A majority of Americans do not believe athletes should be required to stand during the national anthem, according to an HBO/Marist poll.
Fifty-one percent of respondents said professional sports leagues such as the NFL should not require players to stand, while 47 percent said leagues should. When the same question was asked in September 2016, 52 percent said players should be required to stand while 42 said they should not.
Notably, in this most recent poll, 52 percent thought athletes did the right thing by carrying out this protest while just 41 percent say it was the wrong course of action.
Protests during the national anthem have been a topic of constant debate in the NFL and around professional sports this season. Colin Kaepernick was the first noteworthy player to sit during the anthem last year to protest racial injustice in the United States, but the debate was reignited when President Donald Trump said in September that NFL owners should "fire" any player who protests during the anthem. Those comments were condemned by many of the league's owners and players as well as the commissioner, and there were widespread protests during the national anthem before Week 3 games.
More than two-thirds of Americans—68 percent, to be exact—think Trump was wrong to make those comments, according to the poll, while only 28 percent thought the President did the right thing. Respondents were more evenly divided on their opinion on Vice President Mike Pence's decision to leave an Indianapolis Colts game after players kneeled during the anthem. In fact, they were split down the middle, with 47 percent saying Pence did the right thing and 47 percent saying he did the wrong thing.
There was both a geographical and racial discrepancy within the poll. Respondents from the Northeast and West Coast were more likely to think leagues should require players to stand, while those from the South and Midwest were split roughly evenly on the same issue. African-Americans, at 76 percent, were the racial group most likely to think athletes' shouldn't be required to stand, while 54 percent of Whites said standing should be a requirement.
While recent protests haven't been as prevalent as they were in Week 3, the national anthem issue continues to be ubiquitous across the NFL. The league discussed the matter at its quarterly meeting last week after commissioner Roger Goodell said he believes all player should stand during the national anthem. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently said he believes the protests are hurting the NFL.