Amid more player and pundit backlash over the NFL's new "no kneeling" policy, Survey Monkey asked Americans how they felt about the league's attempt to put the divisive National Anthem protests behind them. What they learned is that the league has the support of the majority of Americans — and the more die-hard the NFL fan, the more pro-kneeling ban they are.
In a survey of 1,795 Americans conducted May 24-25, Survey Monkey found that 54% approved of the NFL's new policy, while 43% disapproved.
When the pollsters drilled down a little deeper, they found that approval of the policy increased the more hardcore the fan. Among those who described themselves as NFL fans (which was 53% of respondents), a slightly greater percentage agreed with the policy: 56% of either "casual" or "big" fans said they approved of the policy, while 42% disagreed.
Of the "big fans" (25% of respondents), an even higher percentage approved of the anthem protest ban: 59% approved, with just 40% disapproving.
About the same percentage (55%) of Americans who agree with the policy said they believe it's fair for a team to be fined for a player's actions, while a slightly higher percentage (57%) said allowing players to stay in the locker room during the performance of the National Anthem was an acceptable compromise.
The pollsters also inquired about Americans' perception of the anthem protest in general. About the same percentage of respondents connected it to patriotism as those who did not:
More than four in 10 people (42 percent) say that kneeling during the national anthem “is not related to patriotism.” Nearly as many (41 percent) say that kneeling during the national anthem is unpatriotic–almost three times more than the number of respondents who think it is patriotic (14 percent).
The anthem protests began when former 49ers then-second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during a 2016 preseason game. Asked why he was sitting out the anthem, Kaepernick made clear that it was about his lack of respect for America, which he connected to claims of "systemic racism" in law enforcement.
"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 reporters. "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."