Study Looks at Who Supports NFL Players’ Anthem Protests

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the spring 2018 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
Support for NFL players’ protests during the national anthem divided college students sharply along racial lines.
In a survey by UT Dallas researchers, the vast majority — 90 percent — of black respondents supported kneeling during the national anthem. Only 38 percent of non-black respondents did.
In addition, 100 percent of black respondents believed that the NFL should not punish players who protest during the national anthem. Only 25 percent of non-black respondents believed that as well.
The survey is the first empirical study to analyze attitudes toward the recent NFL players’ protests, which are aimed at drawing attention to racial inequality and police brutality against African Americans.
“The results were striking,” said Dr. Alex Piquero, Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology and associate dean for graduate programs in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. “Our findings point to a realistic yet potentially disturbing racial schism that exists in America today regarding anthem protests.”
The researchers surveyed a sample of 299 undergraduate students for the study, recently published online in the academic journal Deviant Behavior.
Respondents were asked whether it was appropriate to kneel, stand up and raise a fist, or sit down during the anthem. It also asked whether the NFL or team owners should punish players who protest during the anthem. Answers ranged from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
The study noted that while the anthem protests have led to discussions between the players and league owners about social justice issues, more time will be needed to determine the impact of the protests.
“While the on-the-field protests are getting people talking, the extent to which they lead to some sort of positive social change remains to be seen,” said Dr. Nicole Leeper Piquero, Robert E. Holmes Jr. Professor of Criminology and associate provost.