A new Yahoo Sports/YouGov survey indicates that Americans remain deeply divided about the ongoing national anthem protests in the NFL, with 44 percent of fans claiming they would actually stop watching the NFL if the protests continue.
San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick began refusing to stand during the national anthem in the preseason, citing what he termed a longstanding pattern of racially motivated police abuse of minorities. In the season’s first week, players from at least six other teams joined in the protest, taking knees and raising fists during the anthem in signs of solidarity.
The survey of 1,128 Americans, conducted on Sept. 13 and 14, found stark differences in perception of the protests among racial and age lines.
Overall, 47 percent of Americans oppose Kaepernick’s protest, with 32 percent in support and the remaining 21 percent either neutral or declining to offer an opinion. Respondents under the age of 34 are divided, with 39 percent supporting Kaepernick and 30 percent opposing him, while 65 percent of Americans over the age of 55 oppose the protest.
From a racial perspective, only 24 percent of whites supported Kaepernick’s protest, while 63 percent of black Americans supported his action. Hispanic Americans fell short of the midpoint at 39 percent.
The form of Kaepernick’s protest, during the national anthem, drew criticism as well; three in five Americans wished that Kaepernick had chosen a different method or forum for his protest. Kaepernick drew criticism on the contention that his protest disrespected the military and, on Sept. 11, the memory of those lost during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Kaepernick has sought to draw very specific lines around the extent of his protest. It’s worth noting, however, that had Kaepernick chosen another forum, it’s unlikely he would have achieved anywhere near as much attention for his cause.
Americans are split right down the middle on whether the NFL should permit protests at all, with 42 percent saying the NFL should crack down on protests, and another 42 percent saying the NFL should allow any form of protest to continue.
Still, the protests are having an impact on fans’ beliefs. Nearly half of all NFL fans, 44 percent, claim they would stop watching football if protests continued. It’s a powerful statement, one that cannot in any way be verified or quantified unless ratings were to drop by half … which, considering the nation’s ongoing love affair with football, is a highly dubious prospect at best.
The bottom line remains, however: at least 44 percent of Americans want their football to be about football … or, if it gets political, only about the kind of protests with which they agree.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.