Professional football is the most popular sport in America, according to a Washington Post-UMass Lowell poll released Wednesday, which found that 60% of adults say they’re fans.
But politics, and moments like Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the national anthem in 2016, has turned some off from the sport.
The poll found that 19% of pro football fans say their interest has declined in recent years, and among that group, 24% responded to an open-ended question about why their interest has declined by naming politics. Kaepernick or players protesting the anthem was specifically cited by 17%.
Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem to protest police brutality.
“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” he said, speaking to the press in August 2016. “To me, this is something that has to change.” He has not been signed by an NFL team for this season, and last month, protesters demonstrated outside the NFL’s New York headquarters in support of him.
Responses to Kaepernick’s protest in the NFL have ranged from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said last month he feels “very strongly that everyone should save that moment for the recognition of the flag in a positive way,” to other players who have also knelt, including the Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett and members of the Cleveland Browns.
The poll also found professional baseball and college football are America’s second-favorite sports, with 45% identifying as fans for each.
The poll was conducted August 14-21 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults on cellular and landline phones. The overall results have a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points, and 4.7 points among the 598 football fans who were sampled.