Protests, Politics, and Attitudes toward the NFL

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In 2016, several National Football League players began to take a knee during the national anthem as a way to protest racism and police brutality in the US. Since that time, other NFL players have joined the protests, through sitting, taking a knee, raising a fist, or through other activities.

Journalists, political pundits, and even the president have all commented on the utility of the protests. Some have suggested that the protests have served to repel fans, pointing to decreased viewership to buttress their arguments.

To examine this issue in further depth, the Texas Tribune collected data from Texas voters to determine their attitudes toward the NFL. They collected data from 1200 registered voters during 10 days in June of 2018.

Results indicate that 47 percent of all Texas voters have an unfavorable impression of the league.

The race of the voter also influenced the response. Unfavorable ratings were highest among Whites, at 55 percent. They were lowest among Black voters, at 24 percent, and Hispanic voters came in at 39 percent.

Only 20 percent of White participants had a favorable impression of the NFL, relative to 49 percent of Black participants, and 29 percent of Hispanic participants.

In commenting on the results, Jim Henson, who co-directed the project, noted “If football was trumping controversy, these numbers would be much more positive than they are…. And they would not show the demographic patterns that are clearly evident here.”

For its part, the NFL considered a policy change for 2018. Players would have to stand for the anthem or face a fine. They would be able to stay in the locker room during the anthem if they chose. The League and player’s union are currently negotiating this policy.