A majority of Americans do not believe taking a knee during the national anthem is an inherently unpatriotic act, according to a new poll released by Quinnipiac University.
NFL players, as you may have heard, have spent the last 20 months or so embroiled in a controversy over kneeling during the national anthem. While the players have consistently tried to push the message that the protests are meant to bring attention to systemic racism, outside commentators — including the President of the United States — have reframed the protests as a mandate on patriotism — i.e., stand or you’re unpatriotic.
Not so, say 58 percent of American voters. That’s the percentage who indicated that NFL players who kneel in protest aren’t being unpatriotic by doing so. The poll split along ideological lines; 70 percent of self-identified Republicans say that the players are indeed unpatriotic, and white voters split 46-46 percent on the issue, but all other party, gender, education, age, and racial groups fell into the “not unpatriotic” category.
Do athletes have the right to protest on the field?
Voters indicated by a 53-43 margin that professional athletes do indeed have the right to protest on the playing field; the question of whether a protest is “at the appropriate time” is one objection that opponents often raise. This question fractures sharply along party lines; 82 percent of Democrats say the players have the right to protest, while 81 percent of Republicans say they do not.
Along racial lines, 85 percent of black voters and 67 percent of Hispanic voters said players have the right to protest, while 53 percent of white voters said they do not.
A recent Yahoo Sports/YouGov poll found that a majority of fans support the NFL’s new anthem policy. This, of course, does not contradict the Quinnipiac survey; it’s possible to both support a policy that mandates individual expression in the workplace and also not believe that individual expression is unpatriotic. The Quinnipiac poll found similar support for the anthem, and 51 percent oppose the NFL fining teams for protests during the anthem.