Following the Leader: Race and Player Behavior in the 1987 NFL Strike
69 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 1997
The NFL's decision to hold regularly scheduled games during the 1987 strike by the NFL Players' Association forced NFL players to choose between behaving in a manner consistent with either the union's objective (i.e., withholding labor) or the employing team's objective (i.e., supplying labor). In this chapter, we use data on player behavior during this strike to test the general proposition that a member of an organization will be more likely to behave in a manner that is consistent with the organization's objectives when the demographic traits, in particular race, of organizational leaders with whom the member has opportunities to interact regularly are similar to those of the member. Our findings suggest that having formal organizational leaders in the same racial category significantly influences the behavior of nonwhites, but not of whites. As hypothesized, the percent of the team?s coaches who are of the same race as the player has a significantly positive effect and having a team union representative of the same race has a significantly negative effect on the probability that a nonwhite player returns to work during the strike. Neither the percent of the team?s coaches who are of the same race as the player nor having a team union representative of the same race has a statistically significant effect on the choice made by white players. Our results also suggest that both white and nonwhite players are more likely to cross the picket line when a same-race peer leader crosses the picket line than when a different-race peer (team) leader crosses the picket line.
JEL Classification: J15, J52, L83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation