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Framing sports' corporate social responsibility: US women's vs men's soccer leagues

David Lynn Painter (Communication, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, USA)
Brittani Sahm (Communication, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, USA)
Paul Schattschneider (Communication, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 11 June 2021

Issue publication date: 11 January 2022




This investigation's purpose is to compare coverage of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) behaviors of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and Major League Soccer (MLS). The goals are (1) to extend CSR analyses beyond organizational reports and (2) to compare coverage of professional sports teams' CSR behaviors across genders.


Specifically, this quantitative content analysis compared local newspaper coverage of the socially responsible behaviors of the three NWSL and MLS teams owned and operated by the same organizations in Portland, Houston and Orlando.


The NWSL teams received significantly less and more negative coverage than the MLS teams. Moreover, the NWSL coverage was more individualistic, more focused on ethics and quoted individual team players more frequently, while the MLS coverage was more collective, focused on philanthropy and quoted team organization members more frequently.

Research limitations/implications

Although intentionally based on a sample of six teams, this study's results suggest the biases in coverage of women's sports teams extend beyond the playing field to their corporate social responsibility behaviors, reporting and news coverage.


As one of the first studies to analyze media coverage of professional sports team's CSR activities and to compare their socially responsible behaviors across genders, the results provide compelling implications for CSR scholars and practitioners, especially in the sports industry.



Painter, D.L., Sahm, B. and Schattschneider, P. (2022), "Framing sports' corporate social responsibility: US women's vs men's soccer leagues", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 1-14.



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