Publication Date

Fall 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Cole Armsrong

Subject Areas



Many professional athletes have raised awareness about and publicly protested social injustices. Athlete activism research has generally supported that such activism results in harsh backlash against the athletes, stemming from beliefs that politics and social justice protests do not belong in sports; patriotic/nationalistic values leading individuals to view such protests as un-American; and racial beliefs and attitudes, especially towards African American athletes. While robust, much of this research is theoretical or qualitative in nature and mainly examined reactions towards Black football players, with less focus on White athletes or those in different sports. To address these gaps, the current research used quantitative methods to examine attitudes towards a Black or White athlete who advocates for social justice. Social Identity Theory was applied to explore the relationships between fans’ own patriotic beliefs, level of sports identification, and their athlete activist attitudes. Participants’ scores on the Modern Racism Scale were assessed to examine the influence of these racial beliefs on athlete activist evaluations. Results yielded no impact of athlete’s race, sports league, or their interaction on participants’ athlete attitudes. However, consistent with hypotheses, relationships were found between social justice beliefs, level of sports fandom, patriotic beliefs, and Modern Racism beliefs. Implications of these findings, limitations, and future research directions were discussed.