Sports, Media Culture, and Race -- Some Reflections on Michael Jordan

Kellner, Douglas
December 1996
Sociology of Sport Journal;1996 Supplement, Vol. 13, p458
Academic Journal
The article reflects on Michael Jordan's role in media culture. Professional sports is one of the major spectacles of media culture. Under the influence of postmodern image culture, media spectacles fascinate the denizens of the media and consumer society, involving them in the semiotics of a new world of entertainment, information and drama, which deeply influence thought and action. Among the spectacles of media culture, Michael Jordan is preeminent figure. As a National Basketball Association superstar, Jordan will reportedly receive $30 million to play for the Chicago Bulls in 1997, and he reportedly earned $43.9 million in 1995, including $40 million in endorsements and promotions, making him the highest paid athlete in the world. Jordan epitomizes the postmodern spectacle both on the playing field and in advertisements and media spectacles, which implode athletic achievement with commercialization, his sports image with corporate products, making Jordan one of the highest paid and most fecund generators of social meaning in the history of media culture. In a sense, Michael Jordan represents a highly successful marketing phenomenon and calls attention to the construction of the media spectacle by corporations, public relations and techniques of advertising. Just as Jordan marketed Nike, Wheaties and other products, so did these corporations help produce the Jordan image and spectacle. Michael Jordan is, thus, a dazzling sports spectacle who promotes both commercial sports and products of corporations that market products to sports audiences. Yet Jordan is a distinctively Black spectacle and his blackness is clearly a central feature of his image.


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