By Cassidy Thornburg
During arguably the best four-weeks of the year of watching dunks and upsets interchangeably in March, the NHL’s aggressive season featuring constant slamming and cheap throws, and the MLB’s never ending season that lasts through the dog days of August and into the fall, the world’s leading sports networks provide highlights, previews, and recaps of some of the best in-game moments via their websites and social media accounts.
But, now since all professional and collegiate sporting events have been suspended due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, ESPN, Sportscenter, MLB, and NBC Sports (to name a few) have been unable to provide in-game content. Instead, they have stepped inside the home of players (quite literally) to provide rare content of athletes off the field.
LeBron James went live on ESPN to speak on I Promise Schools’ impact. Simone Biles was featured on NBC Sports’ Instagram account performing gymnastics in her living room. Mike Trout was seen on all MLB platforms playing catch on an empty baseball field with his family. Sportscenter facetimed LeBron James.
In addition, many athletes have encouraged their followers via their individual social media accounts to stay home during the coronavirus, including Drew Brees and his wife. The Brees’ donated $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana to help communities and families make it through it and encouraged people to stay home during this time.
The willingness of players to virtually invite fans into their homes throughout COVID-19 is merely a way that athletes are using their platforms to encourage and entertain their communities and sports fans alike. The content that has been posted because of current situations has certainly brought hope or at least distraction to the homes of many spread across the globe. But, these videos of athletes in their homes taking questions, coming up with new bar tricks, etc. begs the question: are athletes taking on the role of celebrities?
When the content coming from athletes via their social media accounts in the past few weeks is considered side-by-side with content posted by celebrities in the last few weeks, the resemblance is striking. There seems to be little difference in how celebrities and athletes are using their platforms amidst COVID-19. Much like athletes, celebrities are taking questions and providing answers on social media. Their videos from inside their celebrity homes are meant to encourage their followers, much like the content being posted by sports media accounts, centered on athletes inside their homes.
Like LeBron James, Reece Witherspoon took questions, answered them inside her home, and then posted them on Instagram. Much like Drew Brees, Matthew McConaughey posted a video on his social media account to, encourage his followers to stay home.
While the transition of athletes into celebrities makes sense despite the suspensions in sports, restrictions to go outside, and stay-at-home policies, it makes one wonder: will it last when sports return?
It’s hard to say. This question can really only be answered with time. Sports as we know them are likely to be different once they return and in the coming years. The door to athletes as celebrities has been opened wider than ever before and likely will remain at least cracked.
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