This summer, as widespread protests over racism and police violence roiled the nation, athletes across every major American sport have become increasingly vocal on social issues. They have sat out events, protested during the anthem and pushed for policy changes around policing, voting rights and other issues. While athlete activism promises to take center stage this week — starting with Thursday’s opener in Kansas City, Mo., and continuing through the full slate of NFL games this weekend — 56 percent of Americans now say it is appropriate for athletes to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality; 42 percent say it is not appropriate.
Despite cries for athletes to “stick to sports,” particularly from conservative pundits and politicians, a 62 percent majority of Americans say professional athletes should use their platforms to express their views on national issues, including over 8 in 10 Black Americans and 7 in 10 adults under age 50.
Opinions are similar among football fans, with 59 percent saying kneeling during the national anthem is an appropriate way to protest racial inequality and 64 percent saying athletes should express views on national issues in general.