Support for Sports Plummets in One Year, Poll Shows

September 14, 2020 Updated: September 14, 2020

Public support for sports has plummeted in the United States over the past year, according to a new survey.

Among U.S. adults polled in August 2019, there was a net 20 percent positive in terms of support of the sports industry. People polled around the same time this year had a total 10 percent negative view, a 30 percent change.

“This slide in the sports industry’s image comes as professional and college leagues are struggling, and not always successfully, to maintain regular schedules and playing seasons amid the pandemic. Professional football, baseball and basketball games have also become focal points for public displays of support for the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Gallup, which conducted the survey.

“While it’s not clear how much the various challenges and controversies swirling around the industry are each responsible for its slide in popularity, it is notable that sports has lost more support from Republicans and independents than from Democrats.”

Support among Democrats barely changed from 2019 to 2020, but Republicans’ view changed from an 11 percent net positive to a 35 percent net negative. Independents support also dropped dramatically from a plus 26 percent to a minus 10 percent.

Adults between 35 and 54 saw the sharpest drop in support of the sports industry, and there was a larger drop among women than men.

The sports industry is now the least supported among the industries named except for the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government. Respondents felt the most positive about the farming, grocery, restaurant, and computer industries.

Gallup surveyed 1,031 U.S. adults by phone. The survey had a margin of error of plus/minus four percentage points.

Republican President Donald Trump has repeatedly decried the actions of sports leagues in recent years, including the act of kneeling during the national anthem started by NFL players in 2016.

The football league this year started playing the so-called black national anthem along with the national anthem before games and several teams stood for the former while kneeling for the latter.

The crowd at the first game of the season booed the players.

“I mean the booing during that moment was unfortunate. I don’t fully understand that. There was no flag involved. There was nothing involved other than two teams coming together to show unity,” Houston Texans star J.J. Watt told NFL Media after the game.

The vast majority of NBA players have knelt during the anthem since the season resumed over the summer after a break due to the COVID-19-pandemic. They knelt on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The courts the players are playing on are emblazoned with the words “Black Lives Matter” and many players have spoken out in support of what they describe as efforts against racial injustice and police brutality.

NBA players have defended their actions against criticism and frequently lambasted Trump.

“I really don’t think the basketball community is sad about losing his viewership,” Los Angeles Lakers’ star LeBron James told reporters last month about the president.

“November is right around the corner and it is a big moment for us as Americans,” he added later, referring to the upcoming presidential election.

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