Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

1-2021

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

Greenwell, T. Christopher

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Hambrick, Marion E.

Committee Member

Hambrick, Marion E.

Committee Member

Shreffler, Megan B.

Committee Member

Brydon-Miller, Mary L.

Committee Member

McCullough, Brian P.

Author's Keywords

Sport; fandom; climate change; sport ecology; adaptation; perceptions

Abstract

Climate change threatens the ability to enjoy sport around the world, including in the United States. While the scientific community reached consensus regarding the presence and severity of climate change near the turn of the twenty-first century, that same agreement has not been met across the American general public. Major League Baseball (MLB) is particularly vulnerable to climate change in the U.S. due to its season duration, geographic footprint, and largely outdoor nature. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate relationships between U.S.-based MLB fans’ sport identification and their climate change attitudes, perceptions of climate change risk, and willingness to adapt. Specifically, this study sought to advance climate change perception research by focusing on sport fans in a sport context, groups that are understudied in climate change and sport ecology research. Using social identity theory to frame the significance of sport identification, this study aimed to model transitions from cognition to action for MLB fans. Social identity theory served to explain how an individual creates meaning about the world around them, in this instance climate change, by the social groups to which they voluntarily belong, that is sport identification. A cross-sectional survey design was used to address the study’s purpose. The questionnaire was designed and hosted on Qualtrics Survey Software, but distributed as a Human Intelligence Task on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The questionnaire contained items to measure fans’ attitudes, general risk perceptions, sport-specific risk perceptions, and willingness to adapt. Participant responses (n = 540) indicated personal experiences with extreme weather most strongly influenced general climate change risk perceptions. Further, responses revealed fans who had general climate change risk perceptions were more likely to have sport-specific risk perceptions. This relationship was not moderated by sport identification, but sport identification did significantly predict sport-specific risk perceptions. Likewise, sport identification did not moderate the relationship between fans’ sport-specific climate change risk perceptions and their willingness to adapt. However, responses revealed fans who perceived climate change risks to the sport were more willing to adapt their behaviors to climate change. As a result of these findings, there were several theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, although sport identification did not moderate the hypothesized relationships, social identity theory does serve as an avenue to explore the connections between sport fans and the realities of climate change on sport. The overall model structure was supported, indicating the possibility to examine found relationships through additional theoretical lenses. The findings revealed a direct connection between sport consumer behavior research and climate change, opening new avenues for researchers within sport management and climate research. From a practical standpoint, this study found early empirical evidence to support the United Nations’ suggestion that sport fans are critical to engaging in, and accelerating, climate action in the sport sector. Additionally, this study’s findings suggest pro-environmental efforts pertaining to climate adaptation in MLB should include fans, and the UN should invest in educational awareness regarding climate change risks to sport for fans.

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