Survey: How football fans across America feel about the sport's biggest issues

Wednesday November 16th, 2016

Sports Illustrated writers Greg Bishop and Michael McKnight encountered a wide range of football fans on their tour across America, talking to hundreds of people in more than 30 states. 

The full story, which seeks to understand how America really feels about football, is the longest and most comprehensive football piece ever published by Sports Illustrated. The authors also conducted extensive Q&As with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and surgeon Dr. James Andrews

In the course of their reporting, Bishop and McKnight surveyed 212 random fans across the country about football. What do they think about head injuries? Would they let their children play football?

Here's what those fans had to say about some of the hottest issues surrounding the sport. 

Football in America: How we really feel about the game today

Is football more important than your...

Religion? 26.7%
Family? 20.1%
Job? 1.4%

How do your feelings about football compare with your feelings 10 years ago?

Feel better 38.6%
Feel worse 22.9%
Feel the same 38.6%

Would you let your child play tackle football?

Yes 77.5%
No 22.5%

("No" answers are up 7.5 percentage points from a similar SI survey two years ago. Only 68.3% of women answered yes. Respondents without kids answered hypothetically.)

Are head injuries a serious problem in football?

Yes 94.3%
No 5.7%

Is the NFL taking adequate measures to protect players from head injuries?

Yes 64.7%
No 35.3%

(Note: 20.4% of respondents don't think the game can be made safer.) 

How has player activism—like Colin Kaepernick's kneeling during the national anthem—affected how you feel about football?

Feel the same 80.6%
Like football less 14.7%
Like football more 4.7%

Doug Baldwin: Fans hurling racial epithets on social media 'pretty typical s---'

Average age respondents said kids should be allowed to play tackle football: 11

(4.4% said children should never be allowed to play tackle football.) 

How much will football have changed in 10 years?

Dramatically 27.9%
A little 61.5%
It will closely resemble today's game 10.6%

Can you imagine a time in your life when tackle football is no longer played? 

16.3% say yes. (21.4% of respondents under 25 said yes.)

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.