84 Percent Support NFL Players' Right to Protest, but Vary on How to Carry That Out; Only 16% Say Protesters Should Be Dropped from Team
Wide Discrepancy Between African-Americans and Whites
The Seton Hall Sports Poll has found that 84% of Americans support the NFL players' right to protest, with only 16% saying the players should be ordered to stand for the anthem or be dropped from the team if they refuse.
Of the 84% supporting the players' right to protest, 49% felt they should find a different way to express their political opinions, and 35% felt that not standing for the anthem is an acceptable way to protest. There was a wide racial gap in those saying it was an acceptable form of protest with 70% of African-Americans choosing that option and only 28% of whites doing so.
The poll of 845 adults (on both landline and cellphone) was conducted across the U.S. It has a margin of error of 3.4%.
An identical question was asked a year ago about just Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who first took a knee back in September of 2016. At that time, 80% supported his right to protest and 20% believed he should be dropped from the team if he refused an order to stand.
Asked specifically this week about players not standing during the playing of the anthem, 44% of all respondents disapproved, 32% approved, and 25% had no opinion or did not know. The responses to the same question about just Kaepernick a year ago were 47% disapproval and 27% approval.
"These attitudes are remarkably stable given all that has happened in this past year and the recent spike in attention being paid to the subject," noted Rick Gentile, director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll, which is sponsored by the Sharkey Institute.
Respondents were asked whether they agreed more with President Trump who called on NFL owners to fire any players who refuse to stand, or with Commissioner Roger Goodell and several NFL owners who called the President's comments divisive.
Trump received the support of 28% and Goodell received 50%. Among African-Americans Trump received 6% vs. 78% for Goodell and whites were 32% to 47%.
Asked about Kaepernick's lack of a contract by an NFL team, 47% felt it was because of his protests and 19% because he wasn't good enough. 81% of African-Americans felt it was because of his protest with only 7% saying it was because he was not good enough, while among whites the ratio was 41% (protest) and 22% (ability).
"This is an emotional issue for many people with obvious differences between whites and African-Americans," said Gentile. "The overall support for the players' right to protest — in some form — is heartening especially considering some of the divisive rhetoric we've heard revolving around this issue."
The protests can be very damaging to the NFL's popularity. 29% of respondents said they were watching fewer games this season, and of that group, 47% cited the player protests during the national anthem.
In an identical question asked in November 2016, 25% said they were watching fewer games because of the anthem protest.