Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Mary Stuckey - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Carol Winkler

Third Advisor

Dr. M. Lane Bruner

Fourth Advisor

Dr. David Cheshier

Fifth Advisor

Dr. James Darsey

Sixth Advisor

Dr. Daniel Franklin


White House ceremonies honoring sports champions -"presidential sports encomia" - have become common events in presidential communication since the Carter Administration. In the last quarter-century, more than one hundred presidential sports encomia have taken place, with US presidents honoring both professional and intercollegiate athletes. Presidential sports encomia not only afford Chief Executives an opportunity to stand alongside champions, creating a "winner-by-association" effect, but also allow them to articulate the importance of sports in American society. Whether addressing civic responsibility, patriotism, or race relations, presidential sports encomia ultimately connect athletic achievement to American ideals. In this way, the symbolic power of sports is employed in the development and maintenance of American civil religion. Analysis of these ceremonies reveals how US presidents use the rhetorical resources of sports encomia for both their own political agendas and the larger institution of the presidency.


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Communication Commons