Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Levina Marina

Committee Member

Antonio de Velasco

Committee Member

Amanda Nell Edgar

Committee Member

Emily Ryalls


Professional sports and sports culture permeate almost every aspect of contemporary American culture. By its very nature, sports culture focuses on the bodies and perfomances of athletes. While this is a natural result, the taken-for-granted norms of professional sports culture priviliges cisgendered, White, heteronormative bodies. This study investigates how professional sports culture operates as an apparatus of discipline that is inundated in notions of whiteness. Through the case studies of UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, tennis champion Serena Williams, and WNBA star Brittney Griner, this study exposes the modes of discipline that are deployed by professional sports culture and the impact this power and control has on bodies that do not adhere to gendered or racial norms. Because professional sports culture is an apparatus, the means of discipline that are inflicted upon athlete bodies differs based upon criteria such as gender, race, and sexuality. Individuals who occupy non-normative intersectional identity are often placed in a position where they must navigate how their bodies are viewed, consumed, and controlled. Using various audio visual and print mediated texts (including vlogs, interviews, and mini documentaries) I explore how Rousey, Williams, and Griner vocalize their identities as a way to push against the boundaries of professional sports culture. I assert that their voices serve as a rhetorical tool of resistance that allows each athlete to reconfigure how the disciplinary power of professional sports culture is inflicted upon their body. This dissertation represents the fields of critical rhetoric and media studies and seeks to contribute to the ongoing scholarly conversation concerning the invisible power of whiteness and intersectional scholarship.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.