The showdown between President Trump and the NFL over some players’ decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice has raised all kinds of important issues. It’s also put the most popular major sports league in the United States in a difficult position. The NFL’s fan base is much more bipartisan than those of other major sports leagues, and it risks angering one side or the other if it mishandles the situation.
Pro football is unique in that its fandom stretches across partisan lines. Using Google Trends to measure fan interest for a given media market in the United States, we calculated the percentage of search traffic over the previous five years for each region related to each of the major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL), as well as college football, college basketball and NASCAR.
President Trump specifically mentioned NASCAR in several tweets over the past week.
We then compared it to Trump’s vote share in last year’s presidential election in each market.