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Shut Up and Play: Black Athletes, Protest Politics, and Black Political Action

  • Christopher C. Towler, Nyron N. Crawford and Robert A. Bennett


The convergence of sports and celebrity can have a powerful influence on everyday politics, especially for groups underrepresented in mainstream American society. This article examines the relationship between race, celebrity, and social movements, specifically Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police violence and whether his activism mobilizes black Americans to political action. Using the 2017 Black Voter Project (BVP) Pilot Study, we explore African American political engagement in the 2016 election, a time devoid of President Obama as a mobilizing figure. We find African Americans who strongly approve of Kaepernick’s protest engage in politics at elevated rates, even after accounting for alternative explanations. Moreover, approval for Kaepernick also moderates other forces rooted in group identity, such as identification with the Black Lives Matter movement. In the end, Kaepernick and the protest movement he leads offers a powerful mobilizing force for African Americans.



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