Lesbian Athletes in the Sports Media: Ambivalence, Scrutiny and Invisibility

  • Rachael BullinghamEmail author
  • Verity Postlethwaite


Sociologists who have examined lesbians in American and British sport media in the 1980s and 1990s found patterns of overt and covert mechanisms of social discrimination (Lenskyj 1986; Griffin, Strong women, deep closets. Human Kinetics, Leeds, 1998). In the contemporary era, much has changed in terms of coverage, public sentiment, and athlete voices. This chapter, therefore, is a timely contribution to consider if such practices in the 1980s and 1990s are still present or if there have been changes. We consider a breadth of academic debate (such as, Fink, Sport Manag Rev 18(3):331–342, 2014; Chawansky, Leis Stud 35(6):771–782, 2016) and will be supported and challenged through empirical illustrations from two lesbian athletes in contemporary sport—celebrated British footballer Casey Stoney and high-profile American footballer (soccer) Megan Rapinoe—and their portrayal in the sports media. The academic debate and empirical examples demonstrate changes to the portrayal of lesbian athletes in the current sports media, with emerging patterns of ambivalence, scrutiny, and invisibility. The implications of this chapter are to broaden the understanding of media representation around female athletes and recognize the differences in a range of intersections, such as sexuality, as it impacts the portrayal of an athlete’s identity.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sport and Exercise ScienceUniversity of WorcesterWorcesterUK

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