President Trump told supporters at a rally in Alabama last Friday that he'd like to see NFL owners fire player who "disrespect our flag," saying, "Get that son of a b---- off the field right now!"
Those comments led to unprecedented demonstrations by all 32 NFL teams in the games that followed. Trump said Thursday that the reason these demonstrations continue is because NFL owners are afraid of their players. But according to a recent poll conducted by Seton Hall Sports Poll, 84 percent of respondents support the players' right to protest, with only 16 percent saying players should be required to stand for the anthem. At issue, however, is how these protests should take place.
Of the 84% supporting the players' right to protest, 49% felt they should find a different way to express their political opinions, and 35% felt that not standing for the anthem is an acceptable way to protest. There was a wide racial gap in those saying it was an acceptable form of protest.with 70% of African-American choosing that option only 28% of whites doing so.
The poll of 845 adults (on both landline and cellphone) was conducted across the US on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday of this week. It has a margin of error of 3.4%.
Player protesting during the national anthem started in August 2016 with Colin Kaepernick, the then-49ers quarterback who remains a free agent. According to Seton Hall Sports Poll, a similar question was asked a year ago about Kaepernick, and 80 percent supported the right to protest while 20 percent believed players should be cut if they refused to stand for the anthem.
Asked specifically this week about players not standing during the playing of the anthem, 44% of all respondents disapproved, 32% approved, and 25% had no opinion or did not know. The responses to the same question about just Kaepernick a year ago were 47% disapproval and 27% approval.
"These attitudes are remarkably stable given all that has happened in this past year and the recent spike in attention being paid to the subject," said Rick Gentile, director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll.
Depending on who you ask, Kaepernick isn't on an NFL roster because he's being blackballed for his political views or because he just hasn't been very good in recent seasons.
Forty-seven percent of respondents felt that Kaepernick is unemployed because of his protests last season while 19 percent said it was because he wasn't good enough. Among African-Americans, 81 percent cited protests for Kaepernick remaining a free agent with only seven percent saying it was because he was not good enough. Among white people, the ratio was 41 percent vs. 22 percent.
When respondents were asked if they agreed more with Trump's remarks or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners, Seton Hall Sports Poll found that Trump had 28 percent support while Goodell received 50 percent. Among African-Americans Trump received six percent vs. 78 percent for Goodell, and white people were at 32 percent vs. 47 percent.
"This is an emotional issue for many people with obvious differences between whites and African-Americans," Gentile said. "The overall support for the players' right to protest -- in some form -- is heartening especially considering some of the divisive rhetoric we've heard revolving around this issue."