The Effect of Economic Vulnerability on Protest Participation in the National Football League

Also known as “Incentives matter”:

What distinguishes between National Football League (NFL) players who participated in protests during the National Anthem and those who did not? Does the finding of a personal vulnerability constraint in high‐risk activism apply to this relatively elite population?

Protest participation during 2017 was determined for every NFL player, along with several variables pertaining to their performance, compensation, and the political atmosphere of their team.

Bivariate and multivariate tests both reveal that protest participation was far greater among players with large guaranteed contracts and among players who were well regarded for their performance.

Economic vulnerability ranges widely within the NFL such that players hold contracts offering guaranteed payments of anywhere between $92 million and nothing at all. The data here suggest that the personal vulnerability constraint documented in protest participation research also applies to this unique population of high‐profile people engaged in a most high‐profile protest. Documenting the existence of these constraints helps offer a more systematic foundation to our understanding of political activism behavior among athletes.

That is from a newly published article by David Niven.


Worst thing about offseason is that Trump can't waste more time attacking kneeling NFL players that makes him so offended. Things have been too quiet lately.

+1. Just too easy to offend Dear Leader. He's like a teenage girl on Twitter.

So someone who would get so offended by hearing the "N" word that they may resort to violence likes to offend others by disrespecting the flag and country. And this is good for you???

It's not just professional athletes. Large groups of people refrain from outspokenness because they need to remain employable.

If universal basic income ever becomes a reality, it would remove that constraint. We might expect to see full-time activism spread from the "usual suspects" -- those who skew young, with available free time, no dependents, unconcerned about arrest records -- to a far broader spectrum of society. Polarization that would make today's levels look tame.

So.. Like France? There's a general strike every freaking week.

I think we can be confident that the use of UBI funds for political activity would be quickly forbidden.

Excellent insight.

However, I suspect that a UBI would also INCREASE people's drive to remain employable which is the main factor in people not speaking out... i see this as the case because any real UBI would only be a few hundred dollars per month, essentially a supplemental income to whatever people are already making. The potential for the "income bonus" will increase the returns to not being outspoken.

Keep in mind that the majority of these athletes are college educated, well connected individuals, and have fairly high iqs. They are not refraining from speaking out because they think they will be poor if they do. They are refraining because they want to keep and grow ins9de of the job they already have.

I dont think UBI has the power to take away the pride that people get from having a good or important job.... everyone would have to have a UBI of atleast 100k for that to happen.

Do you follow me? Sorry if that was not clear. Typing on my phone.

On the red rug, a worn tennis ball called decried the Earth’s tilt. Where I came from perhaps. What is it to be fourteen? To wait. A seed hatched had not hidden in sight. The ball lay close to a tin alter on which sat a brass mint statue of Arjun. The folds of elbows and knees. His gaze unbound, huge, beautiful; a kurta unbuttoned, a necklace, closed eyelids, dreamt on an ocean without waves, lifting up a source once inhabited.

So, the study determined how that 'economic vulnerability' was used to quash protest?

B-B loves us all - unless we do anything that B-B doesn't agree with.

I just would like to let you know that in this post there is a sequence of characters "]]>" that breaks the rss feed.

Did they control for the role of innumeracy in accepting the police violence hoax, or did the authors just assume every NFL player had an equally shaky understanding of statistics?

Yeah, only a few innocent people were shot and big deal.

Nice misdirection play, pal.

Remember that the current wave of protests started with Trayvon Martin, a petty thug who was shot and died while pounding George Zimmerman and and attempting to wrest his gun from him. Then there was Michael Brown, he of the “hands up, don’t shoot” canard. In fact, he was stopped by a police officer while walking in the middle of the street. The facts later emerged that Brown had just committed a robbery at a convenience store and was killed while reaching into the patrol car and trying to take the officer’s gun.


We can tell, because Zimmerman has been such an icon of peace and nonviolence since - when he isn't in court on other assault charges.

"...Trayvon Martin, a petty thug who was shot and died while pounding George Zimmerman and and attempting to wrest his gun from him."

Martin was being stalked by an armed stranger. Even Zimmerman admits that's what was happening.

Somehow I doubt you blame Bernie Goetz for being the primary aggressor.

Bernie Goetz was getting mugged by punks armed with a screwdriver. He shot them. The message to thugs - don't mug people on the subway, as the muggees might be armed.

What's not to like?

Yes, only a FEW. And the offending officers were all prosecuted. A FEW does not signify an injustice of national proportion or widespread racial animus by police officers.

Blacks are killed by police proportionately LESS than the share of violent crimes they commit. They are executed LESS than their share of homicides. Blacks commit 38% of violent crime but are only 25% of people killed by cops. And, of course, most of the police shootings are justified. And at least some of the Black perps are killed by Black cops which diminishes the racial inference. The most prevalent factor in Blacks being killed by police officers, including all the high profile incidents, is them resisting arrest.

If anyone should be protesting, it is white men.

"And the offending officers were all prosecuted." That is not true and I don't even think the officers should be prosecuted in most cases. To me it is more about training and best practices.

"A FEW does not signify an injustice of national proportion or widespread racial animus by police officers."

Agreed, but if you look at the larger context in, say, Ferguson, there was clearly a problem there. We can do better.

"They are executed LESS than their share of homicides. Blacks commit 38% of violent crime"

This is totally irrelevant when we are talking about innocent people. Do you have any racial statistics about negative police interactions with innocent people?

"If anyone should be protesting, it is white men."

Yeah, this is already a thing. They won't shut the hell up.

Thanks for providing a great example of the innumeracy I was talking about. Couldn't have done a better job myself.

There are two issues here, and both have expressive and symbolic content.

Had the players kneeled (or is it knelt), as a sign of protest, at a time other than the National Anthem...such as assembling before coming on the field, and kneeling....there would have been expressive protest without making it attached to another symbolic item, the flag.

The trouble was that the players attached their protests to a symbol, whereas had they made the protest without attaching it to a symbol it would probably have been, on net, just as or more effective. Who could object to the protest. And, it wouldn't have the distraction.

You might want to read Cass Sunstein's new book: How Change Happens and the chapter on expressive behavior, norms, and laws like flag burning laws.

The point was to protest America's historic and deeply engrained culture of "policing" and crimminalizing black people. The players attached it to the symbol of the flag because America is in fact the perpetrator. Kneeling at another time under a different symbol does not capture the purpose of the protest.

What you are asking them to do here is "take America out of it..." but doing so would make their protest irrelevant to the issue they want to bring to the table. Essentially, you qre asking them to protest in a way that people can easily ignore their demands and so it does not become a burden to peoples thoughts and feelings. You want them to protest by screaming into their pillows at night.

I must say Bill, your comment reeks of white privelage.

The players and their supporters always insisted that they were not protesting America, and that opponents who ascribed that position to the protests we're trying to sabotage them.

Protesting a specific systematic issue that occurs inside of America is not the same thing as protesting America. Nor is it the same thing as being anti-American

Focusing on the systematic proclivity for violence of a certain race is not attacking that specific race.


Very true! You were being tounge and cheek but what you are saying is spot in.

The black race is systematically predisposed to crimminality. That is not an attack on race. Its just a fact. Economically oppressed people have more to gain from crime. Also, when your education system is not very good, the judicial system does not protect you and your economic wealthgap is insurmountable, then turning to crimminality as a way to survive is not an unpredictable outcome.

It is also not so much an attack on the black race as it is an accurate analysis of the systematic influences that black people contend with on a daily basis.

+1 to you for accidently running into some truth, and proving my point

What a bunch of BS!

Care to explain how anything i said is bs?

Poe's Law strikes again.

Tom's comment adequately expresses my reply.

The players are protesting a national issue that happens with the consent and involvment of local, state and national govenments. That is why they connected it to the flag. Its a NATIONAL SYSTEMATIC issue. They are.not protesting America. They are protesting police brutality and the crimminalization of blacks.

Do you seriously not see the distinction or are you just being willfully ignorant because you dont want to share your sentiments with black folk?

This is what high school wiggers grow up to act like.

And this is what lifelong racists act like, all their lives.

Nope just someone who was cool in high school so I didn’t have to worship blacks, Mark. When you crossing up brothas who never bothered to learn how to use their left hand to get to the rim they don’t seem so fascinating.

Cool story bro.

U do realize that black people created the modern definition of cool right? Think about what being cool is.

Also, im glad u culd school a few cats in highschool. Cool story for sure. But the reality is blacks are better than whites at bball on average

U prolly got ur game from a black man. So please stop making paradoxical arguments

The players were stupid, politically and messaging wise. If they had just said something like this "I'll stand when we start living up to what this represents" instead of "I won't stand because of what this represents," they's probably have the entire stands kneeling in support.

Leave your number below. Next time black people want to take steps to right an injustice, well give you a call so that you can tell us how to best stop america from systematically crimminalizing us.

Also, we will check with you to make sure our messaging is palatable for all audiences, including the racists in the stands who we are speaking directly to.
Also, in case you missed it, they did say they would stand when the values the flag represents are upheld for them and all citizens.

Im guessing your willful ignorance eill not allow you to accept this fact though.

You might look into the effective methodology of MLK.

Interesting. What do you mean by this?

Of those Americans aware of the players' protests, I wonder what percentage have a good idea of exactly what is being protested. I suspect the percentage is low. I don't think that I know for sure.

With such a murky message, either their kneeling is simply ineffective or perhaps it's mostly just an attempt to grab attention.

Cheerleaders at Kennesaw State University have taken up the kneeling exercise. If they were asked to verbalize what they are protesting, there might be comedy.

They are protesting institutional racism, police brutality and economical royalism in Trump's America. I have watched, on state, TV a documentary about African American's plight in America.

Colin Kaepernick began kneeling prior to Trump's election, at a time when the consensus opinion was that Trump had no chance of winning. If you want to go down the ad hominem road, he would have been protesting Obama's America.

"If they were asked to verbalize what they ARE protesting".
Also, Trump is a notorious economical royalist.

Sounds like you have a comprehensive understanding of the situation based on that one documentary.

Yes. I also have read about economical royalism, mass adiction and police brutality in Trump's America.

Social standing can discourage unpopular stands. I have a home in the low country, where right-wing views are by far the prevalent views. If I were to express contrary views, my social standing would drop. I really like my neighbors, who would do anything to help out a neighbor. But they have strong social and political views and would have a very different opinion of me if I expressed views they regard as repugnant.

No you are just a bitch with a down market time share.

I am interested to see what counts as a "protest" here. A few teams decided to protest altogether, or by instituting policies that made it acceptable for players to protest by staying in the locker room.

I do not understand why we need a paper to show that poor people who have, essentially, just won the lottery are biting their tongue on critisizing the lottery system until they have their winning proceeds in hand. Its economic exploitation 101.

As an African American i have issues with how Kaepernick carried out his protest. He more so whined about police brutality than fought or made a stand against it....nontheless, if you are one of these people who cant underStand that players were kneeling DURING THE ANTHEM to protest US SYSTEMATIC police brutality, then YOU are in fact the dumbass that you are desperately trying to make these players out to be.

Also, if you think blacks are not systematically targeted by police and economically disenfranchised INTO committing crimes by design, then you are just not a very good thinker.

Thank you for bringing this perspective to the forum!

When you say (in your last sentence) "by design," do you mean a literal conspiracy, or do you mean something more akin to an invisible hand, whereby people who are pursuing other (perhaps benign) goals are unwittingly participating in a grand scheme of which they are unaware?

Well said Ricardo.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I mean the invisible hand all the way.

I believe there is an intelligent design that saps the resources from the black community, but it functions through invisible mechanisms....and in fact, the designers themselves may have "invisible" motives. Perhaps they just want to see their invention or piece of technology take flight, or perhaps they just want to be a powerful leader, or perhaps they want to make america great again.

The result of all this invisibility though is that black people get trumpled over, exploited, locked up and damaged. Often, this invisibility turns into WILLFULL invisibility where, metaphorically speaking,

A person wants to take a shortcut somewhere but the shortcut is blocked by a large crowd of black people, and so, instead of asking thenpeople to move or going slowly through the crowd, or finding a new way or paying the people to move or any other host of options, they simply shut their eyes and drive full speed through the crowd to get across it. When they finally make it to their deatination....they look back at all the black people on the ground and say...well, i couldnt see you so its not my fault. And also say, well you should not be standing on top of a shortcut. And the system is okay with this behavior because the system itself does this sort of thing.

As i always say, the exploitation of black folk is Americas largest employer. I think people understimate how much blacks contribute to the us and how little they get in return. Not just economically, but socially and politically as well. In a lot of ways. blacks are the moral fiber of America. Without the morality of black people, white people would still be jim crowing and enslaving folks.

So again the answer is yes... i mean the invisible and systematic forces that neglect black folks and expose them to harm. The invisible and systematic forces that racism and greed can thrive under because there is always an accepted justification.

I think you might have something there. Robert Nozick convinced a lot of people (well... a lot of people who read this blog) by invoking invisible hand arguments. You'd want to construct a model whereby people made locally optimal decisions which led to unintended negative outcomes... Thomas Schelling style arguments.

I've always used the terms "intelligent design" and "invisible hand" as opposites. "Intelligent design" arguments make listeners defensive; "invisible hand" arguments less so. I think invisible hand arguments tend to be much more effective.

As an aside, I've heard the "invisibility" concept expressed in other contexts, too. I knew a woman who would gain and lose weight somewhat regularly... she discovered there was a threshold weight above which she said she became invisible to people -- they just didn't see her as a person. I have never delved into exactly why this phenomenon exists, whether it is peculiar to particular cultures, etc... not my area of study, but I would be interested to see an explanatory model.

Thanks for the pointers and thoughtful analysis Ricardo.

However, in the context of racism, I do not see intelligent design and invisible hand as opposites. I see the intelligent design as the invisible hand. They are synonymous and in concert with one another.

I have no problem making the unintended negative outcomes argument, but that argument usually feeds into the power of the invisible hand by absolving perpetrators of racism of their responsibility for their actions.

In my crowd example, it is totally innaporpriate to tell the driver that just plowed through the crowd that the people he killed died as a result of ab uninentional negative externality. That is not what happened. What happened was the guy was greedy, and did not strongly value the lives of black people and so he put himself into a state of ignorance to achieve his outcome.

This is what happened with slavery and jim crow. Its why DT is in office. White americans have created a system where you can exploit people and hide behind stupidity to feel better and get away.

Slavery was not only the result of unintended outcomes and invisible mechanisms... it was also the result of a well designed system that used invisibile mechanisms to justify itself.

Slave owners and jim crow lawmakers obviously knew what they were doing was wrong...but they convinced themselves of a false moral relativism to which the society and the courts did nothing to regulate.

As the great mlk said (and I paraphrase) ... the goal of civil rights is not to transform the heart and soul of the oppressor, rather, it is to transform laws that regulate the behavior of the racists.

So i am npt on here typing to win people over to my argument. I am simply bringing a flashlight to where the light needs to be shined.

Driving through West Baltimore or Southeastern Washington, one does not see much in the way of moral fiber. Perhaps it's just carefully hidden, though.

You drive through it. How would you know? Live there and you will understand.

The murder per day seems reasonable to the residents? I doubt it. Sorry, I can subscribe to the idea that black Americans are victims of systemic racism, but the idea that they are our moral superiors, also, is a bit rich.

I am glad you subscribe to the idea that blacks are systematically oppressed. If you were a premium subscriber, you would also understand what I am saying is true.

Black people need not be your moral superior for them to teach you about moral behavior. Part of white peoples problem is a destructive willfull ignorance to the when they acted like all men are created equal somehow does not apply to black people.

Black people reminded them that a moral being's actions should be in line with his words

Well, According to the US Department of Justice, African Americans accounted for 52.5% of all homicide offenders from 1980 to 2008, The offending rate for African Americans was almost 8 times higher than European Americans, and the victim rate 6 times higher. So perhaps now they could work on reminding each other about moral actions and words, now? Just a thought.

Good job. Now ask yourself why black people are committing murders at a high level. Solve that and you will understand why you choose to drive by the depressed neighborhoods me and my family l8ve in.

Similarly, how they objective measure a team's "political atmosphere." The whole concept sounds like fertile ground for p-hacking.

I am interested to see what counts as a "protest" here. A few teams decided to protest altogether, or by instituting policies that made it acceptable for players to protest by staying in the locker room.

I do not understand why we need a paper to show that poor people who have, essentially, just won the lottery are biting their tongue on critisizing the lottery system until they have their winning proceeds in hand. Its economic exploitation 101.

As an African American i have issues with how Kaepernick carried out his protest. He more so whined about police brutality than fought or made a stand against it....nontheless, if you are one of these people who cant underStand that players were kneeling DURING THE ANTHEM to protest US SYSTEMATIC police brutality, then YOU are in fact the dumdumb that you are desperately trying to make these players out to be.

Also, if you think blacks are not systematically targeted by police and economically disenfranchised INTO committing crimes by design, then you are just not a very good thinker.

When my favorite hockey team gives time, effort and money to some event for the local ASPCA or children's hospital, I'm encouraged to join in and give. If a few of them knelt for whatever reason during the national anthem, what would I be supposed to make of it? What action would I be encouraged to take? Argue with other fans online?

These guys have enough agency to do something more constructive. Never has so much comment been wasted on such an empty gesture.

Although on the other hand, something appears to be working, as the latest political trend seems to be decriminalizing various behaviors due to concern over "mass incarceration."

Only a de fact white supremacist would think that kneeling down to protest the conditions of an oppressed minority in front of the entire world during the playing of the national anthem of the most powerful nation to ever exist is an "empty gesture."

Damn man i thought your main man was the biggest wigga around.

Isn't this actually a study of industries that lack competitive labor practices?

It actually boils down to fear of and ability to blackball participants.

You get it Mcmike. Economic Exploitation 101.

While it's not so easy to feel sorry for an NFL players, it is notable that even professional football players fear being blackballed for a non-performance related political act. I wonder how that plays out with Amazon warehouse drones.

idk. Professional athletes are employed in a winner-take-all tournament field, the Amazon warehouse workers...aren't.

The better comparison would be similar tournament fields, like academia or Hollywood.

I suspect the effect is worse for the amazon worker.

The average football player is college educated, extraordinarily healthy and has a relatively high IQ and a variety of marketbale skills for the workplace. If they lose their job, they can land on their feet somewhere else.

The avaerage amazon worker does not have the same net and has.much fewer marketable abilities. If they lose the amazon job, they may not make it, or maybe their life will be totally upended.

I suspect that we would find that economic exploitation of this type increases with lower pay bands.

"College educated, healthy, relatively high IQ and with marketable skills." That's my point -- with all that, plus high local name recognition as pro athletes, kneeling is the best idea they could come up with?

Actually, kneeling proved to be a highly effective form of protest. It was nonviolent and did not interfere with the game. It exposed a level of hypocrisy, brought attention to the issue, caused a President to come unhinged, and revealed the restraint of trade among owners.

That's a pretty low bar -- we already know there's hypocrisy, we know there's restraint of trade among owners, we know about the issue and even we Trump fans know he can get unhinged.

So you have some of the most high-profile, high-agency black men in America, and apparently this is the best they could do.

I disagree. It got all of this front and center and front page for a relatively long period of time.

You could argue that follow through was lacking.

You could certainly argue that in the end they hung Kaepernick out to dry, and left him twisting in the wind with barely a whimper.

I just think that the kneeling itself was what became front and center rather than any substance from the players on what active steps could be taken by police, government, schools, black residents etc.

The main policy question became "How should the league deal with this? How should TV deal with this?"

That was not the fault of the nfl players. That was conservative spin.

They turned itbinto that issue as to not discuss the more central issue. Gaslighting 101.

Only a neo whote supremacist would think kneel8ng down to protest the police state of the most militarily advanced society to ever exist is an insignificant act. Are you kidding me??? They put their careers and life on the line to bring attention to the issue

As MJ said above, elite reframing the protest to make it about the protestors, that's right out of the propaganda 101 playbook.

Commie peacenicks, trust fund occupy wall streeters, or overpaid lazy union picketers. Or disloyal colonists. Propaganda 101.

"Who's to blame for state of Black America?"

That's the question always being asked/answered in these protests. If it was about police brutality, asset forfeiture, or over-citation then it would have been a different protest. There are way more effective ways to protest those things, and non-blacks are subject to such difficulties often enough that a non-racialized movement on these issues would have gotten more traction.

Instead, you've got Facebook saying "All Lives Matter" is hate speech. Because this isn't about criminal justice, or even blacks relation to the criminal justice system. It's about "Whose to blame for the state of Black America?"

Liberals say White America. The flag, being a symbol of White America, thus becomes the perfect thing to protest.

The GOP says rap music or whatever.

Charles Murray says their genes.

If it's the latter two then there isn't much White America can do about the state of Black America. And if so why all the transfers from white to black? What do they accomplish and how are they justified? The ROI is terrible, just take this Paul Krugmen column and insert "black" for "rural".

This protest WAS about police brutality.

So according to what you are saying here, people should have been on board. Police overstepping their authority and increasing the power of the surveilence state are issues everyone should be able to get behind. Thats exactly what the athletes were protesting. It is you who saw what they were doing and were repulsed by their blackness. It is you who do not see that this issue also affects you, but normally affects THEM more directly. It is you who does not see how patently racist your comment is. But i know you are going to play willfully ignorant. Do me a favor, save your qords.

The official line is that it was about racist police shootings of unarmed black men. If we wanted to be generous it was about police brutality towards blacks.

Neither of those things are actually true statistically, so you are protesting a non-problem.

P.S. You got your wish in Baltimore and it got a lot of black people killed. Now they are BEGGING to get cameras added to their street so the surveillance state can save them from themselves.

So because something is not described statistically, it means it does.not exist or is not an issue?

Are you aware that statistics DESCRIBE problems, and that they are not the actual problem themselves... look beyond the numbers at what is actually going on.

Racist police shootings of unarmed black men IS police brutality. And cops summarily execute whites too...its just not motivated by race.

If you werent such a data Nazi, you would see that getting behind this protest is a benefit for all citizens who care abput the oncreasingly wide authority of police officers and its many implications on our right to be secure in our persons and effects.

Statistics are how we determine if something is a trend with broad societal impact. When that is the case it becomes a higher priority in the tradeoff of various goods we have to consider as a society. We can't go All-In on every anecdote.

Getting behind this protest doesn't "benefit all citizens." The primary effect of Black Lives Matter was an increase in crime. No city is more an example of what a bad idea getting behind BLM was than my own city of Baltimore.

Bye, Felicia. Black lives matter increased crime???????? A bunch of higschool and college lgbq kids that mostly peacefully protested caused crime to increase???????????????????

Stop it. Your racism is leaking through your message. Go clean up and come back eith something better

Lol dis wigga doesn’t know about the post-Ferguson spike in violent crime. He should watch less Friday and read mo’ books.

>players hold contracts offering guaranteed payments of anywhere between $92 million and nothing at all.

Very, very few NFL players have "guaranteed" contracts. Kirk Cousins is the only one that comes to mind.

The NFL isn't the NBA or MLB.

Wow!?! You mean that people might withhold their criticism of something or someone based on their own job security? You mean they might actually think before they spoke even if only of themselves. And they might sometimes not even speak at all. Wow?!? Tell me it isn't so. This is so patently obvious I can't believe it was given space in a peer reviewed journal. Looks to me like the SSQ would fall for a hoax article.

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