On December 5, 2013, the State of Florida attorney announced his decision to not charge Jameis Winston, the African American quarterback at Florida State University at the time, with sexual assault in response to allegations stemming from an incident in December 2012. As Twitter represents a unique site for examining cultural conversations and as sexual assault allegations toward athletes have gained more media attention, this research was conducted to investigate Twitter reactions to this decision. A content analysis of tweets (n = 2,500) systematically examined how rape culture and beliefs about athletic ability, race, and sexual assault were reinforced and contested in tweets. The results of our study found that attitudes consistent with those that comprise rape culture, including victim blaming and framing the accused as the victim, were for the most part upheld and reinforced by Twitter users. However, our findings also indicated that Twitter served as a site for a smaller number of users to voice criticism of society, media, and sports culture in response to the decision to not charge Winston. Taken together, these findings indicate that although Twitter provides users a platform to challenge problematic belief systems, it also functions as a site where those ideologies can be reinforced.


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pp. 65-87
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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