“How often do you get the opportunity to be taught by a former MLB player who’s involved in social justice work?” asks Alexys Ogorek C’20, a sophomore Communication major. Her rhetorical question elicits nods from the students sitting around her, all of whom are flush with excitement.
They’ve just spent two hours on a private tour of Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Organized by the students’ professor, Doug Glanville, the behind-the-scenes visit to the Phillies stadium serves as a culmination to a semester of studying the convergence of sports, communication, and social justice.
Students take photos of Citizens Bank Park.
Glanville’s course, COMM 307: Communication, Sports, and Social Justice, examines the relationship between sports, celebrity, and the power to communicate for social justice. He incorporates case studies, current events, and his own personal experience to teach students how to evaluate the patterns and strategies that athletes use to elevate important issues.
“Justice is important to all of us,” Glanville says. “But there are so many different perspectives, so the power of good communication — understanding how to convey your message, understanding the tools at your disposal, understanding how to reach audiences — is crucial.”
The tour began at the employee entrance to the stadium, where Glanville, the students, and course teaching fellow John Vilanova were met by Phillies Broadcasting Manager Rob Brooks and escorted to the media room on the lower level. There, Glanville gave his final lecture of the semester at the Phillies podium.
“Today is about the fun part of education,” says Glanville. “It’s an opportunity to combine a challenging subject with real life experience, and there’s no better place to do that than with the team that was my family for six years.”
Glanville gives his final lecture of the semester in the Phillies media room.
Glanville summarized the topics covered throughout the semester, including the evolution of sports and sports communications and the debate over whether athletes should publically speak about current events. As an athlete, how do you approach speaking out about issues that are important to you? As a communications professional for a sports organization, how do you manage the press when your athletes are vocal about current events?
After Glanville’s lecture and active class discussion, Bonnie Clark, Phillies Vice President of Communications, fielded questions from the students about her work with the Phillies and sports communication in general. She touched on coaching athletes to use their personal social media platforms well, how to handle a sports communication crisis — like when fans are unhappy with a new coaching hire, and the future of sports communication.
“Social media has become front and center in public relations,” Clark says. “We recently announced the signing of a player through social media for the first time, rather than using a traditional press release.”
Following the Q&A session, the students were led out onto the field and hung out in the Phillies dugout. The students were also given a tour of the locker room — a surprise even to Glanville.
Student takes a photo in the Phillies locker room.
Countless selfies were taken with favorite players’ lockers in the background before the students returned to the Penn shuttle bus. On the way back to campus, students shared their thoughts on Glanville’s course.
“Social justice in sports is much more nuanced than you might think,” says junior Communication major Jerel Blades C’19. “This class has offered us the opportunity to engage with real time events in football, basketball, and baseball while we’re learning communication theory and high level concepts.”
“Professor Glanville’s connections were so helpful,” Khalil Jones C’18, senior Communication major, says. “We heard guest lectures from many different voices that have experience in the sports arena. It’s such a privilege to have access to these kinds of people and to learn from their perspectives.”
In a stage whisper, junior Communication major Elizabeth Martinez C’19 says, “I’ve been bragging about this class to anyone who will listen.”
Glanville and Vilanova take a photo on the field at Citizens Bank Park.
As the bus rolls to a stop in front of the Annenberg School, Glanville concludes the day by thanking the students for their contributions throughout the semester.
“At one point, this class was just an idea on a piece of paper,” he says. “And it has come to life through all of you amazing students. I feel so very fortunate to have been part of it.”