Two-thirds of adult Americans believe NFL players have the right to kneel in protest during the national anthem, but the country is divided as to whether they actually approve of the demonstrations, according to poll results released by Quinnipiac University on Thursday.
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Among U.S. voters, 67 percent said players have the legal right to protest, compared to 30 percent who said they do not have the right. Black, white and Hispanic respondents all supported the right to protest, while Republican voters opposed the right in the context of the NFL.
While most Americans support the concept of protests, voters are split down the middle on whether kneeling during the national anthem is the proper method. Of the poll’s respondents, 47 percent said they approved of players kneeling to protest police brutality and social injustice, while 47 percent disapproved.
Nike’s recent decision to feature free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the player who popularized the protests, in a new marketing campaign is more popular. Forty-nine percent of American voters support Kaepernick’s appearance in the ads, while 37 percent disapprove.
“Take a knee. It’s your right, American voters tell NFL players. But many voters who agree with the right to protest, disagree with the actual protests,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “But as for putting Colin Kaepernick’s name alongside the Nike swoosh, voters say, ‘Just do it.’”
Kaepernick became the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem during the 2016 season. The number of protests escalated during the 2017 season, eventually drawing the ire of President Donald Trump, who repeatedly criticized the NFL for failing to crack down on the demonstrations with fines or suspensions.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association are in the midst of discussions on a new policy that would determine whether players are allowed to protest during the anthem.
Quinnipiac’s poll was based on questions to 1,038 voters around the country.