Shifting Responses to Institutional Change: The National Football League and Player Concussions

in Journal of Sport Management
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Institutional research increasingly suggests that organizations are not passive recipients of institutional demands. Organizations can adopt a variety of strategies, including dismissing, decoupling, and co-opting, in response to pressure to change. Over time, organizations likely adopt different approaches, particularly as the institutional field continues to evolve. Through a longitudinal case study of the National Football League’s responses to player concussions, we investigated shifts in how a powerful sport governing body responds to institutional change over time. We found that the National Football League moved through different responses, from more reactive strategies—including dismissing, decoupling, and acquiescing—to proactive attempts to control institutional change. Using data on the National Football League, we offer propositions about the factors that may influence organizational responses. This study advances understanding of powerful sport governing bodies’ responses to institutional change.

Heinze and Lu are with Sport Management, School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Address author correspondence to Kathryn L. Heinze at wheelerk@umich.edu.
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