American Government and Politics

Who Says Shut Up and Dribble? Race and the Response to Athletes' Political Activism



In response to a political comment from NBA superstar LeBron James, a Fox News commentator suggested he “shut up and dribble.” James and many others considered the comment racist. Defenders suggested it was driven by political ideology rather than race. Interestingly, both perspectives could find support in existing research. Using responses to a large national survey asking whether respondents find athlete political activism “acceptable,” here I find strong evidence that both ideology and race shape attitudes on the subject. The picture that emerges reveals that party and ideology matter, but even after controlling for them, the race and racial views of the respondent help shape their perspective on political athletes. Establishing the importance of race and racial views here helps illuminate why the intersection of sports and politics generates such fierce responses including unvarnished vitriol from some political figures.

Version notes

Table 1 corrected


Thumbnail image of Shut Up Full Manuscript.pdf


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