Framing the NFL national anthem protest: an analysis of news media in post-racist America

The purpose of this study was to explore the framing of the narrative presented by American news outlets in reporting on the NFL national anthem protests that began in 2016 to bring attention to police brutality and systemic racism towards blacks in the U.S. I analyzed the ways news media presented the protest, then evaluated how each article legitimized, validated, or transformed the stated purpose of the protest. Utilizing theoretical frameworks on colorblind and dog-whistle racism, critical race theory, frame alignment processes, and symbolism in America culture, I conducted a content analysis of news articles published during three key periods of the NFL anthem protest – September 2016 (n=100), February to May 2017 (n=99), and September 2017 (n=100). Common themes observed included lower mentions of the stated purpose of the protest, repeated allusions to the American flag and national anthem being totems of American ideals, and frequent use of frame transformation.