Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Nicholas D. Bowman.

Committee Co-Chair

Rebecca M. Chory

Committee Member

Keith Weber


Previous literature has established the widespread use of frames that contrast athletes' physical (i.e., the "brawn" frame) and mental abilities (i.e., the "brain" frame) in mediated sports content, especially in verbal commentary. An athlete's race has been extensively studied as a key variable that determines which frames are implemented by media institutions, as Black athletes are framed in the brawn frame and White athletes are framed in the brain frame. The current study analyzed the presence, salience, and valence of brawn and brain frames of Heisman finalists in newspaper articles. This study extended previous research by examining (a) written content, (b) journalists' race as an antecedent condition of framing, and (c) patterns of salience and valence for each frame. Results of the current study suggest that "brawn" frames are used to describe Black athletes based on probability and in comparison to White athletes; however, "brain" frames are used to describe White athletes only in comparison to Black athletes. Further, reporter race was not found to be an antecedent condition of framing, as Black and White reporters used brawn and brain frames at the same rate. Findings from this study suggest that racially based framing exists in written content. Additionally, the lack of influence of reporter race (a finding that contradicts previously established patterns based on the examination of verbal commentary) suggests that there may be an institutional influence on frame use in mediated coverage of sports. Future studies should examine this further to determine if a media institution influences content through formal policies or informal social interactions and culture.