Society

Poll: Anthem Protest Top Reason Football Fans Tuned Out

| by Robert Fowler
A USA flag during an NFL football gameA USA flag during an NFL football game

New polling indicates that protests against the national anthem during NFL football games prompted some fans to stop tuning into the sport during the 2016 season.

On July 27, a J.D. Power survey found that 12 percent of self-identified football fans watched fewer NFL games during the 2016 season. 27 percent of respondents said they had watched even more games than usual, while the remaining 62 percent watched the same amount of games as they had in 2015, ESPN reports.

Among respondents who watched fewer NFL games in 2016, 26 percent cited protests against the national anthem as their primary reason for tuning out. 24 percent said they watched fewer games because of controversies such as some NFL players being charged with domestic assault.

20 percent of the respondents who said they cut down their football diet in 2016 said that their primary reason was excessive advertising during the games. 16 percent said the 2016 presidential election had supplanted their interest in football, while 5 percent said they watched fewer games simply because they had ended their cable subscriptions.

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Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked national controversy when he began snubbing the national anthem in August 2016. The football player stated that he would kneel during the anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL.com. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

In October 2016, a Quinnipiac University poll found a profound racial split in how Americans viewed Kaepernick's protest. The survey found that, while 63 percent of Caucasian disapproved of athletes kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality, 74 percent of African American respondents approved, according to Sports Illustrated.

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Political editor Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal took to social media to tout the J.D. Power survey findings.

"No shock to anyone living outside an ideological bubble," Kraushaar tweeted out.

Chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie of Slate pushed back on Kraushaar's statement, asserting that the data indicated that Kaepernick's protest had a marginal impact on NFL viewership.

"Only 12% of those surveyed said they watched fewer games and of those, 26% cited protests," Bouie tweeted in response. "So, 3% watched fewer games b/c of protests."

Bouie added "it is so telling that 'sympathy with a protest against police violence' means you're in a 'bubble.'"

The J.D. Power survey did not list why some football fans watched even more NFL games during the 2016 season.

Sources: ESPN, Jamelle Bouie/Twitter, Josh Kraushaar/Twitter, NFL.comSports Illustrated / Photo Credit: USAF/Wikimedia Commons, Thomas/Flickr, Crash Underride/Wikimedia Commons

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