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  • Thumbnail for TAKING A KNEE, TAKING A STAND:  SOCIAL NETWORKS AND IDENTITY SALIENCE IN THE 2017 NFL PROTESTS
    TAKING A KNEE, TAKING A STAND: SOCIAL NETWORKS AND IDENTITY SALIENCE IN THE 2017 NFL PROTESTS by Houghteling, Clara Rose

    Beginning with President Trump’s speech against the national anthem protestors in September of 2017, this study considers how external sociopolitical events interacted with the network structure of the 2017 National Football League 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, I analyze 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 to their initial levels by the end of the season. The mean centralities of the protesting groups varied from week to week due to a temporary increase in the salience of the NFL player identity and to 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.