A new Yahoo Sports survey on the recent wave of NFL protests shows what you may well have guessed: American opinion is sharply divided on both the protesters and their prospective consequences. However, it’s worth noting that there is very little unified opinion on any one angle — i.e. “most Americans” don’t fall on either side or the other of the protest/no-protest debate.
When asked if NFL players should face consequences for kneeling during the national anthem played before games 44 percent said yes, while 40 said no.
The 44 percent figure included 15 percent who believe the players should be fined, 14 percent who believe the players should be cut completely, 11 percent who favored suspension and 4 percent who indicated “other.” More than half, 53 percent, of older NFL fans (ages 55 and over) believe the players should face consequences, while only 34 percent of younger respondents (ages 18-34) believed the same.
The NBA has an explicit rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem. When asked whether the NFL should institute a similar rule, 48 percent of respondents agreed, while 38 percent said such a rule is not necessary. The remainder did not offer an opinion.
The online survey, conducted Sept. 26 and 27 by YouGov in association with Yahoo Sports, comprised 1,146 adults, and were weighted to represent the entire American population over 18.
Fans who claim they will boycott games if protests continue have made up a vocal online contingent. However, 45 percent of fans have indicated they will continue to watch NFL games. Another 34 percent have said they will stop watching if protests continue, while 12 percent have already stopped watching games. Almost the same exact responses applied when respondents were asked if they would stop watching if an NFL team signs Colin Kaepernick.
President Donald Trump edged his way into the debate with a Friday night campaign rally at which he said NFL owners ought to say to protesters, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He’s fired. He’s fired.” When asked if the president should apologize for his remarks, 40 percent said Trump needed to apologize, while 35 percent said he did not. The remainder either did not offer an opinion or preferred not to answer.
The questions of consequence and apology correlated, with 66 percent of respondents who believe players should face consequences also saying Trump shouldn’t apologize. At the other end of the spectrum, 76 percent of respondents who said players should face no consequences also said the president needs to apologize.
The basic takeaway: even in a debate as heated and patriotism-minded as this one, no side can claim a majority of Americans’ support.
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 email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.