Between the polling and the (very early) success of the Nike ad campaign, how long can it be before we see Colin Kaepernick back on the gridiron, leading the Buffalo Bills or the Denver Broncos to a glorious 6-10 season?
You’ll find notable gaps there between men and women, whites who are college-educated and those who aren’t, and the very young and very old. If you want to dismiss the 47/47 overall split as fake news, there are reasons available to you. Quinnipiac is a Democratic-friendly pollster (their numbers for Trump are reliably among the worst of any polling outfit) and the result here is contradicted by other surveys taken this year. Back in February, a WaPo poll that asked whether it’s ever appropriate to protest by kneeling during the anthem produced a 42/53 result. A few months later in April, NBC/WSJ got nearly the same numbers — 43/54 in response to the question of whether it’s appropriate to kneel during the anthem to protest racial inequality specifically.
But there are reasons to wonder if change is afoot too. For one thing, Quinnipiac itself has polled this question before and found stronger opposition then than it does now. In November of last year, the public split 42/52 on kneeling during the anthem. Also, there’s a notable increase in Democratic support for the protesters in this new poll compared to the WaPo and NBC polls from earlier this year. WaPo had Democrats split 66/29 in February; NBC had them split 72/23 in April. Quinnipiac has them at 79/14 today. Is it possible that Trump flogging this issue for two years has had the predictable partisan effect of pushing Team Blue further into the protesters’ corner? Sure.
But it’s also possible that the Nike campaign itself has promoted some newfound good vibes for Kaep. Their first ad was strong and their message that Kaepernick is a martyr willing to risk his career for what he believes in may have stirred a bit of newfound sympathy for him. That was one of the reasons righties objected to the ad campaign to begin with, believing that it would glorify Kaepernick and other protesters and help mainstream the idea that showing disrespect during the anthem was itself a respectable thing to do. Per the new Quinnipiac data, maybe that suspicion was well founded. In fact, according to another Quinnipiac question, a near-majority of the public (49/37) approves of Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick in its campaign. (The company’s stock hit an all-time high today too.) It’s not a coincidence that the share who support him appearing in Nike ads is now nearly identical to the share who say it’s appropriate to kneel during the anthem.
It’s also possible, of course, that people are sick of this entire debate and are less opposed to the protesters now because there are simply fewer protesters to be opposed to. Only two players, both from the Dolphins, knelt during week one. The reports of (mostly) unfavorable polling and declining TV ratings have surely helped convince some players who were otherwise inclined to kneel to rethink their approach for bottom-line reasons. The more hypothetical the protests become, the more comfortable the public might have become with them.
By the way, the Louisiana mayor who issued an order after the new Nike campaign debuted barring the local government from buying its products has now rescinded it. Exit quotation: “That memorandum divided our city and placed Kenner in a false and unflattering light on the national stage.”