Communication Studies


Master of Arts (MA)


Kristen Hark


Benoit, Crisis Communication, Image Repair, Manziel, Rhetorical Analysis, Sports


Broadcast and Video Studies | Communication | Communication Technology and New Media | Journalism Studies | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Over the past decades, the landscape of sports journalism has changed to where now, athletes are often in the news just as frequently for their positive on-the-field play as they are for their negative off-the-field issues. Following these issues, the athletes must find strategies to employ to fix their damaged reputations. This thesis includes a rhetorical analysis of the image repair strategies employed by Johnny Manziel after each of his countless reputation-damaging incidents. The paper examines each of Manziel’s problems in depth, gives an overview of his biography, and includes a thorough review of literature regarding Benoit’s Image Repair Theory and its application to sports. It then examines more than thirty of Manziel’s press conferences, interviews, official statements and social media posts where he engages in crisis communications using Benoit’s Image Repair Theory. The researcher found initially Manziel successfully employed mortification and corrective action in his major rhetoric. Over time, his incidents began to pile up, and he mostly abandoned his successful strategies, instead using damaging methods such minimization and simple denial. Even when tried to employ the previously successful strategies, his actions did not match his words. Because of this discrepancy and the volume of problems, Manziel’s overall image repair was completely unsuccessful.