The scarlet letter: impacts of moral emotions and attribution type on athlete stigmatization

Joon Sung Lee, Daehwan Kim, Wonseok Jang, Soobum Jun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research question: News about celebrity athlete transgressions is nearly an everyday occurrence in today’s media channels. Whether the public stigmatizes these individuals as a result of these indiscretions and how this process is enacted is not yet evident in the literature. This paper seeks to answer the question of whether and how the psychological process of stigma formation occurs with regard to celebrity athletes who transgress. Further, the paper also seeks to clarify the impact of this stigmatization in the context of sponsorship and celebrity endorsement. Research methods: A total of 219 US residents who were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk participated in this experimental study. We employed structural equation modeling to test our hypotheses. Results and findings: The results show that the impact of negative moral emotions on stigma formation for transgressed athletes is partially mediated by internal attribution. Moreover, negative moral emotions and stigmas have a direct positive (negative) impact on moral coupling (moral decoupling and rationalization), and ultimately influence the attitude toward the transgressed athlete and sponsored brand. Implications: The findings suggest that brand managers should consider the transgression history as a key determinant for endorsement decisions because sport consumers may have already formed a strong perception of stigma toward those athletes and those perceptions in turn determine the overall evaluations of endorsed athletes and sponsored brands.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Sport Management Quarterly
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 European Association for Sport Management.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management


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