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Sport, Rhetoric, and Political Struggle


Edited By Daniel A. Grano and Michael L. Butterworth

Sport, Rhetoric, and Political Struggle addresses a needed next step for advancing sport as a site of inquiry in rhetorical studies. The book claims that sport is central to contemporary antagonisms over, for example, gender and sexual binarism, queer visibilities, race and labor relations, public health, domestic violence, global institutional corruption, and posthuman body politics. The authors' attention to such antagonisms entails a dual focus: they argue (1) that sport does not function in isolation and that, moreover, relations of power take particular shape within, through, and around sport; and (2) that rhetorical studies of sport are not merely "about sport," but instead are integral to larger theoretical and ethical concerns that animate the discipline. The essays collected in this book contextualize sport and political struggle, examine the mobilization of resistance in sporting contexts, identify ongoing stigmas that present limitations in and around sport, and attend to prevailing ideological features that provoke questions for future research. In short, the authors demonstrate how and why sport is not only important, but how it is productive, how it offers understandings of practices or social formations or economies that scholars cannot get in quite the same way elsewhere.

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Chapter Thirteen: “My Whole Life Is about Winning”: The Trump Brand and the Political/Commercial Uses of Sport (Thomas P. Oates / Kyle W. Kusz)


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“My Whole Life Is about Winning”

The Trump Brand and the Political/Commercial Uses of Sport



On July 2, 2017, Donald Trump re-tweeted a video depicting him at Wrestlemania a decade earlier, body-slamming World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) founder Vince McMahon with the CNN logo photoshopped over McMahon’s face. The tweet generated widespread outrage for its seeming endorsement of violence against the institutional press. To many, the tweet seemed to be yet another outrageous violation of presidential norms. Much of his political base loved it. The tweet also offered a reminder of a key, if underappreciated component of Trump’s personal and political brand—his demonstration of white male dominance through sport.

Trump’s political appeal is not based in his ability to articulate traditional Republican values. During the primary campaign establishment Republicans repeatedly attacked the candidate for being a faux conservative who had openly supported Democratic candidates in the past. These broadsides failed to sink Trump’s candidacy because it was never rooted in conventional campaign logics. Instead, it was about communicating a carefully manufactured guise. As Alison Hearn has argued, Trump’s political entreaty is partially rooted in his background in reality television. Hearn observes that, “The ‘reality’ rules of self-promotion are simple: craft a notable persona, say whatever will set you apart and garner attention, break the rules of the game wherever possible, choose your message, and repeat...

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