University of Missouri Study Finds Media Perpetuates Negative Stereotypes of Black Athletes

cyndi-frisbyA new study conducted by Cynthia Frisby, an associate professor of strategic communication in the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia, has found that Black athletes are more likely than their White peers to be stereotyped negatively in media outlets such as television and video games.

Dr. Frisby’s research found that media stories on Black athletes tended to focus on criminal activity or other negative attributes, whereas stories about White athletes were overwhelmingly positive. She found that of all online and print news stories written about criminal activity of athletes, 66 percent involved African Americans. Overall, 53 percent of all print and online media stories of Black athletes were negative, while only 27 percent of the stories about White athletes were negative.

FrisbyBook“True cultural sensitivity requires the eradication of racial and ethnic stereotyping; thus, journalists and reporters must reflect on how their own unfounded beliefs about race differences in sports likely contribute to the stereotyping of Black athletes as engaged in more criminal activity and innately physically gifted yet lacking in intelligence and strong work ethics,” Dr. Frisby said. “Not only does negative media coverage serve to legitimize social power inequalities, but also it is likely to undermine Black athletes’ achievements and contribute to stereotype threat.”

The study was presented at the recent International Communication Association conference and is one of 15 chapters in Dr. Frisby’s new book How You See Me, How You Don’t (Tate Publishing, 2015).

Dr. Frisby joined the faculty at the University of Missouri in 1998. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Related Articles


  1. The study is not surprising with its surface level and apolitical findings by pointing out the obvious for anyone who has an inkling of intelligence in reference to the portrayal of Black athletes in the White racist media. Dr. Frisby, your study would have more validity if you minimally identified the media conglomerate owners from Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, News Corp., CBS Corporation or NBC Universal. Thereby, your audience could fully understand the breadth and scope of this institutional racism that you fail to specifically identify. Further, if you unpacked (ok, disaggregate) the plethora of newspapers, radio stations, and magazines affiliated with the aforementioned, one can clearly see that racism is inculcated within the foundation of the entire media industry.
    Yet, when so-called Black scholars operating within academe virtually refuse to articulate this within the parameters of their work, it only shows how much Black scholars are intellectually neutered.

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Two Black Scholars Appointed to Faculty Positions

The new faculty are Esther Jones at Brown University and Dagmawi Woubshet at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision is Established at Bowie State University

"The new program will help to increase the number of counselor educators within the counseling field and the number of competent Black counselor educators," says Dr. Otis Williams, chair of the Bowie State University department of counseling and psychological studies.

Elizabeth City State University Partners With the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to Increase Representation of Black Graduate...

"We are excited by this partnership with UT Health Science Center and the opportunities this brings to our students who wish to pursue advanced degrees," said Kuldeep Rawat, dean of the Elizabeth City State University School of Science, Health and Technology.

Kimberly White-Smith Honored for Outstanding Contributions to Teacher Education

“Through her leadership and scholarship, Dr. White-Smith inspires a new generation of teachers to serve students and approach their work with equity, compassion, and respect,” said Gail F. Baker, provost and senior vice president at the University of San Diego. 

Featured Jobs