The NFL and Taking a Knee

Before last year, if a football player was taking a knee it would be because they were tired and needed to get off their feet for a minute or two. That was, until Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee during the national anthem in the the 2016 season. When asked why he took a knee he told reporters that he did it to protest social injustices toward people of color in America, specifically black people. He did this at a time when police brutality against black people dominated the news headlines. Last year, Colin Kaepernick took a knee by himself to start the conversation about the injustices toward black people that happen on a daily basis in our country. Fast forward to 2017 and we have whole teams and executives locking arms and taking knees during the national anthem, while some teams went as far as not even leaving the locker room at all, as stated in the article by the NY Times. In 2017 though, majority of players are kneeling in protest to the president who gave some harsh remarks about the players of the NFL, going as far as calling anyone who kneeled a “SOB” and that they should be “fired” according to the article by the NY Times. The article also states that the players want to make it very clear that they are not kneeling to disrespect the flag or the military but are simply using their platform, in a peaceful way, to shed light on a subject that would otherwise not be talked about.

I think that the players in the NFL are conforming to what the majority of other players are doing. Since so many other players are kneeling players will conform to not feel left out of the majority and looked down upon by their peers. Conformity is a change of behavior by an individual to fit in with a larger group. One of the things that we know influence conformity is group size. For example, when it was only Colin Kaepernick kneeling nobody else was inclined to kneel but when the number got to about four of five people on a given team, the rest of their team would have been more likely to conform and kneel. Now that we see whole teams starting to kneel and even stay in the locker room, it has become easier than ever for players to conform because of the large numbers of other players who are deciding to kneel. I also think that there are examples of social facilitation in regards to what the players are doing.  Social facilitation is the tendency to perform easy tasks better and more difficult tasks worse with the presence of a crowd. Since kneeling is a rather simple task social facilitation can explain why players are more inclined to do it because of the large crowd backing them up. With these large crowds, players feel more comfortable kneeling and get more amped up when it comes time to kneel because they know the reaction they will receive when they do. Realistically, if there was no audience there would be no reason to protest because nobody would see it. So if they were alone in their living room they probably wouldn’t take a knee. This change in behavior due to the mere presence of others is a textbook example of social facilitation.