Kinsey, Dennis F., James C. Rhoads, & Dan B. Thomas (2020). Competing perspectives on the NFL National Anthem controversy. International Journal of Sport and Society, 12(1). (ePub in advance of print, March 2021) (Link:

Abstract: In this research we employ Q methodology to examine subjective appraisals of President Donald Trump’s public criticisms of mostly African-American NFL players who have "taken a knee" during the pre-game national anthem as a form of protest against the prevalence and prominence of acts of racial injustice, particularly instances of violence by white police in the treatment of non-white citizens. Whether by virtue of presidential persuasion or not, attendance at and television viewing of NFL games declined during the 2017 season, leading owners to ban the practice by team members for the forthcoming season. Critics of Trump have accused the President of race-baiting, targeting highly paid, primarily African-American athletes as "unpatriotic SOB’s" who deserve to be fired for their antics. In this study we generate a Q sample on the matter and ask ordinary sports fans of differing political views to use the items to model their viewpoints. The results permit us to assess the possibility that Trump’s actions vis-a-vis prominent sports figures is an effective means of expressing a sense of collective grievance, thereby serving as a further bond of unity among his political base.

Dennis F. Kinsey <> is in the Department of Public Relations/International Relations, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA; James C Rhoads <> is in the Department of Political Science, Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA, USA; and Dan B. Thomas <> is Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Wartburg College, Waverly, IA, USA.

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