Sport related Injuries; Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Due to the nature of their profession and the sport in which they participate, NFL football players are constantly being exposed to bodily harm that compounds over time. It is speculated by medical experts that sports related injuries, especially concussions, may be an important risk factor for the onset of depression and in some cases, suicide. Currentl y, there is no well established consensus among medical professionals and physicians regarding the connection between concussions and suicides, although this topic has been a hot button issue in the news, especially in recent years. With 32 NFL teams total each with a roster made up of 53 men, the total number of active and inactive players is 1,696 (Weir, 2009). As of 2009, the total number of former NFL players in the United States was 6,983 (Weir, 2009). The sheer numbers of current and former players m akes them a particularly at risk population for sustaining injuries and head trauma. A study from 2000 that surveyed 1,090 former NFL players found that than 60 percent had suffered at least one concussion in their careers and 26 percent had three or ( Injuries in Football 2010). Athletes who reported suffering from concussions also reported problems with memory, concentration, speech impediments, headaches, and other neurological problems than


31 those who had ( Injuries in 2010). The NFL commissioned a study disease or other memory problems 19 times more than the normal rate for men 2011). A neurodegenerative disease closely connected with sport related concussions or traumatic brain injuries is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). It is classified as of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic init 33). What is now known by medical professionals as CTE was first identified in the 1920s, when it was most notably associated with boxing (McKee et al., 2009, p. 709). Th e concept of CTE was first officially introduced in 1928 by Dr. Harrison Martland, who e p Webster Online Dictionary, n.d.). However, CTE is also prevalent in and associated with


32 the they have died. Originally, CTE was most commonly identified in boxers, but has since been observed in the pos tmortem brains of athletes from other contact sports such as football, hockey, soccer and wrestling (Saulle & Greenwald, 2012, p. 1). For individuals Suicides and CTE Some neu rologists have been making the link between suicides and CTE since Bennet Omalu, forensic pathologist, neuropathologist and founding member of the Brain Injury Research Insti tute believes that there is strong evidence to suggest a connection between multiple concussions (post concussion syndrome), CTE, and subsequent CTE a neurological disor der associated with repeated head trauma that is classified the Brain Injury Research Ins titute in Boston have been studying the brains of deceased of Medicine, called the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. Bennet Omalu, Ann McKee, Kevin Gusk iewicz, Julian Bailes, and Robert Cantu are just a few among many names that have appeared in the media frequently as quoted expert sources for articles relating to concussions, CTE and other head/brain injuries, especially as these medical issues relate t o the NFL. According to re search conducted


33 by Guskiewicz et al., concussions are a potential risk factor for neurodegenerative 904). Research by Saulle & Greenwald (2012) in dicated that many athletes who play years with depression, substance abuse, anger, memory/motor disturbances, and When discussing the link between CTE and suicide, some media outlets make the suggestion that the disease and the outcome are related; whereas others make sure to explicitly mention that the two may be related but there exists no definitive, incontestable correlation and/or causation link. In a New York Times article from September 2010, the suicide of a University of Pennsylvania football player sparked Dr. Stern and other experts in the field emphasized that C.T.E. could not be blamed have exacerbated his sudden depression and compromised his ability to think clearly about his actions (Schwarz, 201 0a p. A1 ). Despite the possible connections between head trauma, CTE and suicides, the NFL has denied and downplayed the connection for years. Following the research performed by scientists on the brains of deceased professional football players, the leag decline, stating the need for further research to confirm any findings. Until fall 2009, the NFL was still denying any possible links until receiving criticism by the House Judicia ry Committee (Hanna, 2012, p. 12). Since then, the league changed their view and revamped the committee by replacing some members with neurologists. The NFL also


34 donated $1 million to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston Universit y (Hanna, 2012, p. 13). External Factors for Suicide Suicide as a method of death is not easy to understand and clearly assigning a definitive motive for death is not possible, as it is an amalgamation of various experiences, factors and issues. However, many suicide experts believe that the prolonged experience of certain feelings may be contributing factors. Among these are feelings of isolation, burdensomeness, and the past ability for self harm (Joiner, 2005). According to a study done by Joiner and hi s colleagues, a representative list of other variables for predicting likelihood of suicide include the demographic variables of age, marital status, and ethnicity; family history of suicide, depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol abuse; personal histo ry of legal trouble as an adult and as a juvenile; current and past diagnoses of depression and bipolar disorder; depression, hopelessness, problem solving difficulties, borderline personality symptoms, drug dependence symptoms, alcohol dependence symptoms and negative life events (Joiner, 2005, p. 63). There can also be many situationally related external factors that motivate as a culmination of these many internal and external factors. Some examples of external factors that may play a role in the act of suicide include financial problems (debt, gambling, bankruptcy), legal troubles (lawsuits, fines, transgressions of the law), drug use and addiction problems, relations hip and familial issues (divorce, child custody battles, breakups). Many of the athletes who committed suicide had one or more of these issues prevalent in their lives at the time of their death. The average annual NFL player's salary is 25 times greater than that of the With such wealth, however, also


35 comes the potential for financial troubles. Experiencing financial woes is not a new occurrence among athletes: Although salaries have risen steadily durin g the last three decades, reports from a host of sources (athletes, players' associations, agents and financial advisers) indicate that by the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial st ress be cause of joblessness or divorce (Torre, 2009, p. 2). It is these subsequent financial losses that may have played a significant role in the development of suicidal thoughts in the 11 deceased players who were investigated in this research. For examp le, former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Terry Long experienced myriad financial and legal issues during his lifetime. He had a history of failed businesses, including a chicken processing plant (Culverhouse, 2011). In 2003, the plant burned down, leaving authorities to speculate that Long may have been behind the arson. He also committed mail fraud, insurance fraud and defrauded the state of Philadelphia for about $1.2 million dollars. Ultimately, a grand jury indicted Long on eight counts of mail fraud and arson. In court, Long cited financial troubles, claiming to make payments of $10,000 a month on a $1.6 million loan (Mandak, 2005). Retired in financial trouble s hortly before his suicide (Perry, 2012a). Another external factor, relationship troubles, may also affect the lives of athletes and cause them distress. Former defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals Andre Waters was in the midst of a custody battle for his daughter (Habib, 2010). According to a neighbor, Terry Long was depressed over the separation from his second wife at the time of his death (ESPN news services, 2006).


36 Sports and the Media Sports have been a feature of media cov erage since ancient times, beginning ch traditions were also observed in various ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, Sumerians, Minoan and Mycenaean Greeks and in time periods such as the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman eras (Bryant & Raney, 2006, p. 5 8). In the United States, media co verage of sport has been shifting throughout the ages the Agricultural, Industrial, and finally, the Information Age. During the Agriculture Age, one way print media such as newspapers and magazines were the primary mode of communication for sports stories. In the Industrial Age, it was one way electronic media such as radio, television, and film. And in the to one as well as many to many ryant & Raney, 2006, p. 38). The Information Age is marked by the development of the Internet and digital communications during the 1960s, and defined by the fact that more than half of ey, 2006, p. 38). Indeed, easy accessibility to computers and the Internet are essential factors for the Information Age. During this time, multiple technologies exist for media coverage, including print, radio, television, Internet based websites and soci al media. The ubiquitous nature of Internet based websites devoted to sports news and


37 maintained, and there were almost no multimedia elements (Chapman, 2009). The primary function of these websites was to inform and disseminate information without heavy us ever website which began in 1995. Since then, the website has changed its name to in 1998, as it currently is known today (Bryant & Holt, 2006, p. 41). social media and multimedia integrations. These sites also help sports organizations achieve strategic business goals, including hel ping enable fans to continuously monitor news about their favorite teams, (Mullin, Hardy, & Sutton, 2007) to buy tickets and merchandise (Rein, Kotler, & Shields, 2006), to facilitate e commerce (Schwarz & Hunter, 2008), and to create dialog between fans a nd t eams (Johnson Morgan & Sassenberg, 2010). YouTube and streaming videos, game highlights, and integration with various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds and hyperlinks. The popularity of sport related websites cannot be understated, as the United States constitutes the number one online sports market based on the percentage of users visiting the sports category. In July 2011, approximately 70.7% of U.S. on line users aged 15 and older visited a sports site from a home or work computer (comScore Data Mine, 2011). Framing Theory Used as a theoretical foundation for this thesis, framing is a method of analyzing ways in which information is presented by media to the public. This is important because media frames can influence and contribute to the ways the public understand


38 an issue (Hertog & McLeod, 2001). With roots in both psychology and sociology, s characterized in news Tewksbury, 2007, p. 11). Framing is the process whereby the news media presents an issue to the public, thus influencing and shaping their opinions and responses to such issues In particular journalists often subconsciously engage in essent ially the same Framing theory argues that news frames function to suggest how audiences can interpret an issue or event. In fact, news frames can exert a relatively substantial attitudes, and behaviors (Tewksbury & Scheufele 2008, p. 19). This level of control and power can have particularly important implications for the presentation of issues relating to health and public safety. News organizations have a great deal of power to influence public perception about major issues. For that reason, this is an appropriate theoretical underpinning and method by which to analyze the news article that discussed the suicides of NFL athletes from 2000 to 2012. An important aspect of framing theory is the inclusion of certain framing devices. of phrases, depictions, and visual images as framing These framing devices add meaning to the article and provide insight into how the journalist, blogger or news organization as a whole packaged this information to the public. According to Entman, news frames can be


3 9 identified and subsequently analyzed usin keywords, stock phrases, stereotyped images, sources of information and sentences 52).


40 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY A qualitative framing analysis was conducted to survey the print and online media coverage of NFL athlete suicides from the time period of June 2000 until September 2012. Print articles were retrieved from elite, high circulating news media agencies based in the United States and online articles came from widely read, well known sports media outlets. Qualitative Content Analysis vantage of qualitative obvious, whereas quantitative content analysis focuses (Schreier, 2012, p. 15). The goal of the researcher was to go beyond the manifest content and systematically uncover the latent content of the articles. Manifest content is defined as methods approach using both qualitativ e and quantitative elements allowed for a multi dimensional understanding of the information at hand. with the theoretical and substantive interests of the researcher and the pro blem being


41 the method because it allows for a more detailed understanding of the deeper meaning of the news articles when contrasted with a purely quantitative approach ( Creswell, language intensely for the purpose of classifying large amounts of text into an efficient number of categories (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005, p. 1278). Framing Analysis Framing analysis was chosen because it provides a glimpse into the way in suicides. Media frames are important because they can influence an d contribute to the ways the public understand an issue (Hertog & McLeod, 2001). Framing analysis is a process by which researchers evaluate media forms such as news articles, clips, magazine articles, et cetera for themes; evaluation of the themes present or absent in a set of media materials helps us understand what type of (Miller & Reic hert, 2001, p. 114). consists of identifying the most integral concepts in a set of frames (Hertog & McLeod, 2001, p. 147). After that, researchers investigate master narratives, vocabulary, and possibly assign qualitative codes to the texts. Framing theory and analysis can serve as important underpinnings when analyzing texts, such as news arti cles. By using framing as a theoretical foundation and framing analysis as a method, researchers can better


42 understand how specific issues presented by the media can in turn influence the behavior of the public. Qualitative Coding Process The constant comparative method was used to conduct this qualitative research. The constant comp arative method is an aspect of grounded t heory as d eveloped by Gla ser and Strauss (1967). Concerned with the systematization of the analysis process, the co nsta concerned with in hand are then analysed again and compared with the new data 393). A ccording to Maxwell, the first step in qualitative analysis is reading the researcher, which may consist of memos, categorizing strategies (such as coding, thematic analysis), and/or co nnecting strategies such as narrative analysis (Maxwell, 2013, p. 105). Most qualitative researchers perform many, if not all of the aforementioned analytic options at various points during the research process. Glaser and Strauss (Boeije, 2002, p. 391). Coding articles was an important facet of this research, and inductive frames were developed during the qualitative content analysis process. Coding in qualitative research categories that facilitate comparison between things in the same category and that aid


43 in the de vel opment of theoretical concepts organizing the data into broader themes emerge from the frequent, dominant or significant themes in (Thomas, 2003, p. 2). Inductive frames are developed by the researcher, not generated beforehand like a priori codes (Creswell, 2007, p. 152). Thus, frames in this research ased on the material at hand (Schreier, 2012, p. 94). In data driven qualitative content analyses, it is especially Schreir, 2012, p. 94). Following the collection of print and online articles, a co coder was recruited to perform open coding with the researcher. 2002, p. 395). The co researcher and co coder read 10% of the articles comprising the total sample size and coded for initial themes Changes were made to the coding sheet following the open coding session. After coming up with appropriate inductive codes, the researcher revised the coding sheet and the remaining articles were coded. A set of master frames and sub dimensions were created based on the information that emerged from the eby data are put back together in new ways after open


44 coding, by making c onnections between categories. This is done by utilizing a coding paradigm involving conditions, context, action/interactional strategies and Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 96). this research until the frames reached a point of saturation in which the information developed by the researcher. Frames and sub dimensions were then edited and collapsed until only the most salient and frequently appearing were included. At that time, the frames and associated sub dimensions were finalized. Along with assigning approp riate codes and sub dimensions, the data collected and title (if available), word count, main topic of story, mention of concussion/CTE/both, names of athletes menti oned in article, use of Twitter integration (yes or no), enumeration of various words used as framing tools, frames found in article. Further explanation of these can be found in the coding sheet/guidelines (Appendix A). Source Selection The year 2000 was chosen to analyze because in August of that year, 54 million households (51%) had one or more computers (Newburger, 2001). Access to computers and the Internet is essential for obtaining information, especially news and sports updates. According to The Pew their news from online sources in fact, half of all adults in the United States have a mobile connection to the Internet, whe ther it is through a smartphone or tablet. Additionally, about 46 percent of Americans own a smartphone many of whom are


45 using it to follow news. Reading news articles on is a n important activity among smartphone owners, 64% of tablet owners and 62% of sma rtphone owners say they use the devices for perusing news at least weekly ( Excellence in Journalism, 2012). Spanning the time frame of 2000 to 2012 ensured that sports consumers would have multiple options for obtaining ne ws and sports updates from print and online sources. Newspapers have been an important part of sports culture since they began in the late 1800s (Schultz, 2010, p. 25). Elite national media outlets were chosen because they are among the most widely circula ted daily print newspapers in the country (Weprin, 2012). Since this research spans over a 12 year period, finding sources that were highly ranked throughout the time frame was important, in addition to diversifying the sources by choosing to analyze artic les from both print and online sources. Elite newspapers including The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times were chosen for inclusion in this study because they are considered elite print sources, they represent a wide geographical range a nd consistently rank among the widest circulating newspapers in the United States (Romensko, 2011). newspapers now provide even more analysis and opinion and rely less on acting as a Many of the articles originally published in print were also available onl result of the challenge of the Internet to traditional media forms, almost all major daily


46 (Nicholson, 2006, p. 28). Among the three online media sources selected for the purposes of this research, ESPN and Sports Illustrated were chosen because both are well known and recognizable brand names for sports readers. Unlike rivals such as Yahoo! Sports, ESPN and SI mostly provide original content, instead of aggregatin g articles and linking to external websites as Yahoo! frequently does. Bleacher Report (BR) is an ugust 2012 play American online sports media outlet, the 2007 purchase of by Yahoo for $98 ontent and blog like format, as contributors chosen and approved by the organization are permitted to upload articles (Bleacher Report, 2013). According to commercial web traffic website unity powered Founded in 2007, Bleacher Report also uses social media integration to draw a (Fidelman, 2011). Sport websites with a blog layout and full availability of social media features have become the fut ure of online sport content. Bleacher Report was created to fill a void in sports content providing


47 an amplified outlet for writers whose unique voices were routinely drowned out by cookie r eaders whose favorite teams were routinely under covered by national wire services and mainstream news corporations; a civilized community for commenters whose intelligent debates were routinely overrun by message board blo whards and mean spirited trolls (Bleacher Report, 2013). Article S election Print and online articles used in this framing analysis were chosen on the basis that they discussed these 11 athlete suicides at a substantive level for example, fly in the passing of a larger story unrelated to his death were excluded. Only articles about NFL athletes whose deaths were ruled as a suicide by law enforcement or medical experts were included. Suicide attempts, drug overdose, accidents, and murder sui cides were not included. The overall sample size was further screened to include only American based print and online sources (written in English only); the article had a minimum word count of 100 to ensure it contained adequate textual content for coding. The databases used to find the print articles were ProQuest Historical Newspapers, ProQuest National Newspapers and LexisNexis Academic. Keywords the LexisNexis dat abase, an advanced search for full text articles was performed with article, among All News (English) in the custom date range of June 1, 2000 to September 1, 2012. In the Pr oQuest database, an advanced search was performed for 2000. These settings were applied to search simultaneously across three newspaper


48 databases: The Washington Post (1987 current), The New York Times (1980 current), and The Los Angeles Times (1985 current). To retrieve the onl to sear ch on the websites of ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report. Articles without bylines or by wire services (such as the Associated Press or ESPN news services, for example) were included. Duplicates were excluded. All available articles were read and screened to match the criteria. Video coverage, letters to the editor, and simple line obituaries were excluded. News articles and opinion pieces were included. Articles that were directly linked to on the ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report site s were included.


49 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS Results of Article Collectio n Of the collected print and online articles, the final sample size was 176 articles. The unit of analysis for this investigation was the individual print and online article. The databases used to find the print articles were ProQuest Historical Newspapers, ProQuest National Newspapers and LexisNexis Academ ic. The online articles were retri eved directly from the websites of ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report. In the LexisNexis database, an advanced search using the aforementioned keywords and applied settings produced 999 results, 596 of which were from newspapers. Among the three print sources, the total sample size was 53 results The New York Times had 42 results, The Washington Post had 10 results, and The Los Angeles Times had 1 result. These articles were read and further screened to meet the aforementioned criteria. Of the 53 results, the final sample size of usable articles from LexisNexis was four. In the ProQuest database, the results of the advanced search with the a ssociated keywords and settings produced 501 results. Of these, 18 were included in the final sample size. For all print articles, the total unfiltered sample size across all databases was 1,500. After applying the aforementioned criteria, the final sample size used was 22 print articles (four from LexisNexis and 18 from ProQuest). The online articles were retrieved from the websites of ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report. (also known as ) produced 156 results (66 of whi ch were stories); ( ) produced


50 ( ) produced 641 results. Ultimately, the original sample size of online articles shrunk du e to unusable links, resulting in exclusion of some articles. ESPN contained 49 usable articles, Sports Illustrated contained 21, and the Bleacher Report contained 84 for a total of 154 articles. Combined with the 22 print articles, the grand total for all articles was 176 (n=176). Table 4 1. Description of final sample by source Source # of articles % Bleacher Report 84 48 ESPN 49 28 Sports Illustrated 21 12 New York Times 11 6 Los Angeles Times 8 5 Washington Post 2 1 Total 176 100.0 The total sample size of 176 articles obtained from print and online media sources was then analyzed for salie nt frames, associated sub dimensions and informational categories outlined in the coding sheet and guidelines (Appendix A) such as headline, source where t cetera. T he average word count for all articles was 763. The shortest article contained 105 words and the longest contained 3,015 words. Two articles were written and published in 2000, none i n 2001, none in 2002, none in 2003, none in 2004, none in 2005, one in 2006, two in 2007, none in 2008, one in 2009, 10 in 2010, 18 in 2011, and 142 in 2012. Given the heavy distribution of articles in 2012, it appears the news coverage was correlated with the year of the highest number of suicides.


51 Table 4 2. Articles by yearly publish date Year # of articles published Percentage 2000 2 1 2001 0 0 2002 0 0 2003 0 0 2004 0 0 2005 0 0 2006 1 0.5 2007 2 1 2008 0 0 2009 1 0.5 2010 10 6 2011 18 10 2012 142 81 Total 176 100.0 The five f rames found in the articles included: causes, character, medical, legal, and religious. Two of these frames included sub dimensions. For example, the character frame included the two sub dimensions of masculinity and reputation The medical frame included prevention, research, and last wishes as sub dimensions. In addition to frames and sub frames, buzzwords found in the articles were coded and enumerated. These buzzwords were considered framing techniques (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 2). Results of Qualitative Framing Analysis RQ1: What are the Commonly Appearing Frames Found in the Articles ? Results of the framing analysis showed the most common frames found in the articles (in o rder of frequency) were: causes (n=160; 91%), character: masculinity (n=134; 76%), character: reputation (n=131; 74%), medical: prevention (n=73; 42%), medical: research (n=71; 40%), medical: last wishes (n=59; 34%), legal (n=40; 23%), and religious (n=36; 21%).


52 Table 4 3. Information about commonly appearing frames Frame # of articles Percentage Causes 160 91 Character: M asculinity 134 76 Character: R eputation 1 31 74 Medical: Prevention 73 42 Medical: Research 71 40 Medical: Last wishes 59 34 Legal 40 23 Religious 36 21 Causes When the suicide of these 11 NFL players was framed as the amalgamation of many different external factors, it was framed as a cause, or a contributing factor to death. An cause as defined for the purposes of this frame consisted of elements that ma y have contributed to the suicide or feelings right before the suicide such as psychological issues, mental illnesses (such as depression), sport related injuries, drug and/or alcohol use, relationship problems, financial issues, criminal activity, legal t roubles, et cetera. Journalists framed these contributing factors as direct or indirect causes for the suicides and sometimes included their own speculations relating to the possible motives or circumstances surrounding the suicide A commonly mentioned contributing factor discussed death includes his inso mnia and use of sleeping pills. His insomnia might have played a role in another incident, which was also mentioned frequently in the context of his death. In October 2010, J unior Seau was arrested on charges that he had assaulted his girlfriend. Later that day, he drove his Cadillac Escalade off a beachside cliff in Carlsbad, California. Police estimated that he was going about 60 mph when the vehicle fell and landed some 100 feet below the road (Farmer & Rojas, 2012). Junior Seau told


53 Rojas, 2012). In a Ne w York Times article about his suicide, the journalist writes about the financial and domestic problems Dave Duerson encountered later in life. He was successful in private food he resigned from the Notre Dame board of trustees after he was charged assets at auction. In 2007, the Duersons fi led for divorce, and their home in Highland Park, Ill., went into foreclosure, acc ording to the Chicago Sun Times (Schwarz, 2011f p. D1 ). The vast majority of articles included some mention or discussion of depression in relation to the suicides of these 11 NFL athletes establishing it either directly or indirectly as a precursor t o or symptom of suicide. In a Sports Illustrated article by Scott Tinley, he explores the connection between athletes and depression: In the past three years, nearly a dozen re tired professional athletes have committed suicide. Thousands more are now suing the NFL for doing too little to prevent head injuries, which can lead to emotional trauma and suicidal tendencies. When a former professional athlete takes his own life so you ng we are conditioned to think that head trauma after years of violent hits is the main culprit. And while the physiology of a damaged brain surely plays a role in many cases, it doesn't tell the whole story. The social and psychological factors in the arc of an athlete's life should not be overlo oked (Tinley, 2012). Criminal charges were also commonly charges. He was caught shoplif ting $425.50 worth of items from a department store in October 2006 and served one year of probation (Dillon, 2012). All of the articles mentioning ex lineman Mike Current mentioned the criminal charges he was facing at the time of his suicide. Current was facing charges of up to 30 years in prison for


54 sexually abusing three children under the age of 14, according to court records (Wells, 2012c). In September 2010, former Broncos player Kenny McKinley was found dead in his home, a pillow covering his head and a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol atop the pillow. According to the Arapahoe County Sherif was turned to the NFL Network and there was a strong smell of freshly burned marijuana in the room. The article mentione d that McKinley was taking 500mg naproxen, (an anti inflammatory NSAID) but no other medications ( news services, 2010). Some articles made references to or inferred about past suicide attempts by the athletes. These suicide attempts have been con firmed and some remain unconfirmed, off a cliff, which was never confirmed as a suicide attempt ( news services, 2012h). Former Steelers player Terry Long died i n 2006 by drinking antifreeze at age 45. Some articles mention his previous suicide attempt, where he ingested rat poison following suspension for his steroid use. Long also struggled financially and was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he frau dulently obtained loans for a chicken processing plant which prosecutors allege he burned to the ground for the Associated Press, 2006b). Character: M asculinity The character frame as a whole discussed the various personal qualities of th e athlete (for example, the ones that made him memorable, unique or valuable in his community) and qualities associated with the sport of professional football Masculinity


55 was a sub dimension of the character frame. T he masculinity sub dimension discusse d aspects i nherent ly associated with the culture of professional football such as dominance, celebrit y, brotherhood and camaraderie; qualities associated with the type of character who is widely accepted in professional football for example, toughness, bra very, courage, athletic prowess and imperviousness to pain. This frame also included concepts of heroism, whereby the athlete is depicted by the journalist as invincible, heroic, superhuman, a legend or otherwise mythological in nature. A Los Angeles Times article described the very nature of the NFL franchise as a whole, and cited its sheer power and popularity and framed it in a distinctly masculine way the NFL is the 500 pound gorilla in sports. It has Super Bowls and Black Eyed Peas at halftime and c ompanies falling all over themselves to spend millions of dollars for a 30 A Sports Illustrated journalist also commented on the popularity and the very nature of the game, and posed a valuable question that is nearly imp ossible to answer: (Deford, 2012). In this excerpt, violence is simultaneously framed as a dominant and desirable aspect of professional football. A New York Times hitting tough, intimidating nature on the fo otball field (Schwarz, 2011a p. A1 ). If you asked me which defensive player in the last 20 years inflicted the be tween Junior Seau and Ray Lewis (King, 2012b).


56 In the above quote, the journalist depicted Junior Seau as someone who inflict ed punishment on other players; he established his dominant persona and hegemonic control over others when on the playing field. s early 20s and already a superstar Miller used to call him a freak of nature and Seau would wow guys by casually throwing around 180 pound dumbbells. But he was also the one spotting h is teammates in the weight room (Merrill, 2012). This excerpt depicted fraternal dynamic and illustrated the working relationship that players have with one another. While football is a violent collision sport and hits to the head will happen, necessary precautions can still be t aken to ensure the safety of the thoroughbred athletes fans around the world love to watch take the field as modern day gladiators (Hanford, 2011). The above excerpt explained inherent aspects of football: injury, violence, head injuries and the importan ce of precautionary safety measures in this spectator centric Fletcher said: vulnerable and ask for he (King, 2012b). The journalist further discussed the personality type that seems to be ubiquitous in the NFL: well, but he knows the type of person he was know why Seau killed himself But he fears it has something to do with the physically, and seeking his own way out of prob lems instead of asking for help (King, 2012b).


57 Character: R eputation Included in the character frame, the reputation sub dimension discussed the personal qualities that the athlete was known for during his life, what he will be remembered for (i.e., legacy), and the athletic contributions that will live on after his death. Essentially, any personality traits that will transc were part of the reputation frame. A Bleacher Report article by NFL national lead writer Ty Schalter refer red to a view that was shared by many journalist s, as Junior Seau was the most frequently mentioned of all 11 NFL athletes who died by suicide from June 2000 to September 2012 A New York Times year N.F.L. career, Seau p layed for three teams, most prominently the Chargers, and made 12 Pro Bowls. He played in two Super Bowls and was named to the 1990s All Another example of the reputation frame is from an ESPN ar ticl e from May 2, 2011 and described Dave Duerson: seven with the Chicago Bears, and was chosen for four Pro Bowls before retiring in New York Times article from Februar y 2011 remembered him for more than just his football achievements: Duerson earned an economics degree from Notre Dame, and in 2001, he graduated from a Harvard Business School program. After many years in private business, he had spent the last several y three representatives on the board that rules on ret claims (Schwarz, 2011c). To ensure his memory lived on, his former team honored Junior Seau as the Chargers held a tribute event on May 11, 2012. In att endance were guest speakers who


58 suicide, NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip donned a No. 55 decal on his car, which was surfing, so it was Oceanside, California home (Bartletti & Perry, 2012). necdotes, contributions, a nd personal qualities were framed as part o Examples of this included quotes from involvement in charitable works or supporting various phil anthropic organizations with time or monetary donations Following Dave an ESPN a rticle dated February 26, 2011 said his family would be starting an eponymous charity on his behalf to help athletes cope with mental illness ( Associated Pr ess, 2011c). Junior Seau was well known for his charitable involvement The Junior Seau Foundation was created in 1992; its mission is to educate and empower youth through op portunities, anti juvenile delinquency efforts and complimentary educational tournament with all proceeds benefitting the youth of San Diego. Junior Seau had a reputation for h is willingness to be interviewed and for his friendlin ess toward journalists and fans. Working as an intern for his local television station at the age of 18, journalist Ryan Phillips had the opportunity to meet Seau and recounted the experience in his Ble h e [Seau] held off another


59 member of the media with his left hand while I asked my question again. He made sure to give a lengthy answer I could use, and as I walked off the field a little later he was heading in the same direction and gave me a (Phillips, 2012 b ). In addition to his friendliness, Junior Seau was known for his grit and tough Seau play ed his entire career never wanting to give into pain and playing with far more than his share of it (King, 2012b). In a Bleacher Report article, analyst Danny Webster comments on Junior solid work ethic: When I think back about Junior Seau, I think about how hard of a worker he was on the field. He was never a guy to give up on a play, and he played h ard on every snap of every play (Webster, 2012). Later in the article, Webster we nt (Webster, 2012). Thr oughout the article, he described and wrote about Seau as if they were intimate friends, but there is no mention anywhere in the article that Webster neither met nor knew the NFL athlete personally. A personal quality that made O.J. Murdock memorable was h is affable nature: Known by his fellow teammates for always appearing happy and showing a j ovial


60 McKinley was right there with them, cracking jokes and a smile so wide, as one Medical: Preve ntion The medical frame as a whole included any discussion of medically related information in the articles. As a sub dimension of the medical frame, the prevention fram e included mention of preventative resources such as hotlines or organizations availabl e to help treat mental illness and assist those struggling with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, and/or discussion of intervening forces to stop suicides. If a journalist or quoted source cited the need for greater prevention, called for specific prevention efforts or lamented the fact that none were adequately taken it was Ten Football lead writer Adam Jacobi recounted his experiences playing organized footba ll in high school and college and discussed the possible sport related injuries he sustained during play. He also offered advice to those who may be struggling with Th (Jacobi, 2012 a ). In that sentence, he provided an embedded hyperlink to the website of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Thoughts of suicide don't just pop into your head like t he answers to your Calculus homework. They slowly infect your being. One day you wake up mad, and you don't know why. You aren't mad at the world or mad at your roommate or your wife or your kids or your boss. You aren't even mad at yourself. You are just mad. You are mad that you woke up, that you have to figure out a way to get through another day. You are mad that you exist. That life exists. Eventually, those thoughts can go two ways. You can tell someone about it while you can still control your impuls es. You can get help. You can surround yourself with friends and family who care abo ut you and know what's going on (Levy, 2012).


61 This above excerpt conveyed the opinion of the journalist, but also urged readers to see help for their problems. In a New Yor k Times health hotline, Life Line, which provi des free consultations to current and former players attention ( Tierney, 2012b, p. B.16). like symptoms, there is help. If you realize it soon enough, there are ways to fight those thoughts and work through This excerpt proved that depression is treatable and that appropriate resources should be sought. However, unlike the other Bleacher Report article, this journalist did not provide any hyperlinks to external suicide prevention websites or other helpful re sources. Medical: R esearch The research frame included any mention or discussion of medical advancements. For example, citing examples of medical research, new scientific developments associated with athlete suicide s sports injuries, depression and/or related issues. Due to the fact that many journalists were making connections between suicides, head injuries and CTE symptoms, discussion of these issues were particularly prevalent in the articles, despite the fact that the medical com munity and other organizations remain divided on this topic especially when it comes to the long term effects of these injuries According to his family, Dave Duerson sustained at least 10 concussions in his career, losing consc iousness during some of them researchers at the Center for the


62 A Sports Illustrated artic le from May 2012 discussed medical research and CTE: In 2011, 50 year old former NFL safety Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest and died. He had shot himself in the chest to leave his brain intact. ts Legacy Institute, a foundation started by neurologist Robert Cantu and former Harvard football player Chris Nowinski to study the long term effects of concussions. In May 2011, Boston University researchers working with the SLI announced that an examina son had c hronic traumatic encephalopathy (Staples, 2012). year ol illustrated the notion that medical research remains an integral part of the debate surrounding concussions, suicide and CTE. Despite the fact that many articles connected head injuries, CTE and suicide in some way, whether directly or indirectly, journalist Chris Burke made sure to make explicit in his article that all of the medical confirmed. to that of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, who took his own life by shooting himself in the chest so his brain could be studied. urke, 2012). donating his brain for the benefit of scientific research: other people. That was my m ain reason for doing it. Unfortuna tely, it just had to be my son (Dillon, 2012).


63 Medical: L ast wishes Included under the med ical frame, the last wishes sub dimension discussed any form of communication left behind by the player before his suicide, suc h as a note, email, text message and the like usually included. The most common last wish for these 11 NFL players was the desire for their brains to be studied postmortem for evidence of CTE. Many of the ar ticles mentioned the fact that Dave Duerson left a note with a According to some articles, Dave Duerson also sent a text message to his wife and son Tregg the night before his death. a, 2011; ESPN news services, 2011b). Since they had no idea what he meant at the time message until they heard the news of his suicide (ESPN news s ervices, 2011b). Many of the articles mad e explicit the fact that Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest and not the head to p reserve his brain for such study, a last wish for medical research to be conducted after his death. Similar to Dave Duerson, t he day before his suicide on May 2, 2012, Junior Seau sent a text message to his ex wife Gina and each of their three children, co ncluding the text by saying that he loved them (Johnston, 2012). Other information regarding the content of the text message has not been publicly released or reported on. According to the articles, Junior Seau did not leave a suicide note. According to Gi na Seau, sending


64 but a once commonplace text took on a whole new meaning in the wake of the devastating news that he was gone forever (Davis et al., 2012). Some ar ticles included all or part of the contents of the suicide notes left by some of the athletes. According to an article by the Associated Press, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling left a suicide note before his death on April 12, 2012. In the note he mentioned his struggles with headaches and memory loss. Easterling also asked that his brain be donated to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (Associated Press, 2012g). Former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson left a suicide note when he committed suicide on February 17, 2011. In the note, he requested for his family to donate his brain to the Boston University School of Medicine (Farmer, 2013; Schwarz, 2011d p. B11 ). Though the actual contents of the note have not been publicly revealed, Duerson, like Easterling, wanted his brain to go to same particular location the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. Like Junior Seau former Tampa Bay Titans receiver O.J. Murdock also sent a text message before committing suicide on July 30, 2012. The text message was sent at about 3:30 a.m. to his former high school and college coach Al McCray. I got a text at 3:30 in the morning, w here he said: 'Coach, I want to thank you for everything you've done for me and my family. It's greatly know what he's talking about. I woke up, and I'm thinking he's apologizing because he texted me so early I wish he had called instead. (Schilken, 2012). Hours after the text message was sent, Murdock would be discovered by police dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound in his car, parked at his former high


65 school (Schilken 2012). Murdock did leave a suicide note but contents of the note have not been publicly revealed since his death (Schilken, 2012). L egal The legal frame included mention of legal issues, lawsuits or litigation associated with wrongful of neglectful natur e of a ive bargaining, et cetera. This frame did not include criminal charges against the athlete, which were included under the causes frame. Players such as Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson have been involved in concussion related litigation their families claiming that the head injuries contributed to death by suicide Widows of former players, such as Mary Ann Easterling, have filed separate wrongful death lawsuits against the NFL. In fact, Ray Easterling was l ead plaintiff in the first federal suit against the NFL for head injuries. Plaintiffs in these suits claim that the league failed to properly treat concussed players and were unforthcoming regarding the dangers and risks associated with concussions sustain ed during a family also filed a wrongful death suit against the NFL in February 2012 for failing to accurately represent the risks associated with concussions and to take pr oper safety precautions to protect players. According to the lawsuit, Dave Duerson suffered from CTE. The NFL has denied the charges and claimed to take player safety seriously (Lighty, 2012). Some lawsuits also name NFL licensed helmet manufacturer Riddel l as a co defendant, claiming that the company designed and manufactured defective helmets. procedures, then their indifference was the epitome of injustice. The inactions of the


66 pa some families of deceased NFL athletes felt, which prompted them to take l egal action agai nst the league, believing that with proper intervention, the suicide of their loved one could have been prevented. brain damage that led Duerson to take his own life at the age of 50 by not warning hi m According to an ESPN article dated May 3, 2012, more than 1,500 players have sued the NFL on claims that the league ignored and actively suppressed any link between repeated sport related concussions and brain damage (Fairnaru & Fainaru Wada, 2012). R eligio us Appearing the least among all of the frames, the religious frame included Biblical allusions, mention of G inclusion of prayer in the article either from the journalist or expressed through quoted sources. The presence of positive religious phrases presented in the articles can be juxtaposed with the condemnation of suicide in many religions and the once illegal nature of the act. When referrin g to O.J. Murdock, his former high school head coach Harry Hubbard said: He was an exceptional athlete with God hat I asked you to d o. Come on home to your reward (Dillon, 2012b). When describing O.J. Murdock in his article, Dennis Dillon of Sports Illustrated includes multiple religious details and references. He stated that Murdock was


67 a devout Christian, judgin g by a tattoo on the upper left side of his chest. It arge, elaborate cross with a dove above it and th (Dillon, 2012b). Right before his suicide, O.J. Murdock sat in his parked car in front of his Tampa high school. He called his former middle school track and field coach Aesha Bailey, and began frantically screaming and apologizing. After asking him where he was, Bailey drove to the high school and found Murdock in the car. He had shot himself, and Bailey (Dillon, 2012b). In an alternate view of suicide and the role of faith, Bleacher Report contributor What is struggling [sic] for me to cope with is how his death is being discussed and wri tten about. People are mourning the sudden death. What I am about to write is very difficult to say and most probably in bad taste given how sudden this happened, but his passing was not a sudden death was a suicide pure and simple. He willingly put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger. He willingly took his own life and orphaned his children. I am a man of faith, but I do not want to bring my religious beliefs into this. I do not even want to appea r as if I am passing judgment on Junior or condemning him in any way. I will pray for his soul and pray for his fa mily to find strength and peace (Rogers, 2012). In a New York Times article about the death of Ray Easterling, there were multiple religious references and an overall religiou s undertone. Ray and Mary Ann met for the first time many years ago at a Bible study session that he co hosted. After they


68 p. B.9 ). On April 19, Easterling committed suicide. He left behind a note addressed to his wife p. B.9 ). RQ2: How Does the Coverage of Suicides Change o ver Time (2000 2012)? Coverage of NFL athlete suicides changed significantly over the time period of 2000 to 2012. Most noticeably, coverage changed by the number of articles published per year. The amount of articles published each year seemed to fluctuat e based on how many athletes died by suicide in that year. In 2000, there were two articles published; from 2001 to 2005 there were no articles published; in 2006 there was one, in 2007 there were two, none in 2008 and one in 2009. There were 10 articles p ublished in 2010 and 18 in 2011. In 2012 there were 142 articles published (Table 4 2). The vast majority of the coverage clustered not only around a specific year, 2012, but also around a specific athlete, Junior Seau. In order to find out which of the 11 NFL athletes who died by suicide from 2000 to 2012 was mentioned the most, the researcher calculated the number of times each of the names of the 11 athletes appeared in the sample size (n=176). This was accomplished by recording the names of the athletes appearing in each article, and then tallying the amounts. This calculation 120 times overall. Dave


69 Table 4 4. # of times mentioned in articles (n=176) Junior Seau 120 Dave Duerson 65 Ray Easterling 23 Kenny McKinley 15 Andre Waters 14 O.J. Murdock 9 Terry Long 7 Mike Current 6 Larry Kelley 2 Shane Dronett 1 Kurt Crain 1 From the outset of the time frame analyzed for the purposes of this research (beginning in 2000), there was not nearly as much discussion of medical issues that could be a possible link to the suicides. However, by 2012, the discussion had shifted to includ e more mention of sport related injuries such as concussion, CTE, surgeries and more discussion of medical symptoms like depression that were framed as possible actors for suicide It was clear that over time, journalists developed a better understanding of the multitude of elements that may possibly influence or even motiva te an athlete to commit suicide, including situational factors such as financial troubles, relationship issues, legal problems and more. The news articles of later years especially those published in 2011 and 2012, took a more holistic view of the situation by introducing an d explaining these external factors as direct or indirect factors for s uicide Quoted sources in articles from the earlier years included spouses, friends, family members, neighbors, teammates and some expert sources such as coroners, law


70 enforcement, physicians, et cetera. Conversely, by 2012 articles were including screensh ots of tweets from celebrities, family members/relatives, friends, colleagues or other athletes who were close to the deceased player. Social media integration was a departure from the traditional practice of only including quoted material and/or paraphras es in the articles. RQ3: What Spec ific Language and Framing Tools Do the Media Use to Discuss These Suicides (i.e., Specific Buzzwords And Phrases), and How Often Do They Occur? The media sources surveyed in this research used specific language and framin g words were subsequently repeated throughout the article. references suggesting strengt he/she was depicting the deceased NFL athlete as an individual whose life and career wi that they idolized the athlete, it established the deceased athlete as a superhuman


71 earthly greatness, exposing them to the terrifying process of public ruination when failed 2012). Table 4 5. Description of framing tools Buzzword Frequency of appearance Tragedy 108 Best/great 74 Star/superstar 43 Hero/strength 38 Legend 21 Warrior/fighting 18 Icon 13 Celebrity 10 Idol 6 Martyr 2 McPherson said: Junior is a warrior. He played 20 years in the NFL as a linebacker. You have to be a warrior. Warriors conquer problems they face and they run at them (ESPN news services, 2012f). The above quote showcased the personality type that is commonly associated with being a professional football player comprised of strength, grit and toughness. This quote from a Bleacher Report article also depicted Junior Seau in a similar manner: and how the man that we came to know as a gridiron warrior passed away on


72 the deceased athletes by using these terms, which are allude to violence and are evocative of historical fou inspire increased concern for the health and safety of the gladiators we all love to watch death, longtime Chargers chaplain Report contributor Ryan Phillips recounted a childhood sport figure that meant a great deal to him as a child: I grew up in San Diego, and so did Seau. He was a native, he was one of us and he always will be. I idolized him from the first time he stepped on the field for my beloved Chargers in 1990 to the day he retired from the NFL in 2009 (Phillips, 2012).


73 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION Analysis of Commonly Appearing Frames The results of this framing analysis revealed the presence of some frames that appeared more frequently than others. was the most commonly appearing frame, found in 160 articles (91 %) By discussing various contributing factors and framing them as possible causes for death, journalists showed a diverse landscape of issues that may have been affecting the athlete directly or indirectly at the time of his suicide. Causes ranged from prob lems such as sport r elated injuries or mental illnesses to situational issues like relationship, financial, criminal and legal troubles. Sometimes these issues were merely mentioned in the context of the n framed these contributing factors as causes for the decision to die by suicide. October 2010 incident in which the athlete drove his SUV off a cliff in Carlsbad, California some journalists framed this as a cry for help or even a previous suicide attempt although there was no evidence to prove it. suicide, framing these two issues as possibly related. I n the case of Tampa Titans player O.J. Murdock, the fact that he had been arrested for shoplifting was mentioned in relation to the greater topic of his recent death. Former Broncos player Mike Current was facing sex abuse charges at the time of his suicide and every article about his dea th that was examined for the purposes of this study mentioned this fact. By including information about the multitude of issues affecting these 11 NFL athletes at the time of their suicides, journalists directly or indirectly framed death by suicide as a c omplex


74 issue. It is not just one particular thing that causes someone to die by suicide instead, a combination of factors many of which, such as genetics, family history and chemical By portra ying multiple elements that were affecting the athletes at the time of their suicide, perhaps journalists wanted to show readers that suicide is complicated, and t hat ther e can be many causes for such a serious and permanent outcome. Going back to the lite rature cited in Chapter 2, there are a multitude of suicide risk factors such as mental illness, genetics, chemical imbalance history of abuse, incarceration and exposure to suicidal behaviors from loved ones or people in the media (National Ins titute of Mental Health, n.d.). Contained within the character frame, masculinity was the second most frequent frame overall, appearing in 76% (n=134) of the 176 articles. Aspects inherent to NFL culture include the dominant and performance based, victorious nature of the sport: 2012a) The world of professional football functions with some of the same elements as society as a whole, but amplified. Elements such as friendship, success, training, teamwork, and camaraderie are cornerstones of this sport. Journalists may have framed football as a salient issue because it has permeated our very psyche as a ritualist ic Concepts of masculinity encompass traits like toughness, power and imperviousness to pain, to name a few. The m asculinity frame found in this study


75 contained many of the same elements that were intricately r elated to the discussion of hegemonic masculinity cited in Chapter 2. In many ways, the football star is the archetypal representation of hegemonic masculinity (Donaldson, 1993, p. 647). Furthermore, t he culture surrounding the NFL is full of hegemonic displays, from the locker room to the training room, to on and off the field. It is with these displays of power that men establish their athletic prowess and comp ete with each other for dominance ( Bryson, 1987, p. 357). Directly juxtaposed to the toughness by which the journalists framed these 11 NFL athletes, another common thread running throughout many of these articles was that so many of these players were qui te adept at hiding their pain and faking a smile despite the fact that inside, they were suffering Perhaps they have been indoctrinated to get used to disappo intment as a part of their career such as suffering an injury during play and being put on injur y reserve. Injury can strike at any moment. They can get cut from the team. Their finances could disappear, along with their marriages, relationships, and custody of their children. This breeds an atmosphere of constant fear and anxiety. The career of a su ccessful NFL player is both effusive and temporary. They have money, fame, friends and opportunities they might have never have had otherwise. Coping with the pressures of a high stakes professional career based solely on the ability to perform and meet at hletic feats, overcome injury and still entertain a fan base has to be extremely taxing on an individual. The complex nature of a professional sports career and its inherent demands coupled with an environment of hegemonic masculinity may be the perfect br eeding ground for feelings of isolation, perceived inferiority and insecurity. Not one of the articles mentioned an attempt on the part of the athlete to


76 reach out for help even right befo re their suicide ( news services, 2010). In general, the possibility of a ppearing weak or vulnerable may dissuade males from discussing their issues with others (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, n.d.). But t he culture of masculinity ass ociated with a career in professional football might further prevent players from speaking out about their problems, and possible that many players let their negative feelings build up and become internalized for years. Athletes may internaliz e their pain because of the culture in which they operate is full of hegemony, dominance and the daily reminders that you are expected to be strong and impervious to pain. As a result, their bodies become vessel s for their trauma. It is possible that many of players push themselves to the limit to mask the mental and emotional anguish they may be experiencing. This is a particularly prevalent issue among males, who are at grea ter risk for completed suicide. The suicide rate among males in 2007 was 18.3 per 100,000 ( American Foundatio n for Suicide Prevention, n.d.) For men, suicide was the seventh leading cause of death. A sub dimension of the character frame, the r eputation frame was another commonly appearing frame, found in 131 articles (74%). In many ways, the reputation frame functioned much like an obituary providing context for the death in relation to the accomplishments the athlete made during his lifetime and recounting who he was as a person scholars understand how these news stories taught the public about the social value of life and about the way to deal


77 In an article from the Washington Post, journalist Mark Maske referred to Junior a linebacker who played in the NFL for 20 seasons and was among the most widely respected players of his generation b, p. D 1 ). A New York Times [Junior] Seau, a 10 time All Pro selec seasons before he moved on to play with the Dolphins and, later, the Patriots n, 2012). a society, we care about t his because we place a high level of importance on sports particularly, the NFL, as it remains the one of the largest, most popular and highest grossing brands in existence. According to Forbes, the Super Bowl b rand was rated number one among other sportin g events by gross revenue generated per day of teams of the NFL generated revenue of $6.03 billion in 2005 and in 2004; the average NFL franchise was worth $733 million (Statista, 2012). 50), which dictates whose life and subsequent death is worth mentioning in popular media. Such widespread presence of the reputation frame in these articles suggested a high level of inclusion, due to the sheer fame and celebrity of the deceased athletes. qualities discussed in the articles were ones that American society places high value upon: who the athlete was as a person while he


78 w as living, his personality, accomplishments and philanthropic nature. Athletes were framed in this way because as onlookers, we may view them as celebrities. We are interested in the way they live their lives, and we pretend to know them. Many journalis ts from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report exhibited this tendency to write about the deceased athlete as if they were close friends, when in reality the journalist had never met the athlete at all. This pseudo familiarity gives mean almost like intimate friends. Sports journalists spend their life covering these athletes. Fans devote their time, money and energy to following these players and attending their games, picking favorites and cheering them on regardless of if they win or lose. It is only fitting, then, that reputation would be an integral part of the way in which journalists framed these NFL athletes. It was clear that the journalists frequently framed themselves as part of the discourse surrounding the the journalist never had any interaction with the athlete during his lifetime. This pseudo familiarity on the part of the journalist highlig hted the sometimes para social natu re of sports media this seeming face to face relationship between spectator and performer [is called] a para According to the results of this study, articles from th e six media outlets surveyed contained frames relating to last wishes of the athlete 34% (n=59) of the time. This can be viewed in both a positive and a negative manner. The figure indicates less than half of the articles contained mention or discussion of a suicide note and/or last wishes before death. However, 34% can still be conside red a significant percentage of


79 articles that discuss this issue, even though this practice is not recommended by federal agencies, organizations and suicide prevention advocates who put forth guidelines for media. suicide notes, which some articles did, is potentially problematic. Even revealing the last wishes of a player to have his brain studied can glamourize the suicide and portray it as a valiant, martyr like gesture to e studied for the greater good of others. Including the contents of a suicide note in a news article is not considered journalistic best practice according to the guidelines put forth by various federal agencies and suicide prevention organizations ( Americ an Association of Suicidology et al., n.d., p. 1 ). relates to a sensitive topic like suicide. Publishing the contents of a suicide note can where more individuals or groups take their own lives. In fact, some journalists seem keenly aware of such an issue yet ironically participate in the very activity they are criticizing: use we fear that might encourage copycats. In 2011, 50 year old former NFL safety Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest and died. He had shot the possession of the Sports Legacy I nstitute, a foundation started by neurologist Robert Cantu and former Harvard football player Chris Nowinski to study the long term effects of concussions. In May 2011, Boston University researchers working with the SLI announced that an examination of Due hronic traumatic encephalopathy (Staples, 2012). When covering suicides, sensationalism should be avoided. Instead, a journalist should av oid speculating about reasons for the suicide and avoid fantasizing about what


80 may have been in the mind of the person at the time. Journalists should investigate whether there are economic, social, or other factors that pro 2009). important piece of information because completed suicides leave very little in Research conducted in Los Angeles County indicated that approximately 35% of men and 39% of women who died by suicide left behind notes (Shneidman & Farberow, 1961, p. 19 47). Suicide notes u interpersonal reasons (suc h as rejection and isolation) that justify the suicide. Instead, their notes reveal more about their desire to escape pain and loneliness; contain more instructions and less justification and emotion (Lester, 1989, p. 11). For the NFL players who left note s, a vital component was the desire for their brains to be donated and studied for scientific purposes after their death. Some even explicitly mentioned this desire and provided instruction for this in the note. The two frames that appeared th e least were the legal and religious frame s Despite the fact that it did not appear with as much frequency as the oth er frames, the religious frame appeared in 36 articles (21%). The presence of a religious frame is ironic because suicide had a long history of being c ondemned and stigmatized in many Gearing & Lizardi, 2008, p. 334 ). Until the 1960s, suicide was illegal in many places around the world. Despite this, however,


81 Biblical allusions, references to prayer and religio usly themed elements appear throughout the articles surveyed in this sample size. Changes over T ime The second research question focused on changes over time. The greatest number of articles ( n=142 ; 81%) was published in 2012, the same year in which five athlete suicides occurred. There were more deaths in 2012 alone than in the 12 years prior. Because of that, significant amounts of media coverage seemed to cluster around the year with the greatest number of deaths. Thus, media coverage was episodic rathe r than thematic. This framing effect is one that emerged after analyzing the results of the qualitative framing analysis. Thematic and episodic framing are two varying framing effects, as outlined by Iyengar (1994) Episodic framing depicts concrete event s that illustrate issues, while thematic framing presents collective or general evidence He news is about this person, this person must have had s omething to do with the issue in professional football as a whole. The recent suicide of an NFL athlete brings the issue back into the forefront of media coverage, where it was previously not a salient topic of discussion. In addition to episodic coverage clustered around particular areas in time, media coverage clearly focused the most on one NFL player Junior Seau. His name was mentioned most often of the 176 articles in the sample size, 120 times overall. Furthermore, Junior Seau was featured twice on the cover of Sports Illustrated whereas the other ten athletes were not featured on covers at all. However, it is important to note


82 re purely episodic or thematic although [content analyses] suggest in most cases one frame or the other Over time, it also appeared that journal related contributing factors that may possibly affect suicide (such as sport injuries ) increased. In articles from the first year surveyed in this study, 2000, there was very little mention of the possi ble role concussions and development of CTE might have on the suicidal in the amount of medical research about issues like concussions, traumatic brain injury and CT E since 2000. Buzzwords Used as Framing T ools framing tools that appeared the most often in the articles. Overall, these various buzzwords appeared 333 times total across all 176 of the articles analyzed in this research. Repeating certain buzzwords throughout the article helps readers establish er, 2012, p. 15 ) as something markedly different from the manifest and literal meaning of a word. In addition to establishing latent meaning, these buzzwords can be likened to the five framing devices identified by Gamson and Modigliani (1989). Considered a framing tool, these articles. Metaphors as framing tools are implied comparisons to other situations and figures from history (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 2). The journali sts from these six media outlets repeatedly compared the 11 NFL players to these archaic embodiments.


83 J ournalists frequently framed the NFL athlete suicides in relation to greater historical, anthropological and sociological contexts such as within implied constructions of tragic Concepts and the mythos surrounding heroism have historically been fixtures of obituaries and articles are clearly promoted by the media as a source of national pride and function to Journalists impart this latent meaning by framing the athlete as a larger than life figure, in some cases even best owing super human qualities upon them. By whether consciously or subconsciously to the archetypal, traditional athlete/hero of classic antiquity. Using classical Greek antiquity in which the tragic hero meets a fatal demise. By definition, a that, combined with fate a 2013). (ESPN news services, 2012 ), he exemplified qualities of masculinity by asserting that football players are tough and need to be strong to survive. The journalist consciously chose to include the quote by McPherson in his article, and by framing Junior Seau as a


84 someone who tackled his problems head on, thus solidified the existing notion that football players must posses s certain qualities that are distinctively masculine, which seem to be at odds with weakness and perceived femininity narrated as contests of combat, then inevitably footballers acquire the status of warriors Lines, 2010, p. 290). Being characterized as tough and brave showed the cultural mores of this hegemonic group of professional football players In other words, viable, well respected players must be stalwart and resilient. ead. All of us can appear to be super, but all of us need to reach out and find person, this wonderful human being, this extraordinary athlete and man, if someone so invincible like Junior could end his life this way, it should be a message to all of us all going through hurt and travails, that we all need somebody. Get help (ESPN news services, 2012f). The heartfelt message from longtime Charges chaplain Shawn Mitchell included framing Junior Seau this way, he underscored the Perceived invincibility is not protection enough against suicide, as these athletes are human like everyone else. Thoughts of suicide and mental illness do not discriminate and have little to do with the mental fortitude and st rength that is mentioned in these articles. Research indicates that suicidal tendencies can be the result of a culmination of various factors (Grollman, 1988, p. 63 75; Joiner, 2005, p. 68; Lester, 1989; National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.). Recogniz ing the risk factors, both those that are clear and present and those that the individual hides, are important clues to understanding these suicides. Along with the capability for suicide through repeated painful and traumatic events, suicidal people can b e seen as risk


85 theory is that individuals whose bodies become susceptible to repeated pain, such as war veterans and elite athletes, can deve lop a certain fearlessness and risk taking mentality that may prompt suicide (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1994, p.1). NFL athletes are inherent risk takers. Their intrepid personalities make them well suited for a career in profe ssional football, but also might increase their predisposition for aggressive behavior or gambling with their own life. Conditioning themselves to enduring pain and injury may desensitize them to such emotions both physically and emotionally. After all, re peated exposure can breed this imperviousness to pain and establish the capability for suicide self preservation is a powerful enough instinct that few can overcome it by force of will. The few who can have developed a fearlessness of pain, injury, and death, which, according to the theory, they acquire through a process of repeatedly experiencing painful and otherwise provocative events. These experiences often include previous self injury, but can also include other experiences, such as repeated ac cidental injuries; numerous physical fights; and occupations like physician and front line soldier in which exposure to pain and injury, either dir ectly or vicariously, is common (Joiner, 2009). familiarity with repeated pain, these journalists contributed largely to their portrayals as not only heroes, but role models as well. Hopes are still invested in the ability of sport to produce heroic role models, and the frustration of these hopes feeds into a critique of sport as having become corrupted. In these constructions, what sport p roduces is not heroes, but stars (Whannel, 2001, p. 40). It is these seemingly innocuous constructions of sports hero as a star that revealed much about the way in whi ch journalists framed and subsequently discussed


86 models who ultimately met demise as a result of their own hand can be potentially problematic for the youth populations who revere them. In the fast paced, high stakes world of professional football, athlete as a celebrity is also an essential part of the conversation. Journalists seem to th times in the articles overall. When journalists frame the deceased athletes as celebrities, their deaths have more of an impact for the general public because of their perceived importance in society. Inform ation and events associated with celebrities may have the potential to be more sensationalized, which occurred in some of the articles Yet in popular discourse the concepts of hero and star, celebrity and personality are o ften confused and by any notional boundaries between them blurred. The very concept of the hero is troubling and ambiguous inscribing the frame through w hich we should perceive society (Whannel, 2001, p. 40). Importance of the I ssue cide 2004). As a leading public health issue, suicide impacts the world on a global scale. defined disease mechanism, suicide is nonetheless an extraordinar e the fact that external causes and psychological motivations for suicide are hard to define and discuss with a measure of absolute certainty, the risk factors defined in the literature revi ew of this research contribute heavily to the act of completed suicide. As a society, we should care that NFL athletes are committing suicide because it can have profound effects on our national psyche and how we view (and treat) mental illnesses. Further more, we should care how the media cover these deaths because


87 subsequent news coverage following their suicides can have psychological impacts on the public, especially at risk populations like individuals with suicidal tendencies or for adolescents. Resea rch finds an increase in suicide by readers/viewers when the number of stories about individual suicide is ubiquitous across many different media story of an individu al death by suicide is placed on the front page or at the beginning of Disease Control and Prevention, n.d., p. 2). Reduction of these imitative suicides following extensiv e media coverage can be accomplished through preventative efforts, but the media must take part by reporting on suicide in a correct, safe, ethical and responsible manner. More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news covera ge can increase the likelihood of sui he magnitude of the increase is related Suicidology et al., n.d., p. 1). According to a set of guidelines th at were the result of a collaborative effort on the part of groups such as American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Annenberg Public Policy Center, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Me ntal Health (among many others), the main elements to avoid in a news story about a death by suicide are as photographs/videos of the location/method of suicide, grieving f riends/family, avoid describing a suicide as inexplicable or unexpected/without warning; do not


88 disclose content or information contained in the suicide note; suicide sho reported on in the same way stories about crime would be covered; instead of quoting or interviewing police or first responders, seek quotes from suicide prevention experts, psychologists, mental health experts; and avoid referring to a suicide a Theoretical and Practical I mplications Concrete, well established theoretical implications will be easier to identify once more extensive research has been conducted on this topic, s ince this was the first qualitative framing analysis conducted on this topic. The results of this research indicate d that journalists from these six media outlets frame d the topic of NFL suicides in differe nt ways, though some elements w e r e the same across all outlets, such as the presence of the aforementioned commonly occurring frames. frequently framed the athlete suicides in relation to greater historical, anthropological and sociological contexts such as within constructions of tragic heroism from Greek we revere today. Further studies are needed to identify alterna tive ways in which the media has framed the issue of these 11 NFL athlete suicides. As for practical implications, perhaps there should be more rigorous training for some journalists who cover suicide topics because how they cover (and frame) the issue c an have a broad impact on society. A seminal study by Dr. David Phillips and Lindie Carstensen in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the suicide rate fluctuated after media coverage, and the amount of media coverage allotted to the suicide con stituted a greater risk (Grollman, 1988, p. 56). This statistically significant


89 relationship between media coverage of suicide and an increase in suicide among teenagers is called the Werther effect, named after a 1774 romantic novel by German writer Johan n Wolfgang von Goethe in which a young man commits suicide (Grollman, 1988, p. 56). For adolescent populations especially, the Werther effect can have potentially serious effects. A sizable group of individuals who revere and look up to professional footb traditionally been perceived of as epitomizing social ideals and masculine virtues, and as embodying values that learnt on the playing fields will readily transfer into every day coverage of high profile suicide cases, the researcher recommends that more rigorous training should be an integral part of the journalistic vetting process, especial ly for online media outlets with blog like formats, irrespective of the fact that some articles may be risk populations is not currently known it can have subtle Further proving the salience of this issue, impacts on public policy cannot be ignored. Many groups such as the NFL and NFL Players Association are viewing these suicides as a disturbing trend, requiring more research dollars for further investigation. Considering the trend of recent NFL player suicides, more attention needs to be devoted to this issue before a significant paradigm shift in th e way sports organizations view an d treat mental illnesses, depression an d suicidal tendencies can occur. Whether it was immediately obvious or not, c learly something was amiss to cause these athletes


90 to commit suicide. A cultural shift in reducing the commonplace nature of hegemonic masc ulinity would also be a viable step to ensure that men, regardless of their age, feel comfortable seeking assistance for mental health issues suffered during or as a result of their sport or profession. In addition, the league should also increase financia l support for mental health resources for players with the goal of preventing and/or reducing the amount of player suicides. Currently, the NFL offers various resources for current and former players and their families. Resources for current players inclu de NFL Player Engagement, NFL Total Wellness, NFL Player Assistance and Counseling Service, NFL Continuing Education Program. Resources for former players include health services, NFL Player Engagement, NFL Total Wellness, NFL Player Assistance and Counsel ing Service, Pensions and Disabilities, NFL Players Association, NFL Player Care Foundation, Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Fund, Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund (NFL Life Line, n.d.). dence that establishes the efficacy of these resources, especially for the programs that have only recently been instated. Furthermore, existence of such resources does not guarantee participation by players. Research should be conducted to evaluate how ef fective the resources are and how they could be improved, in addition to finding ways to recruit more players whom need the mental health support to participate in the aforementioned programs. As far as practical steps toward less ening player suicides in the league there appears to be some steps being taken. According to an article published in April 2013


91 awarded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The award comes after former and current players, their family members, and all league and team employees. The website includes an anonymous and confidential self check quiz and onl ine chat that allows individuals to inte ract with trained professionals reports, 2013). The site also includes information and warning signs about suicide and This appears to be a vital first step in addressing the disturbing trend of NFL athlete suicides. However, it is important to note that such an intervention requires direct action on the part o f the depressed and/or suicidal athlete seeking out the resource, perusing the information and videos on the website and deciding to seek help because of it. Depending on the efficacy of the outreach and promotion surrounding these NFL Wellness Programs, t hey could help mitigate some of the pressing issues currently affecting NFL athletes. Some experts advocate making mental health checkups for professional football players as necessary and second nature as sports physicals or knee rehabilitations this coul d very well be the markedly different change the league needs to address and subsequently treat player mental illness and/or suicides. Effective advertisement and outreach of such mental health programs can also bolster participation rates among athletes, especially those who are retired, as they face more transitional roadblocks when adjusting to civilian life after a successful, high profile and high


92 have a purpose. You wake up an d wonder why you should even get out of bed. What are you supposed to do with the rest of your life When former Green Bay Packer Ken Ruettgers shared his thoughts about leaving the game, he echoed the sentiments of ma ny retired players who find themselves feeling lost and confused when attempting to adjust to a normal life. After leaving the NFL, he meeting the transitional needs of pla (Bodipo Memba, 2006). Players find themselves called real world with few marketable skills to increase their wealth and serious self identity issues that often Memba, 2006). Factors like t hese may contribute to depression an d in some cases, suicide. As for some media organizations, they continue to make co nnections between factors such as head injuries and CTE and outcomes such as suicide when there is no widely accepted consensus among the medical community that all of these health issues are totally and unequivocally interrelated. Experts are divided in their opinion of such connections, which in turn can be confusing or misleading to pu blic audiences that consume news articles about NFL athlete suicides in which the journalist frames a connection between these aforementioned medical issues and subsequent suicides. Th e prevailing narrative [among] aging athletes who have killed themselv es in recent years is that head injuries sustained long ago on playing fields laid the groundwork for a downward spiral of depression and suicide. While in some cases that may be true, researchers and medical experts, including leaders in the study of CTE, cautioned against rus hing to judgment (Fish, 2012).


93 that an automatic connecti on can be made between NFL players who commit suicide and CTE However, given that he has been involved as a researcher on many of the studies that become covered and cited by journalists, that position is not always accuratel y reflected in t he articles instead, some journalists portray strong causal links among these varied medical issues. T here is even a rift among researchers and the league itself Researchers from many athlete brains for evidence of CTE and published about their findings in medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine. However, in the pa st, organizations such as the NFL have denied any connection between these conditions. Since then, their opinion has changed. While the NFL initially denied that these traumas could have long term effects, it has since publicly acknowledged the dangers an d recently donated $1 million to the CSTE at BU. In 2009, the NFL commissioned a study at the University of Michigan, which determined that ex professional football players were more prone to developing memory related disea ses than the general population ( Cole, n.d.). For many years, the league denied the possible connection between head injuries and long term health problems such as CTE and ou tcomes such as suicide. The NFL has since changed its stance and has donated money to various groups to conduct research on this very issue. In 2011, the league donated $30 million to the NIH the largest philanthropic gift in its history to support research on medical issues prev alent in athletes and relevant to the general population (Zigmond, 2013). In 2010,


94 the NFL gave Boston University res earchers a gift of $1 million However, since April Faina ru Wada, 2013). At present time, it is unclear how these conflicts of interest, research dollars, competing groups and legal issues will impact the sport in the long term. Limitations and Future Research Gi ven the popularity of football, it is necessary fo r future research to assess both the long and short term effects that media coverage has on the public and their perceptions. A clea r limitation of this research was that it could not account for all of the news articles and stories published about the pla instead, it evaluated the six most prevalent print and online sources and provided a holistic look at the issue. In this section, examples of research that should be conducted because they would significantly add to the scarce, preexisting b ody of knowledge are discussed. There have been dozens of professional football players, both active and retired, who have died by suicide since the league was first instated in 1920. However, identifying all of the players who have died by suicide is diff icult. Conducting a retrospective study that identifies and evaluates the total number of players who have died since the NFL was first created could show the ways in which the problem has changed over time on a quantitative and qualitative level. This is a viable first step in addressing this issue on the whole, as it is not currently known how many NFL athletes have died by suicide since the league was first established. A study of this kind will provide an epidemiological basis for determining how seriou s of a problem NFL suicides are. Epidemiological evaluation will give clues to communications professionals to


95 determine if this topic has been covered representatively in the media or if it is simply being overblown arguments that have been made by media professionals and critics. Future scholarship should encompass more news coverage across many different media outlets and diversify the type of articles to demonstrate a different and perhaps deeper knowledge of this hot button issue. In addition, r evisiti ng this topic after a significant amount of time has passed will reveal what changes the NFL has made to addres s the issue of player suicides, especially in light of the aforementioned initiatives and expansion of resources made available to current and re tired players. Examining the efficacy of such resources might yield a connection with the suicide rate among NFL players. With the passage of time, observable trend s may appear, to be assessed with further research. Further studies should seek to compare a nd contrast local media coverage (in the hometowns or towns where the athletes played) with elite, national coverage in order to discern the differences in the way journalists or particular news agencies discuss or frame the deaths of these NFL athletes. A nalyzing news articles from the hometown publication of each athlete will provide a different view of the death and likely emphasize the personal connection and impact the athlete had on their immediate community. An interesting aspect of the articles eval uated in this research was observing the use of expert and non expert sources. Thus, comparing the prevalence of expert versus non expert sources could make for a worthwhile research endeavor. Anecdotes, recollections and memories from friends, family and loved ones about the suicide victim


96 p. 9). M any of the journalists included quotes in their articles from recently bereaved family members who were commenting on the s uicide According to prevention guidelines, seeking quotes from trained professionals instead of quoting or interviewing police or first responders, seek quotes from suic ide ( American Association of Suicidology et al., n.d., p. 1) Thus, analyzing the presence of quotes from mental health experts such as psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors; individuals trained in suicide prevention and hotline operators would portray suicide as not just a death sentence, but as a prevalent public health issue that can be prevented and treated with proper professional intervention. Subsequent comparison and contrast of quotes fro m trained professionals with the amount of quotes from first responders and law enforcement officials would make for a worthwhile research endeavor. Due to the episodic nature of these suicides, new developments will occur each time another NFL athlete end s his life. The ever changing nature of this type of research requires that it will constantly need to be replicated and/or redone to account for recent deaths that may affect the results. Since this research has been conducted, the most recent player to d ie by suicide was Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher (Brown, S.R., 2012). In December 2012, the 25 year old Kansas City Chiefs linebacker shot his 22 year facility and co mmitted suicide in front of team head coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and other onlookers. His autopsy report indicated a high blood alcohol level at the time of death (Chodos, 2013).


97 If one thing is clear, it is that this problem is not g oing to ameliorate itself. Former and current NFL athletes are still dying by suicide and will likely continue to do so until a profound shift occurs in the culture of the league and in American society as a whole to reduce stigmatization. However, this ca n be viewed as a positive aspect, as new developments (albeit harrowing ones) will constantly continue to impact the issue. Conclusion This research has reiterated that suicide is not just a globally important public health issue, but especially important in the microcosm of professional sports. Suicide consistently ranks as a top 10 killer (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.). It accounts for billions of dollars in economic costs and nearly one million fatalities per year (World Health Organization, 2004). Most importantly, unlike some causes of death, suicide is preventable. The presence of commonly appearing media frames in the articles surveyed for the purposes of this study indicated that journalists framed the topic of NFL athlet e suicide in a v ariety of ways. Examples of such frames and associated sub dimensions include causes, character (masculinity; reputation) medical (prevention; research; last wishes), legal and religious frames. Changes over time from June 2000 to September 2012 yielded m arked differences in coverage and the presence of episodic framing effects. Finally, the articles included buzzwords with latent meaning, which directly and indirectly connected them to precursory historical, anthropological and sociological texts. When es tablished guidelines from federal agencies, organizations and other groups are revisited, the conclusion is that prevention should remain the main objective for media agencies to combat this prevalent public health issue. Considering the fact


98 that sports a re such an integral part of American culture and national identity, the implications that media coverage can potentially have on society as a whole cannot be underscored. Many young men and women look up to athletes as role models and may be infl uenced to take action based on media coverage of the athlete suicides. This research has reconfirmed the already established notion that media among adolescents makes this an e specially important public health topic. As evidenced by many researchers such as Gould and Wasserman, the way in which the media cover s suicides can have widespread impact upon the general public, especially at d that stories on prominent suicides are likely to trigger a subseq uent rise in national suicides it is found that a significant rise (Wasserman, 1984, p. 427). In addition to the fact that media coverage matters, the way in which journalists frame the suicides of these NFL athletes matters. Individuals derive meaning and invest a great deal in sports figures, despite the fact that they may have never met the athl ete nor had any interactions with him during his lifetime. They often develop para social relationships with sports figures, such as professional football players, who they have never met and likely never will. Thus suggesting that the sports mythos persis ts even today athletes are our modern day gladiators, larger than life and revered for their athletic prowess, physical qualities and financial status. Due to the fact that very little is known at this time, there is a need for more scholarship on the topi c of media coverage of NFL athlete suicides.


99 A PPEND IX CODING GUIDELINES Coding Sheet ITEM ID #_______ 1. Source: 2. Print/Online 3. Headline/Title: 4. Date ______/______/______ (MMDDYY) 5. 6. in article): 7. Word count: 8. Main topic of story: 9 Athletes mentioned: 10 Twitter? Y ____ N ____ 11 Tragedy: Hero or strength related words: Warrior or fighting related words: Legend: Best/great: Celebrity: Idol: Icon: Martyr: Star/super star:

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100 12 Frames found: Explanation of coding sheet: 1. Source: Indicate the media outlet/website where the article originated. Can abbreviate with the following: New York Times (NYT), Washington Post (WP), Los Angeles Times (LAT), ESPN (ESPN), Sports Illustrated (SI), Bleacher Report (BR). 2. Print/Online: Ci rcle whether the article appeared in print or online, or both. 3. Headline/Title: Write the headline or title of the article. 4. Date: Record in MM/DD/YY form. 5. article. 6. 7. Word count: Approximate length of the article in words. To calculate, count the number of words in five lines; divide by five. Then multiply that number by the number of lines in the story to calculate an approximate length in words. Or you may copy and past article into a Word document to obtain a word count. 8. Main topic of story: Briefly write the synopsis of the article in 1 to 2 sentences. 9 Athletes ment ioned: Write the names of the athletes mentioned in the article. 10 Twitter? Y/N: Circle yes if the article includes tweets, no if it does not. If it includes tweets, list who wrote the tweets.

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101 11 Word enumeration: This section is for enumeration purpose s to count the words used as framing tools in the articles. Write the number of times each of the aforementioned words appears in the article. Variations of the words are permitted, i.e. tragic for tragedy, heroic for hero, idolize for idol, legendary for legend. 12 F rames found: This refers to the inductive frames and sub dimensions found in the article. In order to find the frames, read the article carefully and highlight the sentences or word s that fit into these frames/sub dimensions.

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102 LIST OF RE FERENCES Adelson, E. (2012, July 31). OJ Murdock's apparent suicide another blow to NFL fraternity, but is football really to blame? Yahoo! Sports Alexa Internet Inc. (2013). site info. Retrieved July 21, 2012, from Alvarez, A. (1990). The savage god: A study of suicide New York City, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Risk fac tors for suicide. Retrieved October 21, 2012, from Anderson, E., & Kian, E. (2012). Examining media contestation of masculinity and head trauma in the National Football League. Men and Masculinities, 15 (2), 152 173. doi:10.1177/1097184X11430127 Aquinas, T. (1225 1274). Summa theologica. Retrieved January 25, 2012, from mma/ Arnold, E. (2012, May 2). Junior Seau dead at 43: A look at his prestigious NFL career. Bleacher Report Around the NFL; Falcons upset with Vick. (2007, Jan 19, 2007). Los Angeles Times pp. D.10. Associated Press. (2006a, January 27). Document says former Steeler drank antifreeze in suicide. The New York Times Associated Press. (2006b, January 26). Ex Steeler Long drank antifreeze to commit suicide. ESPN Associated Press. (2009, January 22). Dronett death ruled a suicide. Associated Press. (2010, September 23). Kenny McKinley death stuns Lites. Associated Press. (2010, September 26). Sudden death; tragedy finds grieving Denver B roncos for third time in three years as a player dies. Los Angeles Times pp. C.1 Associated Press. (2011a, September 20). Broncos remember Kenny McKinley. mckinley smil e lives denver broncos players

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103 Associated Press. (2011b, March 29). Dave Duerson findings to be released. 6451266&src=mobile Associated Press. (2011c, February 26). Dave Duerson remembered. Associated Press. (2012, April 23). Ray Easterling, former Atlanta Falcons safety who was suing NFL over head injuries, committed suicide. New York Daily News Associated Press. (2012, August 20). Seau's autopsy shows no alcohol, illegal drugs in system at time of suicide. CBS Sp orts Associated Press. (2012, January 18). NFL lineman Michael Wayne Current faced charges. l/story/_/id/7474337/ex lineman michael wayne current killed self faced sex charges?src=mobile Associated Press. (2012, July 30). Police: Titans player dies in apparent suicide. titans player dies in apparent suicide439662/ Associated Press. (2012, May 11). Public service held for Junior Seau. memorial service former san diego charger junior seau held qualcomm stadium Associated Press. (2012, M ay 22). Players worried about post NFL life. seau suicide nfl players thinking own futu re Associated Press. (2012, May 22). Seau's suicide troubles NFL players. suicide nfl players future Associ ated Press. (2012, May 31). Report: Junior Seau battled insomnia. /id/7995050/report friends say junior seau suffered insomnia regularly took prescription sleeping pills Associated Press. (2012, May 6). Paddle out tribute honors Junior Seau. participate ocean tribute junior seau california home Associated Press. (20 12a, August 20). Autopsy performed on Junior Seau. seau system found no alcohol illegal d rugs Associated Press. (2012b, February 23). Dave Duerson's family sues NFL over his suicide. Sports Illustrated

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104 Associated Press. (2012c, February 23). Duerson's family sues NFL. family sues nfl Associated P ress. (2012d, February 23). Ex B ear Duerson's family sues NFL over his suicide. Sports Illustrated Associated Press. (2012e, May 9). Ex chargers to speak at memorial. san diego charger s dan fouts ladainian tomlinson speak junior seau memorial Associated Press. (2012f, July 12). Family releases Seau's brain tissue for study by National Institutes of Health. CBS Sports Associated Press. (2012g, January 17). Former OSU lineman apparently commits suicide in Oregon; was facing sex abuse charges. Bleacher Report Associated Press. (2012h, May 8). Junior Seau's body released to family. say junior seau body was released family Associated Press. (2012i, May 3). Junior Seau's death ruled a suicide after autopsy. Bleacher Report Associated Press. (2012j, May 16). Junior Seau's restaurant closing in wake of ex Charger's death. Bleacher Report Astleford, A. (2008, Nov 9, 2008). Seeking relief, McHale's life took a fatal turn; family and longtime friends say prescribed painkiller hastened decline of former NFL player. The Washington Post pp. D.1. Barnard, J. (2012, January 17). Expansion Bucs player faced sex abuse charges. Bleacher Report Barraclough, B. M. (1992). The Bible suicides. Acta Psychiatria Scandinavica, 86 64 69. Bartletti, D., & Perry, T. (2012, May 6). S urfer paddle out celebrates the life of Junior Seau. Los Angeles Times Bee, J. (2012, May 3). Junior Seau remembered in day of prayer by Oakland Raiders and Raider nation. Bleacher Report Begley, M., & Quayle, E. (2007). The lived experience of adults be reaved by suicide: A phenomenological study. The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 28 (1), 26 34. doi:10.1027/0227 5910.28.1.26

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105 Bengals' Henry had brain injury; chronic condition may have influenced behavior before his death. (2010, Ju n 29, 2010). The Washington Post pp. D.2. Berelson, B. (1952). Content analysis in communication research Glencoe, IL: Free Press. Berg, B. L. (2001). An introduction to content analysis. Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (pp. 238 26 7). Boston, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon. Bishop, G., & Davis, R. (2012, May 3). Seau dies at 43; suicide is suspected. New York Times pp. B13. Bishop, G., & Pilon, M. (2012, May 4). A community recalls a star who never left. New York Times pp. B.10. Blanchar d, K. (1995). The anthropology of sport: An introduction Westport, CN: Praeger. Bleacher Report. (2013). Bleacher report raises the bar for citizen journalists with new editorial guidelines. Retrieved March 1, 2013, from standards announcement Blood, R. (2002a). Weblog ethics: The weblog handbook. Retrieved February 13, 2013, from Blood, R. (2002b). The weblog handbook: Practical advice on creating and maintaining your blog New York City, NY: Perseus Publishing. Bodipo Memba, A. (2006, Ja nuary 28). Life after the NFL: Typically a struggle. USA Today Boeije, H. (2002). A purposeful approach to the con stant comparative method in the analysis of qualitative interviews. Quality & Quantity, 36 391 409. Boorstin, D. (1978). The republic of technology New York, NY: HarperCollins. Brackney, B. (2010, September 20). Kenny McKinley reportedly commits suicide. Bleacher Report Brain Injury Association of America. (2013). RI facts about TBI. Retrieved February 21, 2013, from Brain Injury Research Institute. (2009). Welcome to the Brain Injury Research Institute. Retrieved April 22, 2012, from http://www.b Branch, J. (2011, Dec 6, 2011). A brain 'going bad'. New York Times pp. B.13.

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106 Branch, J., Schwarz, A., & Schmidt, M. S. (2007, February 3). N.F.L. culture makes issue of head injuries even murkier. New York Times pp. D. 1. Brooks, R. (2010, September 20). Kenny McKinley: Denver Broncos receiver passes away. Bleacher Report Brown, C. (2007a, February 1). Ex players dealing with not so glamorous health issues. New York Times pp. D.1. Brown, C. (2007b, May 23). N.F.L. plan on concussions: Whistle blowers welcome. New York Times pp. D.1. Brown, E. (2010, September 2 3). My thoughts were on Denver B roncos Kenny McKinley today. my thoughts were on denver broncos kenny mckinley today?search_query=mckinley Brown, J. (2012, May 2). Former San Diego Chargers linebacker dead from apparent sui cide at age 43. Bleacher Report Brown, S. R. (2012, December 2). Jovan Belcher sixth NFL player to commit suicide in the last two years. New York Daily News Bryson, L. (1987). Sport and the maintenance of masculine hegemony. Women's Studies, 10 (4), 349 3 60. Burke, C. (2012, May 2). Junior Seau dead in possible suicide. seau dead in possible suicide/ Calder, J. (1977). Heroes: From Byron to Guevara. London, UK: Canepa, N. (2012, May 7). Bill Walton 'sad' he couldn't help Seau. Bleacher Report Carasik, S. (2012, May 5). The NFL needs to take care of its players and offer better suicide prevention. Bleacher Report Carpenter, L. (2007, Apr 25, 2007). 'Brain chaser' tackles effects of NFL hits. The Washington Post pp. E.1. Carpenter, L. (2009, Jul 9, 2009). McNair slaying: Murder suicide; probe: Girlfriend committed crime. The Washington Post pp. D.1. wire services. (2013, April 30). NFL to get award for its efforts to prevent suicides. CBS Sports Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. (2013). Retrieved April 21, 2013, from http://www.bu.e du/cste/

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107 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Mental Health, Office of the Surgeon General, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Association of Suicido logy, New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy. Reporting on suicide: Recommendations for the media. Retrieved June 1, 2013, from / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Traumatic brain injury. Retrieved May 28, 2012, from Ch apman, C. (2009). The evolution of web design. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from history of the internet in a nutshell/ Chiari, M. (2012 a May 4). Junior Seau: Submitting brain for medical research is unselfish move by family. Bleacher Report Chiari, M. (2012 b January 17). Mike Current: Former NFL offensive lineman found dead after apparent suicide. Bleacher Report Chia ri, M. (2012 c May 2). Police respond Junior Seau's house after reported shooting. Bleacher Report Chiari, M. (2012 d April 21). Ray Easterling: Death of former Atlanta Falcons DB ruled a suicide. Bleacher Report Chin, L., Toshkezi, G., & Cantu, R. (2011 ). Traumatic encephalopathy related to sports injury. US Neurology, 7 (1), 33 36. Chodos, B. (2013, January 14). Jovan Belcher autopsy report reveals details about his final moments. Bleacher Report Clary, J. (2010, September 21). Familiar tragedy: Remembering Kenny McKinley, Denver Broncos wide receiver. Bleacher Report Clinchy, E. (2012, May 2). Sports world reacts to death of former NFL linebacker Junior Seau. Sports Illustrated Cole, Uncovering concussions: How they're changing our brains and t he game. Retrieved October 15, 2012, from articles/sports medicine/uncovering concussions/ comScore Da ta Mine. (2011). Top 10 global sports markets. Retrieved February 21, 2013, from global sports markets/

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108 comScore Media Metrix. (2006). TV, sports and news sites experience gains in September. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from 06/10/Top_Sites_in_the_US Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender and Society, 19 (6), 829 859. doi:10.1177 Connolly, M. (2012, January 30). Ex falcon Shane Dronett's brain showed signs of CTE. Bleacher Report Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Crowther, N. (2010). Sport in ancient times Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. Culverhouse, G. (2011). Throwaway players: Concussion crisis from pee wee football to the NFL North Fayette, PA: Behler. Daughtery, P. (2012, May 3). We don't know athletes like Junior Seau, just image that they present. Sports Illustrated Davidson, L. E. (1989). Suicide cluster and youth Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press. Davies, B. (1993). Shards of glass. Children reading and writing beyond gendered identities (2nd ed.). NJ: Cresskill: Hampton Press. Davis, K., Baker, D., & Repard, P. (201 2, May 2). Junior Seau, hometown icon, takes his life. San Diego Union Tribune de Vreese, C. H. (2005). News framing: Theory and typology. Information Design Journal, 13 (1), 51 62. DeBruin, L. (2012). NFL Total Wellness: New program includes mental healt h 'life line' for players. Retrieved January 4, 2013, from total wellness mental healt h life line_n_1706722.html Deford, F. (2012, May 9). How much longer will we put young men in jeopardy to play football? Sports Illustrated Denver Post. (2012, January 17). Former Bronco Mike Current dies of apparent suicide. Denver Post

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110 Ellis, T. (2012). On Junior Seau, toughness and an anti stigma hero y ou might have missed. Retrieved June 6, 2012, from junior seau toughness and an anti stig ma hero you might have missed/ Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication, 43 51 58. Epstein, D. (2012, May 14). Uncertain connections. Sports Illustrated, ESPN Chicago. (2011, February 22). Da ve Duerson filed for bankruptcy. ESPN Chicago. (2011, February 24). Dave Duerson described his pain. ESPN Chicago. (2012, May 2). Seau's death hits close to home for ex Bear. death hits close to home for ex bear ESPN Dallas. (2012, May 4). Terrell Owens' thoughts on Junior Seau. owens shares his thoughts on junior seau news ser vices. (2006, November 21). Former Eagles DB Andre Waters, 44, commits suicide. ESPN news services. (2010, September 21). Broncos address Kenny McKinley death. http://s news services. (2011a, May 2). Duerson had brain damage. news services. (2011b, February 20). Report: Dave Duerson texted family. news services. ( 2012a, May 2). Junior Seau dies at 43. seau former san diego charger fou nd dead cops probe suicide news services. (2012b, May 4). Junior Seau family: Brain study OK. 89467/junior seau family allow concussion study brain news services. (2012c, May 31). Junior Seau's battle with insomnia. friends say junior seau suffered insomnia regularly took prescription sleeping pills?src=mobile

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112 Farmer, S. (2012a, May 4). Seau's brain to be used for research; family makes the decision after former NFL star's death is ruled a suicide. Los Angeles Times pp. C.1. Farmer, S. (2012b, June 8). Suits on NFL concussions c onsolidated; league says the issue doesn't belong in court and should be in collective bargaining. Los Angeles Times pp. C.5. Farmer, S. (2013, January 10). Junior Seau had brain disease when he committed suicide. Los Angeles Times Farmer, S., & Rojas, R. (2012, May 6). A great, unknown; Junior Seau seemed his usual gregarious self last week, and even those close to him saw no hints he was about to end his life. Los Angeles Times pp. C.1. Farrey, T. (2007, January 18). Pathologist says Waters brain tis sue had deteriorated. Felder, M. (2012, May 2). Junior Seau: Legacy at USC will live on. Bleacher Report Felder, M. (2012, M ay 2). Seau's college football legacy. Bleacher Report Fidelman, M. (2011, March 8). Why is killing by leveraging social media. Business Insider Fish, M. (2012). Rushing to find a connection. Retrieved June 17, 2013, from 0Crossroads2/when former football players commit suicide some see connection brain injuries suffered playing days experts urge caution Fisher, E. (2012, 8/13). Bleacher sale: Another indie hit. Sports Business Journal pp. 1. Fitzpatrick, M. (2012, May 3 ). Is it irresponsible to blame football for Junior Seau's death? Bleacher Report Foley, D. E. (1990). The great American football ritual: Reproducing race, class, and gender inequality. Sociology of Sport Journal, 7(2), 111 135. Gagne, M. (2011, December 12). A different kind of pain. Sports Illustrated, Gaines, C. (2012, October 9). Sports chart of the day: NFL revenue is nearly 25% more than MLB. Business Insider Gamson, W. A., & Modigliani, A. (1989). Media discourse and public opinion on nuclear powe r: A constructionist approach. American Journal of Sociology, 95 1 37.

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118 Marshall, B. (2012, June 7). Brandon Marshall offers his thoughts on Junior Seau tragedy. Bleacher Report Maske, M. (2009, Jul 6, 2009). McNair's death is ruled a homicide; police announce he was shot four times, woman found with him shot once. The Washin gton Post pp. D.3. Maske, M. (2012a, May 4, 2012). Seau's death is ruled a suicide. The Washington Post pp. D.5. Maske, M. (2012b, May 3, 2012). Seau found shot to death; suicide suspected. The Washington Post pp. D.1. Maxwell, J. (2013). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. McCormick, T. (2012a, May 2). Report: Junior Seau killed. http://w Junior Seau killed.html McCormick, T. (2012b, June 1). Report: Seau suffered from insomnia. National Football Post McDonell, T. (2012, May 14). The toughest question of all. Sports Illustrated, McKee, A., Cantu, R., No winski, C., Hedley Whyte, T., Gavett, B., Budson, A., Stern, R. (2009). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in athletes: Progressive tauopathy following repetitive head injury. Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, 68 (7), 709 735. doi:10.1097/NEN.0b013e3181a9d503 McNair died in murder suicide; police say the former NFL star was shot in his sleep by his distraught girlfriend, who then shot herself. (2009, Jul 9, 2009). Los Angeles Times pp. C.3. Mercy, J. A., Kresnow M., O'Carroll, P. W., Lee, R. K., Powell, K. E., Potter, L. B., Bayer, T. L. (2001). Is suicide contagious? A study of the relation between exposure to suicidal behavior of others and nearly lethal suicide attempts. American Journal of Epidemiology 154 (2), 120 127. doi:10.1093/aje/154.2.120 Merriam Webster Online Dictionary. Pugilist. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from http://www.merriam Me rrill, E. (2012, May 8). The tragedies of the 1994 Chargers. ESPN Messenger, C. K. (1995). Football as narrative. American Literary History, 7 (4), 726 739.

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129 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Nicki Karimipour holds two Bachelor of Arts de grees in English literature and h umanities from Florida State University She graduated magna cum laude and with an honors medallion in spring 2011. While at FSU, she served as a ssistant arts and life e ditor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau She also served as an editor for Clutch Magazine FSU's only student run fashion publi cation based out of the College of Human Sciences. Karimipour served as director of c ommunications for Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society, and was a member of Golden Key International, Phi Kappa Phi, Lambda Iota Tau, and Phi Eta Sigma A n n j ournalism at the University of Florida in fall 2011. She began workin g for UF Health in 2012 as assistant to the a ssist ant director of c ommunications at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) While working at the CTSI, she had the opportunity to conduct research on a variety of health and medical research topics. In spring 2013, she began teaching two sections of Multimedia Writing as a lab instructor. She worked as a research assistant in the summer of 2013. In the past, she has written for publications such as the POST UWIRE, INsite Magazine and interviewed a Nobel Laureate. Her research interest is in health communication. After graduating with her Master of Arts in Mass Communication, she will continue her graduate studies at UF in fall 2013, pursuing a Doctor of P hilosophy in mass c ommunication.