Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chapter 2 Assignments -What you owe your readers (Due by Feb. 13)

Assignment 1: Sports journalists are not immune from following the ethics codes for the Society of Professional Journalists. Chapter 2 reviews this very thoroughly by reporting on the sports bra exposure incident of U.S. women's soccer star Brandi Chastain. On July 10, 1999 at the Women's World Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, after scoring the fifth penalty kick to give the United States the win over China in the final game, Chastain celebrated by peeling off her jersey and falling to her knees in a sports bra, her fists clenched. This image was featured on the covers of TIME, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated (featured here). Her act drew worldwide attention. In addition, NIKE stood to profit from this act. Review this issue and explain if you agree that there may have been an underlying current of commercialism with this act? What are the responsibilities of the sports journalist on this issue? Do we cover the story? Do we run this picture? Are we selling out? Or, is this just part of the game? Write and essay about ethics in sports journalism. Review the entries in the book on SPJ and APSE. Keep it short - no more than 250 words. Post your answer on this blog.

Assignment 2: On this chapter the author lists several things that a sports journalist should be aware of while covering a story. Among them are: (1) Beware of sensationalism, (2) double-check facts, (3) consider privacy and (4) avoid cynicism. Write a 250 word essay on this subjects (it's in the books) and be ready to discuss in class and turn in when we meet next. SA students, please email to or

Good luck


  1. My one question is "what would have happened if the bra had been a Hanes?" As a runner, I wear my sports bra out when I am either too hot or just like the look. The commercialism that banked off of this act by Chastain was just a lucky move. I think there is more to this story and that is that an athlete acted like an athlete, despite the gender. Absolutely, I would cover the story but using accurate quotes from Chastain as to why she pulled off her shirt, there would be either a short blurb or a long political sport journalism column, as to why the public must use women in sports as a sexual symbol of some sort. That is not a sell out column, that is real life society in the US.

  2. Alisa, some interesting comments. "Lucky?" Are you sure? Brandi Chastain is both an athlete and businesswoman. She was also very keen on promoting women's soccer. Is it possible she planned this? Still, you are correct: an athlete is an athlete and her reactions primarily, I feel, came from her passion for the game. What do the rest of you think?

  3. I think as a journalists you should cover the story because it is your duty to report on current events. Whether or not it was planned, you as a journalists have no control of that. Once again it is your job to report on the facts and let the reader put their own spin on the story. I agree with the both of you, she is an athlete, but she is still a business woman and she knows she is representing her sport with every move she makes.

  4. Tania...a sports reporters job is to cover the event. What journalists covering this even should do is ask Brandi Chastain is she did it for any other purpose in mind other than just the passion of the game. The story will "tell itself" if journalists ask the right questions. I enjoyed your post. What do the rest of you think?

  5. I do not think there was anything bad about the journalists covering this. The responsibilities of the sports journalist, or any journalist, on this issue is, what I believe most important, to eliminate race and gender inequities as the APSE mentions in their code of ethics. If this would have been a male player scoring the winning goal to win the World Cup and if he had taken off his jersey the journalist and photographers would have ran with this also. Just because this is a female some may feel that were wrong to run this, but I feel this was news. APSE’s Journalistic Principles include: serve the public, monitor the powerful, be balanced and fair, be compassionate, be independent and be courageous. If the sports journalists would not have shot the photo and ran the story in their magazines or newspapers they would not have served the public. The public would have wanted to know the who, what, when, where, why and how this happened and by them running this story it was their first duty as a journalist. I do not believe we are selling out, this was simply part of the game and part of our duty to cover the news, another principle is to be balanced and fair, and that is what this issue was.

  6. Although the covers of those magazines show Brandi Chastain on her knees with her shirt off, people remember the reason why.
    That picture one that will be etched in every person's mind, regardless of sex, for many years.
    That was a moment that solidified that women had a place in the sports world.
    Sure, there may have been several people that found this morally wrong, but come on. She's sporting a sports bra not a thong. People will remember that moment because they women had just won soccer's highest honor; the World Cup.
    It made the U.S. women's soccer team superstars and made Chastain an instant celebrity.
    This was all by accident. She really didn't expect the media attention. It just happened.
    This moment was not to sell sex, it was to seize that winning moment. If people want to see it as wrong, then let them.

  7. In this situation, I think that the media should have put more attention to the outcome of the game instead of why Brandi Chastain took off her shirt. The USA Women’s Soccer team just won the World Cup but instead of focusing on the outcome of the game, they focused on her. What I don’t understand is that if a male athlete took his shirt off it is ok, but for a woman athlete it is not. It’s not like she is completely naked under her shirt and flashed the whole world. She is covered up and taking in the excitement of not only winning the 1999 Women’s World Cup but how women’s soccer will have a place in the US. In the picture you can see it in her face how excited and proud she was of what they have done. I don’t think that it was a big deal like the media made it seem. I think they blew it out of proportion and tried to find any excuse to make it seem like she was doing something wrong.

  8. Katrina, Christina and Juan Carlos, thank you for your posts. All of you had excellent points and presented a well-developed discussion. Katrina you are right when you say that one of the principle responsibilities of any journalist is "to eliminate race and gender inequities as the APSE mentions in their code of ethics." Yours will be the first generation of journalists/communicators who will tackled that issue head one without fear of repercussions. This particular news event - the stripping of the jersey by Brandi Chastain - should not have taken any thing away from the passion of the moment nor the impact of the story, which was that women's sports had arrived in the United States. You cover it, you report what happened and let the public interpret what it may from the series of events. Good job Katrina.

    Juan Carlos, you presented a veteran's view of sports reporting to your analysis of Chastain's actions. The story is what's important and, in the end, the true sports fan will remember the real reason why the Chastain incident occurred - her passion for women's sports in this country.
    As you say, "that picture one that will be etched in every person's mind, regardless of sex, for many years. That was a moment that solidified that women had a place in the sports world." Our job as sports reporters is to tell what happened and then ask questions to clarify the "why". I feel you would have done that as well as any other professional. Now, I don't know if I can agree with you that this was "by accident." I think it was just the spirit of the moment, the passion, and the circumstances that led to this. What it planned? I don't think so.
    Still, I agree, it was not done to sell sex. It was to seize that winning moment. Now, even in your class comments, do not get judgmental. Do not say stuff like, "If people want to see it as wrong, then let them." That is patronizing. Your job is not to judge.... it is to report.

    Christina, for the most part, the media did just what you asked for in your post - pay more attention to the outcome of the game instead of why Brandi Chastain took off her shirt. It was only after, when the magazine's came out with their front covers featuring the shirtless Chastain in her sports bra, that the conversation shifted. Then, they focused on her, and with good reason. Shortly after, she agreed to pose nude for several magazines. Was this sexist of just opportunistic from her part? Remember, it is not for us to judge, but only to report. The story on this championship game could not be written without mentioning her actions. How the public reacts and how she will react is another story. Get it? It's another story that we will write and that's what good journalists do.

    Again, thanks to all three of you for these very nice posts

  9. Personally, the fact that there was a big controversy over this event comes as quite a shock to me. As an athlete, I can easily see Chastain's perspective on this event. She had just won the biggest competition in her sport for her country in front of thousands of screaming fans. I am positive there were too many emotions present for her to even think twice about her actions. It was most definitely a spur of the moment reaction. There was too many unforeseeable circumstances for this act to have been planned as some sort of plug for Nike. The fact that Nike benefitted was simply a coincindence. And as for the journalist stand point, I feel that the only story that should have been reported was that the USA Women's Soccer team were champions. There is no way this incident should have overshadowed the accomplishments of that team.

  10. I guess her taking her shirt off was a big deal ten years ago or whenever but now I think the concentration would be on the big game. It would be different if as she was taking her shirt off she popped out a boob or something other than that it shouldn't be important. As for anyone benefitting from this was coincidence. The only way to get the truth is to just ask the woman herself.

  11. Drew and Lorraine, sorry for the late response. You are correct Drew, an athlete is almost always spontaneous and Brandi Chastain's actions - if you watch the film reruns - are totally spontaneous and enjoying the moment. However, the afterthought is that it was made for a commercial venture. As a sports journalist, you must ask this question, even is she is offended by it. Lorraine, this would still be a big deal. Women have come a long way but sports are sports and it’s still a commercial and entertainment venture.