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Survey: Trump supporters have turned against the NFL

Trump’s criticisms and athletes’ protests against systemic racism seem to be having an effect.

Americans don’t seem to like the NFL’s feud with President Donald Trump, according to new survey numbers by Morning Consult.

Based on the polling agency’s daily brand survey of 5,000 US adults, “The NFL’s net favorability has dropped from 30% on September 21 to 17% on September 28.”

A chart of favorability numbers for the NFL. Morning Consult

One potential explanation for the drop is Trump’s criticism of players protesting the flag and national anthem (when the players are in reality protesting systemic racism and police brutality), followed by hundreds of athletes refusing to stand or locking arms for the national anthem in the aftermath. That seems to have caused a big drop in how Americans view the NFL.

The hit seems to mostly come from a drop in favorability among Trump supporters. “On September 21, 25% of Trump supporters said they had a very favorable view of the NFL and 11% had a very unfavorable view,” Morning Consult noted. “As of Sept 28, those numbers have dramatically changed with 33% of Trump supporters [saying] they have a very unfavorable view of the NFL and 16% report having a very favorable view” — essentially a total reversal.

This isn’t surprising. In a highly polarized political environment, people are going to put their political identities over recreational activities like watching sports.

What this means for the NFL protests themselves is less clear. Since Colin Kaepernick first launched these kinds of demonstrations last year, there has been a lot of criticism that this style of protest is a particularly bad way to stand up against systemic racism and police brutality. We see this with Trump: By protesting during the national anthem, the players open themselves up to attacks that they are anti-American because they look like they’re rejecting the flag and country.

Still, the protests have gotten more people talking about police brutality and systemic racism. (Just think of the coverage that places like Fox Sports and ESPN have dedicated to the issues, which they surely wouldn’t have to the same degree before.) This could lead to positive change down the line; after all, many Americans also viewed the civil rights protests of the 1960s unfavorably as they were happening — yet now they are considered some of the most important, successful demonstrations in US history.

Whether something similar happens with these NFL protests remains to be seen. But for now, things don’t look good for the NFL itself.