kinesiology, sports fandom, Confederate Flags, media studies


The Confederate Battle Flag is one of the most hotly contested pieces of iconography in the United States, and each opposing viewpoint brings with it a host of reasons, which its adherents feel are valid. The purpose of this essay was to use methods for a critical commentary to analyze polarized viewpoints reported on through mass media (e.g., news articles/videos), as part of a term paper to one undergraduate course on Sport, Media, and American Popular Culture (2021 Fall Quarter). The chosen case material, a 2015 news article titled “NASCAR Faces ‘Southern Thunder’ as Confederate Flags Fly at Daytona,” presented viewpoints for and against the use of the Confederate Flag in public spaces and as a symbols of sport pride. Critical analysis of the discourse for and against the Confederate Flag in sport was framed using academic research, several sociological perspectives (e.g., symbolic interaction theory), and several psychosocial perspectives toward fandom (e.g., socialization). Critique of each perspective revealed how the social process of fandom enflames the controversy (e.g., polarizes debate/discussion). A symbolic interaction theoretical lens revealed how politics can affect the issue (e.g., mitigate and/or entrench the controversy), allowing for appreciation of the complex intersection of social structures (e.g., politics, sport, education). Through this paper, the premise that fans only cling to the Confederate Flag as a unifying symbol and overlook the societal and racial ramifications that come with their fandom is further explored.