Media Construction of Sport Celebrities as National Heroes
Within the broader media-sport nexus framework, sport is known for providing not only engaging performances for the entertainment market, but also important symbolic capital in terms of national identity and public diplomacy. The present paper looks at how these dimensions overlap, focusing on the centrality of the media logic within the dynamics of the social field of sport and its corollary celebrization imagery. The aim of the paper is, thus, to identify the contextual aspects and the legitimation strategies mobilized through media discourses in the overlap of the star status and the national hero image of a sport actor. When and how does media crown an athlete with the national hero aura? What does this national hero status involve in terms of identity and identification mechanisms? Focusing on a corpus of 310 online articles and 12 Facebook highlights published by two main Romanian sport newspapers during the 2014 Roland Garros Tournament, the study discusses the media construction of the raising sport star, Simona Halep (i.e. first Romanian tennis player to enter Top 3 WTA), as national hero. The analysis examines not only the symbolic power of the sport performances as national identity resources and celebrity input, but also the engaging deliberative spaces that emerge along with the national hero frame and the hybrid form of civic celebrity practices involved in legitimizing it.
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