Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Thad Williamson


Over the past decade, the Black community of the United States has faced great discrimination and violence leading to various protests and instances of activism across the county. In the world of sports, where one may think that political engagement has no relation, some Black athletes use their platforms to speak up about these issues. The National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) recruit the largest percentage of Black athletes compared to any other professional league in the U.S., but their reactions to racial activism on the field and on the court appear very different. In order to discover why these responses vary, this thesis will examine the game structure of each sport as well as the history and leadership of each league. While both the NFL and NBA struggled to fully accept Black athletes and their culture in the twentieth century, more recently the NBA has spoken on social issues and grants their players more freedom with political engagement. In contrast, the NFL quickly tries to shut down any activism by their athletes and prioritizes their owners first. We found that the culture, structure, and leadership of the two leagues has a direct impact on their response to activism and without any change, will predict the abilities of future athletes in each sport to take a stand.