Stephanie A. Tryce, J.D., assistant professor of sports marketing, took notice of the many occurring examples of athlete activism from Lebron James to Megan Rapinoe. She examined their implications on national attachment in a joint research paper that was published in the “Journal of Sport and Social Issues.”

The research showed many national attachments including national identity, symbolic patriotism, constructive patriotism and uncritical patriotism. 

Individuals such as James, Rapinoe and Colin Kaepernick have begun to challenge the notion of what it means to be an athlete today, turning what was once a fan’s national pastime into a look at the realities faced by many in the country.

Decomposing national attachment into its respective sub-dimensions, the researchers found that fans’ disapproval of athletes' protests relates most strongly to uncritical patriotism followed by national identity, symbolic patriotism, and constructive patriotism.

“Loving your country includes critiquing it in order to insist on positive change towards its espoused values,” says Tryce, who teaches courses such as Business of Sports and Sports Law within the Sports Marketing Program situated in the Marketing Department.

What is arguably the most popular critique, the silent protests during the national anthem, have been top of mind for many viewers with today’s extensive media coverage of sports year-round.

Though, both Tryce asserts that these athletes are not protesting the national anthem, but instead are performing silent protests during the national anthem.

This idea of transparency is what many consumers are now looking for from both athletes and brands alike, an area Tryce and Smith say is next up to consider as their research progresses within the realm of athlete activism.

“I don’t believe athlete activism is going to die down,” says Tryce. “Sport is a powerful cultural institution, as important as any other institution we have, in some respects maybe more so.”


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