With the ongoing feud between President Donald Trump and the NFL protesters who use the national anthem as a time to either take a knee, lock arms, or even hold up the “Black Power” fist, average Americans are sick and tired of politicized entertainment. But if Americans were forced to choose a side – between the kneelers and the staunch patriots – which would they choose? And is there a factor that might determine that?
University of Florida professors Tamir Sorek and Robert G. White think so. The two sociologists believe there is an actual dichotomy present in American culture between the responses of black and white Americans who watch football.
In a recent publication posted by the University of Florida, the two sociologists state that black fans contain “feelings of alienation toward the imposed patriotism in NFL games [which] have been stewing for a while. And it may be that black athletes finally decided to respond to the attitudes of their black fans.” In contrast, they claim that white fans feel that “the racial issues addressed by the protests upend what they see as the innocent, colorless patriotism of football.”
The two sociologists published a study last year, in which they collected 75 opinion polls between the years 1981 and 2014. The goal was to closely examine the interconnection between “national pride and football fandom among white and black Americans.”
They found that for white fans “both the racial and the civic definitions of American nationalism are inclusive and the patriotic ambience of the football experience is likely to be associated with national sentiments.” For blacks, on the other hand, they claim that their perception of football correlates with that of racial integration, in which the “American dream” may come to fruition for African-Americans.
Sorek and White also reference a study which found that black Americans, who “emphasize their blackness,” feel less inclined to convey a sense of patriotism.
They reported that since the early 1980s, Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds have expressed a decreasing amount of national pride. This decrease, however, has been most prevalent among those of the African American community. They also state this coincides with increased interest in professional football, which they do not find to be coincidental.
Lastly, Sorek and White make note that this polarity has been evident long before the former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel for the national anthem.
The sociologists concluded by stating that for black athletes “presence and success on the field created the conditions to question the dominant ideology of a meritocratic, colorblind society.” In consideration of this, they infer that it was “only a matter of time” before NFL players protested.