Political Protesting, Race, and College Athletics: Why Diversity Among Coaches Matters (WP-17-11)


WP-17-11

James Druckman, Adam Howat, and Jacob Rothschild

Objective. Athletes have long used their platform to stage political protests on issues ranging from racial oppression to athlete compensation. For college student-athletes, protesting is complicated by their amateur status and dependence on their schools. As a result, college coaches hold particular power over student-athletes’ decisions in this realm. The researchers seek to better understand the determinants of coaches’ attitudes toward student-athlete protests.

Methods. The researchers use a novel survey to study what college coaches think when student-athletes participate in various forms of political protests.

Results. They find that African-American coaches exhibit greater support for protests and are more likely to believe protests reflect concern about the issues, rather than attention-seeking behavior.

Conclusion. The results isolate a major driver of opinions about athletic protests and reveal why the relatively low number of minority college coaches matters: greater diversity in the coaching ranks would lead to more varied opinions about the politicization of student-athletes.

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Adam Howat, IPR Graduate Research Assistant, Northwestern University

Jacob Rothschild, IPR Graduate Research Assistant, Northwestern University

PDF icon Download working paper PDF