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How Media Portrays Sport Personalities And How It Influences Their Image

A democratic government is a government of the people, or the people and by the people. In order for this to happen, both parties need to work together to it to be effective. This however requires communication. This is where media comes into play. Media act as a catalyst for democracy and development, helping to make public participation meaningful. If media is honest and committed in its job, democracy is bound to function more efficiently, and the loopholes present in any democratic system can certainly be plugged to the fullest satisfaction of the people. On the contrary, if media is biased, corrupt and favors only a party or few individuals, it can prove to be very dangerous for the smooth functioning of democracy. The media has the responsibility to always be professional and authentic. In doing this, they are responsible to make sure that extensive research is conducted without any bias.

The way media portrays sport personalities is mainly driven by for their own pocket. Thus, the media tends to adapt a story or truth in a way that attracts its viewers/readers to react to. The media is often the public’s only source of information, with regards to topics such as sport personalities. Therefore, society is led to believe only what media outputs. This can create a false image of certain sport figures. For example, the media can portray positive or negative behaviors, which in turn can influence its viewer’s opinions. On the positive side, through broadcasting on television viewers get to not only understand the rules of the game, but also see successful role models that inspire them. However, media does not only broadcast positive information, sportsman’s negative aspects are often exposed, which too can influence viewers to negative views about that sportsman.

In today’s society, media is part of our everyday life and we heavily rely on it. It has also become increasingly accessible with the help of technology rapidly advancing. Likewise, there are an increasing number of media companies developing, which creates a stronger competition. This can lead to media companies manipulating their information to gain support. Sport stars are more often than before being put in the spot light and being exploited. For example, athletes such as: Herschelle Gibbs, Oscar Pistorius and Caster Semenya. The media is constantly exploring for controversial topics to expose.

This was the case for Herschelle Gibbs, who used to be the Proteas opening batsman. In the year 2000, on the 7th of April, the Delhi’s crime branch police had revealed a recording of a conversation between the Proteas’ captain Hansie Cronjie and Sanjay Chawla, who represented a betting organisation, over match fixing. Among the captain, three others were found to also be guilty, including Gibbs. According to the recording, Gibbs was offered fifteen thousand dollars to score less than 20 runs. Gibbs, however, reportedly declined the offer and scored 74 runs thus only being fined and banned for 6 months. However, seven years later, Gibbs is found to have made racial comments during a test match. His comments were captured through the stump microphone and were played to the world. Following his actions, he had to face initially a two-year ban, however, that changed to only being banned for certain games. Gibbs reported that his comments where only for his own teammates and was directed at a section of the crowd that verbally abused his teammate, Paul Harris.

Herschelle Gibbs’s rights were abused through focussing on his banning, his involvement in the match fixing and by portraying him as a racist. The media changed the perception of Gibbs by choosing to highlight the scandal instead of all his claims and apologies about his actions. Because of the negative media attention, Gibbs would possibly avoid the public in fear of being judged. Even his future could be affected, for example, if he would want to branch into coaching, he would most likely be boycotted due to his reputation given by the media.

On the 14th of February 2013, Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria. Pistorius acknowledged that he had shot Reeva but claimed that it was a tragic accident as he mistook her for an intruder. His trial lasted for over 7 months, after which he was found not guilty. However, the following year, the court had overturned the original case and found Pistorius guilty of murder. The case was taken to the high court of South Africa, where the case was followed by thousands of South Africans. Thus, the media had a huge influence in how Oscar would be perceived as.

Both attorneys from either side agreed that this case would most likely be decided upon how the media would play it out, as they ultimately determine the verdict of the public.

Pistorius was a South African Paralympic sprinter, who competed in the 2012 Summer Olympic games held in London. His girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a model, was portrayed as an innocent victim of her boyfriend’s murder. Although the media never released bias content, they managed to highlight Pistorius in a negative way, which affects the publics’ opinions. The media emphasized Pistorius as an aggressive and controlling athlete who was frustrated with his disability. He was born with fibular hemimelia, which is the term given to those born with a fibula in their lower leg. When he was eleven years old, both his legs below his knees were amputated.

Oscar Pistorius’s human rights were violated as he was portrayed by the media in a negative light. This took his right in allowing to show people what type of person he truely is. Those that followed the media and never knew him personally, would assume based on the media’s reputation of him that he was an aggressive and cold murderer. Because of the negative media coverage, Pistorius would have most likely have avoided the public’s judgement. As a result, his freedom would be restricted. Pistorius also tried to take the murder conviction to the Constitutional Court, but it also refused to hear the matter. He is currently serving his jail sentence of thirteen years.

Caster Semenya is a South African Olympic middle-distance track runner, especially in the 800 meters and 1500 meters events, where she has achieved multiple gold medals. In 2009, at the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) Berlin World Championships, she was put into the spotlight when she took gold. But it was not the positive attention the country had hoped for. The IAAF reported that they had to investigate Semenya after she made improvements in both her 800 and 1500-meter times by 8 seconds and 25 seconds respectfully, improvements in performance that usually arouse suspicions of performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) use. At this time, the IAAF also tricked Semenya and performed a gender test without her permission, something she confirmed during an interview with NBC before her Olympic race in London. Semenya stated that she knew she was being tested for PEDs, something she was used to, but did not know she was going through a gender test until the testing became more of a violation, poking and probing in areas she knew were not part of any PEDs test she had ever been through. The media portrayed her controversial manly appearance and excellent performance as a reason to doubt her right to compete as a woman.

The media thus undermined her achievements through questioning her gender in aiming to attract more viewers and readers through using this controversial topic. They further emphasized that fact that she had a female partner, to reason with the debate, despite no definite proof. Semenya is known to be a very private person, however, the media abused her privacy and made false assumptions. Because of this, her freedom had been jeopardized.

There are certainly different methods that media companies could use to sustain unbiased, transparent and reliable coverage of sport personalities. Sports stars are always monitored by the media, whether they are doing well or poorly. It is only until they do something negative that they are then thrust into the limelight where the media blow the matter into something much bigger than it really is. They could rather balance the positives and negatives, instead of always highlighting the negatives. In doing this though, the media companies would need to be consistent throughout, otherwise the standard subsides and becomes unreliable. In it is correctly executed, it would prevent controversial and prejudice headlines from occurring. This in turn would allow for the public to view a neutral perspective and allow their own opinions to form based on their reasoning and interpretation of that sport star. In addition, the media could avoid interfering with the sports star’s personal and private life, unless permission is granted, as every person has their right to their privacy and it must be respected.

Freedom of media is vital to the maintenance of a democratic system because it allows for communication to occur that inform the people of relevant issues that may affect them. People also have the right to know about ongoing situations and happenings of their country and the world. Media monitors famous and political figures, which create a transparency and ensures that those remain lawful and honest. Freedom of speech, which is essential in a democratic society can be exercised on a platform through media, however, within limitations that do not harm any other person’s beliefs or views. This protects sport personalities by limiting the media’s coverage on a specific view, generally negative. They should remain, respectful and fair towards the sport star. Reporters thus need a permission to enter the sport star’s property, for example. Lastly, media companies cannot promote any forms of violence or use information to threaten national security. Sport stars are in the spotlight and therefore cannot be put in a dangerous situation caused by the media’s actions.

The Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) is a non-profit organization, which provides professional services towards the promotion of a human rights culture, peace and democracy. Therefore, the HURISA promotes human rights and provides a medium to protect people’s rights.

Similarly, the Humans Rights Foundation (HRF) also operates on non-profit bases, which aims at promoting and protecting human rights worldwide – mainly focusing on closed societies. Its objective is to unite people in a common goal of protecting their human rights, which can ultimately lead to awareness created about human rights and their violations and can also assist the government with the regulations.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is a commission that draws its mandate from the South African Constitution. It reads as follows: “The SAHRC is tasked with monitoring, both pro-actively and by the way of complaints brought before it, violations of human rights and seeking redress for such violations. It also has an educational role.” Hence, the SAHRC protects and educates people of their human rights.

The HURISA has offered successful and effective training of human rights within SA, as well as abroad. They have managed to support refugees, through receiving funding in educating and protecting these individuals. The South African among others, has recognized these rights, however, due to the immigrants not having the correct legal documents, some have failed citizenship.

The HRF is efficient in their role as a worldwide organization as they are involved in various countries and have gained much positive support. They are effective in helping third world countries with their human right laws, however, due to the difference in the legal limitations in some countries, they are limited as to how they can assist you.

The SAHRC has succeeded in educating South Africans about their human rights. Unfortunately, it remains limited as there are still many South Africans who are unaware of their rights and the violations of them. This commission has thus received critic due to evidence of racial based bias and prejudice. In the past, there have mostly been self-started investigations that have been violated by persons of the white race.

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