Poll: Half of Americans support athletes, leagues pushing for social change

Half of Americans support sports leagues and athletes using their influence to enact social change, according to a new poll conducted by YouGov for Seton Hall University.

Asked the question "Should sports organizations such as leagues and teams use their influence to affect social change?", 48 percent of the population responded "Yes," with 36 percent responding "No" and 16 percent offering no opinion. Almost the same percentage of self-identified casual fans agreed with the statement, while 61 percent of "avid" sports fans agreed with the statement.

Slightly larger percentages favored athletes pursuing social change. More than half of the general population, 51 percent, answered "yes" to the question "Should athletes and/or player associations use their influence to affect social change?" Again, that percentage rose among more devoted sports fans, with 65 percent of avid sports fans agreeing that athletes should use their standing in favor of social change.

(Seton Hall / YouGov)
(Seton Hall / YouGov)

The 2023 Super Bowl is scheduled to be held in Arizona, a state considering voting legislation similar to that which prompted Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Asked "Would you support the NFL moving the Super Bowl to another state if such legislation became law in Arizona?", 49 percent of Americans, and 64 percent of avid sports fans, supported the idea, with 30 percent overall against it and 21 percent overall having no opinion.

The idea of boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics, scheduled for Beijing, China, over China's human rights record received even more support. Well over half of all Americans, 57 percent, supported a boycott over human rights, with 24 percent against it and 19 percent offering no opinion. That percentage in favor rose slightly, to 60 percent, when asked whether the support of multiple countries would make a difference.

In the course of the survey, respondents identified their level of sports fandom. Twenty percent identified themselves as "avid," with another 36 percent saying they were casual sports fans. Almost half of the respondents, 44 percent, indicated they were not sports fans.

“When I met with Nelson Mandela in 1993 as the Executive Director of the NBA Players Association, he encouraged us to use our positions in sport to become agents of change,” said Seton Hall Professor Charles Grantham in a statement announcing the poll. “It is perhaps a long time in coming, but there would seem to be more support than ever for that proposition amongst the leagues, the players and the fans as well as the general public.”

The nationwide poll was conducted for Seton Hall by YouGov from April 23 to 26, using a national representative sample of 1,563 adult respondents weighted according to gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography based on U.S. Census Bureau data. The poll has a margin of error of ± 3.2 percent. For full results, go here.

The Olympics could be a venue for social protest, and many Americans are fine with that. (Philip Fong/Getty Images)
The Olympics could be a venue for social protest, and many Americans are fine with that. (Philip Fong/Getty Images)


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at

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