Disrupting the Disruptor: Perceptions as Institutional Maintenance Work at the 1968 Olympic Games

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How people reflect on and discuss protests at sporting events is a relevant question of interest to sport management scholars. This article uses qualitative data to understand how institutional members reflect on and discuss a disruptive act that violates institutional rules and norms. The authors study the historical case of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ silent protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Relying on interview data from Smith and Carlos’ teammates (59) on the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team, the study highlights the connections between institutional maintenance work, institutional logics, and institutions. Specifically, the authors argue that when institutional logics align with actors’ institutional maintenance work, acts seen as disruptive to the institution will not change the institution. Identifying multiple institutional logics within the Olympic Games, the authors also find that institutional logics do not always have to be competing as suggested by much of the literature. Instead, tension may be temporarily allayed when rival logics are threatened by an action (i.e., protests) that would disrupt the institution. The authors refer to this as an institutional cease-fire and discuss their findings in relation to the preservation of institutions.

Agyemang is with Sport Management Program, School of Kinesiology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. Berg and Fuller are with Sport and Leisure Management Program, Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN.

Address author correspondence to Kwame J.A. Agyemang at kagyemang@lsu.edu.
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