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April 19, 2024

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities


The relationship between sports and culture is intriguing, with various debates regarding the intertwined ties between societal dynamics and athletic endeavours. Therefore, multiple theories explain sports culture and social interaction, including critical, linguistic (post) structuralism, and cultural studies approach models. These frameworks exhibit common characteristics like emphasis on consumerism, social distinction, hegemony, semiotics, representation, articulation, and bricolage. These traits can help explain how society perceives crucial activities like James’ sneakers, the Lakers game broadcast, and James’s social welfare activities. Although the sports and culture industries have a complex relationship, the connection can be understood better using theories relevant to sports and cultural commodities.


One of the most crucial theories relevant to sports cultural commodities is the critical theory (one of the theories that could be used, Theory (A) known for consumerist one-dimensional culture characteristics. The critical theory uses arguments from scholars like Pierre Bourdieu and Theodor Adorno to critically evaluate the interconnection and dynamics between culture, society, and power structures (Joseph, 2021, p.71). One of its key characteristics is the critique of the consumerist one-dimensional culture promoted in sports. Sports activities are shifting focus from the players and games and emphasizing merchandise advertisement, like how LeBron James’ sneakers are always intertwined with his success. Nowadays, every player has a partnership with a major company to market products, making sports activities less ideal because of the emphasis on promotional messages always targeted to fans. Therefore, this theory evaluates the consumerist nature of sports by critiquing the idea that sports have become a hub for using cultural products like James’ sneakers to drive consumer purchases and promote sports. Cultural products are successfully becoming significant in the promotion of sports because as more fans purchase the promoted items, the targeted sports activities become more widespread.

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

According to this theory, modern societies are characterized by consumerist cultures where people are primarily passive consumers. When one item or pattern trends, others quickly consume the marketed commodity or practice (Chiu et al., 2022, p.4). In sports, this approach includes creating a false need to drive the consumption of sponsored merchandise, exercises, or practices. Teams, athletes, and events have been commoditized by shifting attention from the activities to profitability and marketability (Herbold et al., 2020). Generally, the consumerist one-dimensional characteristic is common in sports cultural theories because industrial capitalism has capitalized on sports to emphasize passive consumerism.

In addition, critical theory is relevant to sports cultural commodities because of its characteristics that emphasize social distinction and hegemony for power relations. Sports theories are used to create a sense of belonging by focusing on social distinction, where cultural resources and capital are used to promote social inequality (Van et al., 2020, p.4). For instance, sports cultural commodities like polo and golf are often categorized as rich people activities, while soccer or basketball is usually associated with lower-income groups (Esteban-Guitart, 2021, p.172). Moreover, these theories are known for using hegemony to show how sports have become a tool for power relations control (Chersulich et al., 2020). These dynamics are still evident in sports, where specific corporate sponsors and media conglomerates influence sports narratives and coverage. Sports-related theories are known for their unique characteristics associated with social distinction and hegemony for power control.

Another common characteristic of theories used in sports cultural commodities, like the linguistic (post) structuralism theory (the other culture industry theory) (Theory B), is the emphasis on semiotics. Renowned scholars like Jacques Derrida and Ferdinand de Saussure argue that there is always a relationship between language, signs, and meaning (Zhigang et al., 2022, p.4). Similarly, theories relevant to sports cultural commodities emphasize the use of symbols and signs and their importance in constructing meaning or value. Uniforms, gestures, logos, and other common visual elements linked to famous teams or athletes have a symbolic significance. These insights are further supported by post-structuralist thinkers who believe that meaning cannot be fixed because it is derived from the interplay of multiple signs within a particular language system (Dubourg and Baumard, 2022). For example, the phrases comeback and underdog have gained new meaning when used in tournaments to indicate triumph or resilience. Moreover, the targeted theories are known for their emphasis on the deconstruction of texts and words (Zhou et al., 2020). Generally, theories that address sports cultural commodities are known for their characteristic of emphasizing semiotics because signs and language are used to shape meaning when interpreting sporting messages or narratives.

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

                        The last crucial theories associated with sports cultural commodities are cultural studies approaches (Theory C), known for their unique characteristics of examining representation, articulation, and bricolage. Culturally sensitive theories improve understanding cultural texts’ production, sharing, and reception dynamics (Woods et al., 2020, p.5). Therefore, in sports, messages and narratives are constructed to provide meaning that represents particular groups, individuals, and events. For instance, women athletes in sports media are often used to question gender stereotypes and dominant narratives about femininity. Moreover, theories in this industry emphasize articulation, where activities are connected to broader political, social, and economic contexts (Ratten, 2020). Sports have been used to intersect issues related to class, race, nationalism, and gender disparities. Everything focuses on bricolage, where cultural elements are reconstructed to produce new meanings and identities. Theories in this field are characterized by representation, articulation, and bricolage.

Evaluating the characteristics of theories relevant to sports cultural commodities is essential because they explain how the interpretation of sports texts is actualized. Based on the presented theoretical traits, principles that focus on sports often emphasize consumerism, social distinction, hegemony, semiotics, representation, articulation, and bricolage (Abeza and Sanderson, 2022). These provisions are applied to sports texts to generate meaning or a sense of belonging. For instance, interpreting sports texts using a critical theory lens can show how culture, social hierarchies, or inequalities drive funding, media coverage, sponsorship, and merchandise commercialization. Linguistics and post-structuralism theories show how texts, languages, and images are used to portray athletes, athleticism, and excellence, like how the Nike swoosh is often used to imply prowess (Tinsley, 2023). Cultural approaches are applied to connect fans and provide a cultural context for sports texts. Sport cultural commodities can be understood better using theories with unique characteristics like emphasis on consumerism, social distinction, hegemony, semiotics, representation, articulation, and bricolage.

The Rationale for the Choice

Three primary cases were evaluated to understand how sports actively contribute to cultural and societal elements: LeBron James’ signature sneakers, broadcasting the Lakers games, and James’ social welfare activities. These three events have a thematic and industrial connection by showing how media entertainment, sports culture, and branding firms promote social interaction and shape societal narratives (NBA.com, 2023, 00:01:02). LeBron James is the focal point of these events based on his excellence, social responsibility, and cultural impact as a Lakers team member. Choosing these three cases was strategic to show how sports are essential in shaping societal provisions.

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

Case 1: LeBron James Signature Sneakers

For a more detailed understanding of sports culture and its intersection with social contexts, I chose LeBron James signature sneakers to illustrate how they have become a cultural product that promotes success and sports activities. Sports personalities have occasionally been used to market particular products and promote passive consumerism, as critical theory explains (Greif, 2020). Similarly, James is a famous basketball player known for wearing his signature Nike sneakers. According to an article posted by The Root in 2020, LeBron James is one of the top 100 most influential African Americans with his roles as an entrepreneur, basketball player, and philanthropist. Therefore, his sneakers have been used to illustrate James’ cultural impact, career success, and social significance (Bryant, 2023). LeBron James sneakers are ideal examples of understanding sports culture.

Evaluating LeBron James’ signature sneakers is crucial because of its multifaceted impacts, especially in the sports branding and advertising industry. Sports culture is about the social interaction of athletes, athleticism, and sports events with the community (Suciu, 2020). Therefore, when people watch James winning in his career wearing Nike sneakers, fans view his footwear as a crucial aspect of his life and success journey. Thus, the shoes symbolize an international icon everyone wants to associate with. People who seek similar styles, achievements, and personalities in the sports industry purchase sneakers, making them desirable sports commodities that further promote sports through product advertisement.

Moreover, this activity is a unique partnership between James and Nike, emphasizing athlete activism, social justice, and corporate responsibility (Abdul-Jabbar, 2020). This structure is common in sports branding and advertising since companies use influencers or athletes’ popularity to increase brand awareness and market products (Beck, 2020). The accompanying industry is the entertainment and fashion sector because James’ sneakers are more than athletic gear. They are a form of lifestyle, entertainment, and fashion trend. This case is crucial because of its diverse impacts on the sports branding, advertising, entertainment, fashion, and lifestyle industries.

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

Case 2: Lakers Game Broadcast and Documentary

The second illustration showing the intersection between sports and social culture is the extensive coverage of the Lakers game in broadcasts and documentaries. The most convenient way to make society connect with sports is by availing sports events on broadcast shows where more people can participate in the activities even without attending the game (Helin, 2020). Therefore, watching the Lakers game has become a cultural commodity that promotes sports. Generally, the broadcasting and filming of the Lakers games is a crucial example that can illustrate how sports, culture, and society interconnect.

Besides understanding the link between sports culture and social interaction, analyzing this case is crucial because it shows its overarching impacts on the sports broadcasting industry. Large sports activities are often broadcast live or recorded (Kirkland, 2022). As a result, revenue is generated using subscription models and advertising (BET News, 2021). The accompanying industry is the Media and Communication sector because platforms like ESPN and Netflix play a pivotal role in producing and sharing the team’s content (Duarte, 2020). Broadcasts and documentaries featuring the Lakers game are common on broadcast platforms, and studying them is essential because of their impacts on the sports broadcasting industry.

Case 3: LeBron James Social Welfare Activities

The final activity that can adequately show how sports, culture, and society are intertwined is LeBron James’ social welfare activities. As reported by Schneider in a New York Times post on 10th March 2021, James is one of the most influential professional basketball players because he consistently uses his prominence to advocate change and influence public opinion. Discussing James’ social welfare activities is crucial because of their impacts on sports leagues, major sporting events, and information service industries ((Bunn, 2020). According to a post published by NBC News, LeBron James is an internationally recognized voice that leads people to social justice in a racially divided country. He uses his platform to discuss social and political challenges, like in his recent movement, “More Than a Vote ” (Reynolds, 2023). These social welfare activities show sports’ transformative and influential potential in promoting social engagement and community change. The industry that intersects with these activities is the information service industry (Roth and Riley, 2023). The player works with non-profit firms, educational institutions, and government agencies to enhance resource access and address social needs (Liu, 2023). James’ social welfare activities are crucial because they impact vital industries like sports leagues, major sporting events, and information service sectors.

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities


Case 1 Discussion

The cases discussed can be evaluated theoretically using the theories discussed earlier to show how the characteristics of the theories apply to interpreting these real-life scenarios. Starting with LeBron James’ signature sneakers, his marketing and how fans perceive them and respond to their purchase can be explained using the characteristics of critical theory. This model argues that sports and culture are linked with a consumerism approach where famous athletes or sports events create passive consumers (Kawashiri, 2020, p.3). Similarly, because of the admiration that LeBron James gains from fans, his purchase of Nike sneakers has pushed other people to buy the commodities, too. People respond to his sneaker marketing positively and purchase the items. By watching him, other younger players or individuals seeking to attain high accomplish levels and social status buy Nike sneakers. This trend is prevalent among younger Blacks or African Americans who often participate in basketball. As a result, the promotional goals of James’ sneakers lead to more consumer purchases, further increasing basketball sports activities as supported by critical theory.

The Nike sneakers are more than functional because they have been made a symbol of identity and status, as explained by the characteristics of the cultural studies approaches. Moreover, the shoes are used as a form of social distinction because most passive consumers are usually African American fans (Hunnicutt and Renshaw, 2020). The sneaker shoe game is common among Black people who want to emulate their hero’s style. As much as every motivated Black person wants to get the shoes, in most cases, only those with absolute power, money, and resources can afford the legitimate Nike sneakers. Therefore, from all angles, James’ sneakers and their impacts illustrate the characteristics of consumerist one-dimensional culture, social distinction, and hegemony for power.

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

              In addition, these sneakers have been used as a commodity with a symbolic meaning and various representations. According to the linguistics approach, signs and language are used to create meaning (Cohen, 2020). Similarly, James’ design and the Nike swoosh are often used to illustrate athleticism and sports style, further promoting sports. Different individual and cultural contexts give varying meanings to these commodities. Cultural approaches argue that sports are used for representation, articulation and bricolage (Imbo, 2023). Similarly, James’ footwear is more than a pair of sneakers because it represents coverage of celebrity culture, athlete prowess, and consumerism. Moreover, it is articulated with masculinity and a high-class African American style, making it a tool for celebrity endorsements, design trends and marketing strategies. This case is a perfect example of how linguistic and cultural studies approaches are used to understand sports and culture commodities.

Case 2 Discussion

The Lakers game broadcasts and documentaries are perfect examples of the theories that have been explained. For instance, consumerism, hegemony, semiotics, and articulation can explain how the works have been used to attract more viewers, sponsorships, and funding (McMenamin, 2020). These entertainment provisions make viewers speculate and reflect, leading to mass content consumption. Moreover, the focus on this team is strategically used to reinforce the dominant idea that this group is one of the best in basketball, helping it maintain its status quo. The audience and fans respect and admire the coaches and players in this team because of how they have been broadcasted as superior performers. This case provides examples demonstrating the characteristics of theories relevant to sports cultural commodities.

Similarly, one of the most franchised histories in basketball is the journey of the Los Angeles Lakers. Various documentaries and game broadcasts have been aired to captivate audiences and fans to gain more followers and support (Kennedy and Knight, 2023). The videos, clips, and films have been provided to offer a deeper understanding of the team’s influence and legacy. Through the stories, more people increasingly watch the game and follow the team, ultimately creating more followership, funding and sponsorships that promote sports.

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

Case 3 Discussion

The last case was James’s social welfare activities, which can be explained using the discussed theories. James prioritizes collective well-being by using his platforms to promote social well-being, challenging materialism or individualism promoted by consumerist approaches discussed in the critical theory (Lockhart, 2023). Moreover, his campaigns demonstrate hegemony because they often argue against discriminative and oppressive dominant powers that harm marginalized populations, as explained by the cultural studies approaches (Sarmiento, 2020). James’ activism emphasizes empathy, social responsibility, and solidarity using strategic philanthropic messages that illustrate semiotics (Nagpal, 2023). Lastly, his messages represent structural reforms for minorities, indicating articulation and bricolage. The case can show how theories addressing sports, culture, and societal representations can be applied to James’ social welfare activities.

The player uses his four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) championship identity to improve social and education assistance as illustrated by the cultural studies approaches. He has participated in various developmental projects in the West Market Street neighborhood involving the construction of residential buildings and sports and entertainment centers (Editors, 2023). He has occasionally partnered with activists to promote sustainability and responsible social development ((Tinsley, 2022). He is always bargaining for affordability and energy efficiency in recreation, healthcare, and education. Generally, the society-oriented activities that James participates in can illustrate how sports, culture, and society intertwine.

The player uses his four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) championship identity to improve social and education assistance (Tinsley, 2022). He has participated in various developmental projects in the West Market Street neighborhood involving the construction of residential buildings and sports and entertainment centers (Editors, 2023). He has occasionally partnered with activists to promote sustainability and responsible social development. He is always bargaining for affordability and energy efficiency in recreation, healthcare, and education. Generally, the society-oriented activities that James participates in can illustrate how sports, culture, and society intertwine.


The critical, linguistic (post) structuralism and cultural studies approach theories help individuals understand the complex relationship between the sports and culture industries. The main theories used to analyze sports activities and texts exhibit common characteristics like emphasis on consumerism, social distinction, hegemony, semiotics, representation, articulation, and bricolage. These frameworks explain why James’ signature Nike sneakers are loved, why the Lakers game broadcast and documentary have many followers, and why James is commended for actively engaging in social welfare activities. Due to the influential power of sports in modern society, relevant authorities should track how they influence societal norms, behaviors, and decisions to ensure that they have a positive influence.

Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

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Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

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Examining Sport Cultural Commodities

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