Stand Up, Show Respect: Athlete Activism, Nationalistic Attitudes, and Emotional Response

Lauren Smith


The number of athlete social protests has risen over the past several years, but no protest has touched a collective national nerve as kneeling for the national anthem has. Using the theoretical framework of social identity theory, this study examined how nationalistic attitudes affect participants’ perceptions of athletes who engage in a form of activism. A 2 × 3 between-subjects factorial design was used for a manipulated newspaper article focusing on the issue of a college quarterback kneeling for the national anthem. Results found no significant effects with respect to implicit and explicit racial cues. Data did support the notion that individuals who displayed higher levels of nationalism would respond with more negative emotions to the athlete activism. On a theoretical level, this study lends support to the ideas of social identity theory and social identity threat management. Broader social and practical implications are also discussed.


sports, social identity theory, social identity threat management, athlete activism, attitudes

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