NFL anthem protest creates sharp divide along racial lines, study finds

DALLAS — With the NFL approving a controversial new rule this week forcing all players who take the field before a game to stand for the National Anthem (but also allowing players to remain in the locker room if desired), the debate over peaceful protests by professional athletes rages on. The ongoing saga has brought on a constant flow of opinions from athletes and fans, and a recent study reveals a sharp racial divide in how people view the controversy.

For the study, University of Texas at Dallas researcher Dr. Alex Piquero surveyed 299 undergraduate students covering a diverse range of racial backgrounds. Piquero and his research team found that nearly 90 percent of black respondents supported the players who chose to kneel during the National Anthem during the 2017 season. Only 38 percent of non-black respondents felt the same way.

American flag
The ongoing National Anthem saga in the NFL has brought on a constant flow of opinions from athletes and fans, and a recent study reveals a sharp racial divide in how people view the controversy. (Photo by Kevin Morris on Unsplash)

In an even more lopsided outcome, all of the black respondents in the study thought the NFL shouldn’t punish protesting players, while only 25 percent of non-black respondents agreed. Similarly, 100 percent of black participants thought owners shouldn’t punish players either, while only 29 percent of the other participants felt the same way.

“The results were striking,” Piquero says in a university release. “Our findings point to a realistic yet potentially disturbing racial schism that exists in America today regarding anthem protests.”

The study is one of the first attempts to empirically study the public’s opinions and attitudes towards the National Anthem protests started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick two years ago. Kaepernick famously knelt during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner to protest police brutality and racial injustice towards black citizens in America.

Participants were asked to provide their race, general political views, how much they watch the NFL, and whether they agree with President Donald Trump’s views on the anthem protests. They were also asked about their thoughts on fairness within the criminal justice system in America. When it came to their thoughts on the protests, they were asked on the appropriateness of standing, kneeling, raising a fist, or sitting down during the anthem. They also espoused their views on whether teams and owners should punish players who protest.

Eighty-eight percent of black participants agreed that raising a fist was an appropriate form of protest, versus 38 percent of non-black individuals. Fewer black participants (73%) felt sitting was appropriate, compared to just 22 percent of others.

The full study was published Nov. 14, 2017 in the journal Deviant Behavior.

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