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Tuesday, July 28 • 14:46 - 16:15
"It's None of Our Business: Framing Ray Rice Domestic Violence Incident on Social Media"

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Authors: Ann Pegoraro, Evan Frederick and Marion Hambrick

In February 2014, Ray Rice, an NFL running back with the Baltimore Ravens, was arrested on charges of domestic violence, and videos of him dragging his unconscious fiancé from an elevator surfaced. In May, he spoke publicly about the incident accompanied by his now wife Janay Rice and apologized for the incident (Bein, 2014). The NFL responded by suspending him for two games. On September 8th, a video was released by TMZ that showed Rice hitting Janay in the elevator and knocking her out. Rice was subsequently suspended indefinitely by the NFL and released by the Ravens (Bein, 2014). Sports fans took to social media to express their views on the incident and its handling by the NFL. In fact topics related to this situation trended on Twitter for almost two full weeks (Price, 2014). 


In traditional media, empirical studies on news framing have found frames to influence audience attitudes on various issues. Recently, Nisbet (2010) has indicated the need for increased examination of bottom-up framing on social media, which involves framing by consistent producers of content, as the conventions of online media enable individuals to employ these practices. Framing of issues from a bottom-up perspective has been found to provide increased awareness and dispersion regarding social issues (Hamdy & Gomaa, 2012). In addition, Meraz and Papacharissi (2013) found that over time certain frames rise to prominence through crowdsourcing practices, and are reframed to remain relevant in the minds of the audience, a process they referred to as networked framing. The concepts of bottom-up framing and networked framing have been utilized extensively in political communication research but many scholars have argued that sport is a significant and constituent part of most contemporary societies (i.e., Crawford, 2004) and as such, sport fans, media and society in general often engage with sport as it intertwines with social issues. Therefore, sport also provides an excellent setting in which to study the framing of societal issues. 

The purpose of this study is to examine bottom-up framing and networked framing in a sport environment, specifically analysing the differences in framing by social media platform regarding the social issues brought to light during the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. 


Data were collected from Twitter (n= 2,371,504) and from the Baltimore Ravens Facebook page (n = 21,479 comments/posts) over the time period of September 8th to 12th. This dataset was then imported into Leximancer textual analysis software that conducts conceptual (i.e., thematic) and relational (i.e., semantic) analysis on content. Thematic analysis was conducted on data segmented by time periods to elucidate any differences in framing over time. 


Preliminary data analysis revealed fans constructing debates on social media such as Who is to blame? Forgiving Wife and Good Man. An analysis of the full dataset will be completed prior to the 2015 Social Media and Society Conference. Theoretical implications regarding bottom-up framing and audience sentiments pertaining to the social issue of domestic violence as they play out in the sport world will be discussed. 


Crawford, G. (2004). Consuming Sport: Fans, Sport and Culture. New York: Routledge. 
Hamdy, N., & Gomaa, E.H. (2012). Framing the Egyptian uprising in Arabic language newspapers and social media. The Journal of Communication, 62, 195-211. 
Bein, L., (28, November 2014). A complete timeline of the Ray Rice assault case. Retrieved from http://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2014/5/23/5744964/ray-rice-arrest-assault-statement-apology-ravens 
Meraz, S., & Papacharissi, Z. (2013). Networked gatekeeping and networked framing on #Egypt. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 18(2), 138-166. 
Nisbet, M. (2010). Knowledge into action: Framing the debates over climate change and poverty. In Paul D’Angelo & Jim Kuypers (Eds.), Doing frame analysis: Empirical and theoretical perspectives (pp. 43-83). New York, NY: Routledge. 
Price, G. (10, September 2014). Fire Roger Goodell Trends Twitter: NFL Commissioner May Have Lied In Interview About Graphic Ray Rice Assault Video
Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/fire-roger-goodell-trends-twitter-nfl-commissioner-may-have-lied-interview-about-graphic-1685030 

avatar for Ann Pegoraro

Ann Pegoraro

Full Professor, Laurentian University
Social media. Digital world. Gender equity. Digital activism. Digital research methods

Tuesday July 28, 2015 14:46 - 16:15
(7th Floor) Room TRS1-109 (Ted Rogers School of Management) 55 Dundas St West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C3

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