Date of this Version
Peña, V. (2017, August). Taking a stand by kneeling: An analysis of national anthem protest coverage. UNL Digital Commons.
Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers decided to protest the national anthem before a 2016 NFL preseason game because of systemic racial inequality and instances of police brutality, sparking a nationwide debate about the First Amendment, the national anthem in sports, and race, among other topics. His protest influenced many similar protests, including one by three members of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team. This paper looks at the media coverage of the protests and the aftermath, examining both national and local print and broadcast news sources, to determine the degree to which the coverage adheres to the protest paradigm, which is a framework journalists use when covering protests that portrays the groups in a negative light. Coverage from sources generally adhered to some of the characteristics of the protest paradigm, which are framing, the reliance on official sources, use of public opinion, delegitimization, and demonization. However, journalists have gotten better about avoiding pitfalls of the paradigm, although the characteristics are still present in other ways. The paper looks at past examples of sports protests and examines the similarities between them and the current protests by Kaepernick and the Nebraska players. While the focus is on print and broadcast news, which includes web content, future areas of research regarding the protest paradigm could focus on the effect social media has on reporting on protest groups, and if there is a paradigm for the way journalists cover such events in an increasingly digital news landscape.