Body shaming and associated practices as abuse: athlete entourage as perpetrators of abuse
McMahon, JA and McGannon, KR and Palmer, C, Body shaming and associated practices as abuse: athlete entourage as perpetrators of abuse, Sport, Education and Society pp. 1-14. ISSN 1357-3322 (2021) [Refereed Article]
In the 2016 International Olympic Committee Consensus Statement on harassment and abuse, it was outlined that psychological abuse in sport research has been heavily focused on the coach–athlete relationship resulting in a lack of research on other members of the athletes’ support system such as their ‘entourage.’ Researchers of abuse have further noted that psychological abuse remains relatively underexplored in comparison to other types of athlete abuses (e.g. sexual abuse). As psychological abuse is one of the most common types of abuse occurring in sporting contexts, it has been flagged as an urgent safeguarding concern. Psychological abuse can be enacted in different ways with many associated behaviours. The present study explored one under-researched issue shown to be entrenched in sport culture – ‘body shaming’ – and how it constitutes psychological abuse. We also focused on the role of the athlete entourage (i.e. people associated with the athlete) in relation to psychological abuse through the body shaming of athletes. Using thematic analysis, three female athletes’ stories showed how they were subjected to psychological abuse from members of their entourage when their bodies failed to meet socio-cultural expectations (i.e. too fat, not ‘slim to win’). While it was not the central focus of our research, the athletes also explained how they were subjected to physical abuse and physical neglect from entourage members when they were perceived to be overweight or too fat. The athlete entourage members found to be perpetrators of abuse and physical neglect included the coach, the parent, the partner, and the manager. This research provides novel insight into how abuse is circulating through sporting contexts, and in so doing, generates knowledge for prevention and intervention initiatives in sport.