Should Athletes Be Allowed to Protest During the National Anthem? An Analysis of Public Opinions Among U.S. Adults

in Sociology of Sport Journal
View More View Less
  • 1 The Ohio State University
  • | 2 Ohio University
  • | 3 Mississippi State University
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year online subscription

USD  $67.00

1 year online subscription

USD  $89.00

Student 2 year online subscription

USD  $126.00

2 year online subscription

USD  $169.00

Using descriptive and multiple regression analyses of data from the National Sports and Society Survey (N = 3,993), this study examines public opinions about athletes’ right to protest during the national anthem. Results suggest that public opinion is now more supportive of athletes being allowed to protest during the anthem, although considerable opposition persists. Black individuals and those who recognize racial/ethnic discrimination in society are especially likely to support athletes’ right to protest. Heterosexual, Christian, sports fan, and military identities seem to encourage opposition to the right to protest. Indicators of traditionalism and sports nationalism attitudes are also negatively associated with support for athlete protests.

Knoester is with The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA. Ridpath is with the Department of Sports Administration, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA. Allison is with Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS, USA.

Knoester (knoester.1@osu.edu) is corresponding author.
  • Agiesta, J. (2017). CNN poll: Americans split on anthem protests. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/09/29/politics/national-anthem-nfl-cnn-poll/index.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allison, R., & Knoester, C. (2021). Gender, sexual, and sports fan identities. Sociology of Sport Journal, 38(3), 310321. doi:

  • AP-NORC. (2017). The September 2017 AP-NORC center poll. Retrieved from http://www.apnorc.org/PDFs/APNORC%20September%202017/AP%20Custom%20Poll%20Topline%20SEPTEMBER_Protests.pdf

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Beauchamp, Z. (2017). It’s actually very strange for sports games to begin with the national anthem. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2016/9/3/12774172/colin-kaepernick-national-anthem-why

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bonilla-Silva, E. (2003). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bonilla-Silva, E., Goar, C., & Embrick, D. (2006). When whites flock together: The social psychology of white habitus. Critical Sociology, 32(2–3), 229253. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Boykoff, J., & Carrington, B. (2020). Sporting dissent: Colin Kaepernick, NFL activism, and media framing contests. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 55(7), 829849. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bryant, H. (2018). The heritage: Black athletes, divided America, and the politics of patriotism. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

  • Butterworth, M.L. (2020). Sport and the quest for unity: How the logic of consensus undermines democratic culture. Communication & Sport, 8(4–5), 452472. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carrington, B. (2010). Race, sport, and politics: The sporting black diaspora. London, UK: Sage.

  • Carrington, B. (2013). The critical sociology of race and sport: The first fifty years. Annual Review of Sociology, 39(1), 379398. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chaplin, K.S., & Montez de Oca, J. (2019). Avoiding the issue: University students’ responses to NFL players’ national anthem protests. Sociology of Sport Journal, 36(1), 1221. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Clement, S., & Guskin, E. (2018). Poll: 53 percent of Americans say it’s “never appropriate” to kneel during the national anthem. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2018/05/23/poll-53-percent-of-americans-say-its-never-appropriate-to-kneel-during-the-national-anthem/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cooky, C., & Antunovic, D. (2020). “This isn’t just about us”: Articulations of feminism in media narratives of athlete activism. Communication & Sport, 8(4–5), 692711. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cooper, J. (2019). From Exploitation Back to Empowerment: Black Male Holistic (Under)Development Through Sport and (Mis)Education. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2001). Critical race theory: An introduction. New York, NY: New York University Press.

  • Delgado Bernal, D. (2002). Critical race theory, latino critical theory, and critical raced-gendered epistemologies: Recognizing students of color as holders and creators of knowledge. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 105126.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Edwards, H. (2017). The revolt of the Black athlete: 50th anniversary edition. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.

  • Feldscher, K. (2017). Majority of veterans think NFL players have right to protest, but 40 percent won’t watch because of those protests. Washington Examiner. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/majority-of-veterans-think-nfl-players-have-right-to-protest-but-40-percent-wont-watch-because-of-those-protests

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harris, C.I. (1993). Whiteness as property. Harvard Law Review, 106(8), 17071791. doi:

  • Hartmann, D. (2019). The Olympic “revolt” of 1968 and its lessons for contemporary African American athletic activism. European Journal of American Studies, 14(1), 125. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hawzen, M.G., & Newman, J.I. (2017). The gospel according to Tim Tebow: Sporting celebrity, whiteness, and the cultural politics of Christian fundamentalism in America. Sociology of Sport Journal, 34(1), 1224. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hochschild, A. (2016). Strangers in their own land: Anger and mourning on the American right. New York, NY: New Press.

  • Hylton, K. (2008). Race and sport. New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Intravia, J., Piquero, A., Piquero, N., & Byers, B. (2020). Just do it? An examination of race on attitudes associated with Nike’s advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick. Deviant Behavior, 41(10), 12211231. doi:10.1080/01639625.2019.1604299

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Intravia, J., Piquero, A.R., & Leeper Piquero, N. (2018). The racial divide surrounding the United States of America national anthem protests in the National Football League. Deviant Behavior, 39(8), 10581068. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Johnson, S., & Tamney, J. (2001). Social traditionalism and economic conservatism: Two conservative political ideologies in the United States. The Journal of Social Psychology, 141(2), 233243. PubMed ID: 11372568 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jost, J.T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A.W., & Sulloway, F.J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129(3), 339375. PubMed ID: 12784934 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Knoester, C., & Allison, R. (2021). Sexuality, sports-related mistreatment, and adults’ sports involvement. Leisure Sciences. Advance online publication. 

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Knoester, C., & Cooksey, E.C. (2020). The National Sports and Society Survey methodological summary. doi:

  • Knoester, C., & Ridpath, B.D. (2020). Should college athletes be allowed to be paid? A public opinion analysis. Sociology of Sport Journal. Advance online publication.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kusz, K. (2018). “Winning bigly”: Sporting fantasies of white male omnipotence in the rise of Trump and alt right white supremacy. Journal of Hate Studies, 14(113), 113135.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lapchick, R. (2019). The 2018 Racial and Gender Report Card. Orlando, FL: The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, University of Central Florida. Retrieved from https://www.tidesport.org/racial-gender-report-card

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marist Poll. (2016). Protesting the national anthem: Disrespectful or an expression of freedom? Retrieved from http://maristpoll.marist.edu/927-protesting-the-national-anthem-disrespectful-or-an-expression-of-freedom/#sthash.c9jKQUw4.dpbs

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marist Poll. (2017). Growing support for anthem protests. Retrieved from http://maristpoll.marist.edu/1024-growing-support-for-anthemprotests/#sthash.qRobBaFl.dpbs

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martí, G. (2020). American blindspot: Race, class, religion, and the Trump presidency. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

  • McDonald, M.G. (2020). Once more, with feeling: Sport, national anthems, and the collective power of affect. Sociology of Sport Journal, 37(1), 111. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Messner, M.A. (2002). Taking the field: Women, men, and sports. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Montez de Oca, J., & Cho Suh, S. (2020). Ethics of patriotism: NFL players’ protests against police violence. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 55(5), 563587. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Newman, J., & Giardina, M. (2011). Sport, spectacle, and NASCAR nation: Consumption and the cultural politics of neoliberalism. Berlin, Germany: Springer.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ong, A. (1996). Cultural citizenship as subject-making: Immigrants negotiate racial and cultural boundaries in the United States. Current Anthropology, 37(5), 737762. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Public Religion Research Institute. (2018). PRRI January 2018 Sports Survey. Washington, DC: Public Religion Research Institute Report. Retrieved from https://www.prri.org/data-vault/page/2/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rounds, C.D. (2020). The policing of patriotism: African American athletes and the expression of dissent. Journal of Sport History, 47(2), 111127. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Serazio, M., & Thorson, E. (2020). Weaponized patriotism and racial subtext in Kaepernick’s aftermath: The anti-politics of American sports fandom. Television & New Media, 21(2), 151168. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sirvent, R., & Reyburn, D. (2017). Uniforms and unanimity: Reading the rhetorical entanglement of militarism and sport through mimetic realism. In M.L. Butterworth (Ed.), Sport and militarism (pp. 191209). London, UK: Taylor and Francis.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, L. (2019). Stand up, show respect: Athlete activism, nationalistic attitudes, and emotional response. International Journal of Communication, 13, 23762397.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tranby, E., & Hartmann, D. (2008). Critical whiteness theories and the evangelical race problem: Extending Emerson and Smith’s Divided by Faith. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47(3), 341359. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zaldivar, G. (2020). Black lives matter and the sports world is finally listening to that fact. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/enfuego/news/black-lives-matter-and-the-sports-world-is-finally-listening

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 497 497 168
Full Text Views 38 38 9
PDF Downloads 36 36 8