American Sociological Association

Taking a Knee, Taking a Stand: Social Networks and Identity Salience in the 2017 NFL Protests

Beginning with President Trump’s speech against the national anthem protestors in September 2017, the authors consider how external sociopolitical events interacted with the network structure of the 2017 National Football League (NFL) to alter the salience of member identities and the resultant patterns of protest activity within the league. Using group membership data on the full population of 2,453 football players, the analysis tracks protest participation by membership in race and status groups and by the network variables of degree, betweenness, and closeness centrality. Black and elite players are both overrepresented among protesters throughout the season. The margins of overrepresentation narrowed during an increase in demonstrations after Trump’s first criticisms but had widened by the end of the season. The mean centralities of the protesting groups varied from week to week because of an increase in the salience of the NFL player identity and its interaction with racial identities. In general, protesters had lower mean degree and closeness centralities and a higher mean betweenness centrality than players who abstained from protest. Those who participated in high-risk forms of activism also tended to have lower mean degree and closeness centralities and a higher mean betweenness centrality than those who opted for low-risk demonstrations. These findings indicate that sociopolitical events can implicate different identities, changing their salience in the decision to join or abstain from a social movement.

Download PDF

Authors

Clara Houghteling and Prentiss A. Dantzler

Volume

6

Issue

3

Starting Page

396

Ending Page

415