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Genuine or impression management? Uncovering biases in how people respond to the Black Lives Matter movement in sport

Youngho Park (Department of Sport Sciences, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, USA)
Dae Hee Kwak (Department of Sport Management, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship

ISSN: 1464-6668

Article publication date: 19 December 2023

Issue publication date: 19 March 2024




National surveys reveal that sports fans exhibit greater support for athletes, sports teams and leagues endorsing social justice initiatives compared to the general population, highlighting the potential of sports for positive social impact. This study investigates whether such responses are influenced by systematic biases.


Replicating a Nielsen national survey, two experiments explore whether biases affect support for athletes' participation in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The study also examines partisan motivated reasoning as a factor driving sports fans' support for BLM.


While avid fans display stronger endorsement of BLM compared to causal/non-sports fans, evidence suggests that systematic biases distort these responses. When sport identity becomes salient, reported support for the BLM movement becomes inflated.

Research limitations/implications

Researchers often employ self-report surveys to gauge audience perceptions of athlete activism or cause-related initiatives, particularly when assessing their impact. This study's findings indicate that this context is susceptible to SDB.


The study underscores the role of systematic biases in self-report surveys, particularly in socially desirable contexts. People tend to over-report “positive behavior,” leading survey participants to respond more favorably to questions that are socially desirable. Therefore, interpreting survey results with caution becomes essential when the research context is deemed socially (un)desirable. It is crucial for researchers to apply appropriate measures to identify and mitigate systematic response biases. The authors recommend that researchers adopt both procedural and statistical remedies to detect and reduce social desirability biases.



Park, Y. and Kwak, D.H. (2024), "Genuine or impression management? Uncovering biases in how people respond to the Black Lives Matter movement in sport", International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 248-265.



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