Poll: Dis­ap­proval for an­them protest, Trump re­sponse

South Florida Times - - SPORTS - By ERRIN HAINES WHACK and EMILY SWAN­SON As­so­ci­ated Press

WASHINGTON - Most Amer­i­cans think re­fus­ing to stand for the national an­them is dis­re­spect­ful to the coun­try, the mil­i­tary and the Amer­i­can flag. But most also dis­ap­prove of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's call­ing for NFL play­ers to be fired for re­fus­ing to stand.

The NFL protests be­gan last sea­son with quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick, who knelt dur­ing the national an­them to bring more at­ten­tion to the killings of black men by po­lice of­fi­cers. The protests spread this sea­son after the for­mer San Fran­cisco 49er was un­able to sign on with an­other team. Seat­tle Sea­hawks de­fen­sive end Michael Ben­nett re­cently said he was racially pro­filed by Las Ve­gas po­lice and then Trump sounded off.

Ac­cord­ing to a poll by The As­so­ci­ated Press-NORC Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs Re­search, 52 per­cent of Amer­i­cans dis­ap­prove of pro­fes­sional ath­letes who have protested by re­fus­ing to stand dur­ing the national an­them, com­pared to 31 per­cent who ap­prove. At the same time, 55 per­cent of Amer­i­cans dis­ap­prove of Trump's call for fir­ing play­ers who refuse to stand, while 31 per­cent ap­prove.

In the poll, African Amer­i­cans were far more likely to ap­prove of the play­ers' protests.

“I don't see kneel­ing while the an­them is be­ing played as be­ing dis­re­spect­ful,” said Mary Taylor, 64, a re­tired law li­brar­ian from Olympia, Washington. “Some­body has to stand up. Right now, it's black foot­ball play­ers.”

Taylor, who is white, said she sup­ports po­lice but un­der­stands why play­ers are protest­ing.

The form of the protest seems to mat­ter. Ac­cord­ing to the poll, Amer­i­cans are more likely to ap­prove than dis­ap­prove of play­ers who, in­stead of kneel­ing, link arms in sol­i­dar­ity dur­ing the an­them, 45 per­cent to 29 per­cent.

“Peo­ple don't want to be con­fronted with their racism in any form. If they are con­fronted with it, they want it in the mildest form pos­si­ble,” said DeRay Mckesson, a Black Lives Mat­ter ac­tivist who has protested po­lice ac­tions since the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri.

The NFL protests got more at­ten­tion and mor­phed into a big­ger de­bate about pa­tri­o­tism after Trump told a crowd at an Alabama rally last month:“Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL own­ers, when some­body dis­re­spects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now! Out! He's fired. Fired!’”

That prompted dozens of NFL play­ers, and a few team own­ers, to join in protests. They knelt, raised fists, sat or locked arms in sol­i­dar­ity dur­ing pre-game cer­e­monies when the an­them was played.

Bro­ken down by race, 55 per­cent of African Amer­i­cans ap­prove of play­ers re­fus­ing to stand for the an­them, and 19 per­cent dis­ap­prove, the poll found. Among whites, 62 per­cent dis­ap­prove and 25 per­cent ap­prove.

Sev­enty-nine per­cent of blacks dis­ap­prove of Trump's call for play­ers to be fired, while just 8 per­cent ap­prove. Among whites, 48 per­cent dis­ap­prove and 38 per­cent ap­prove.

Thomas Sleeper of Holden, Mas­sachusetts, said he con­sid­ers the protests to be free­dom of ex­pres­sion pro­tected by the First Amend­ment - and pre-game protests are likely the best stage for them be­cause “in­di­vid­u­ally protest­ing is not going to get as much press.”

“They want peo­ple to know that the coun­try isn't liv­ing up to its full stan­dard,” said Sleeper, 78, who is white. “This is a way to get no­ticed, and pos­si­bly get some ac­tion taken.”

Chan­dler, Ari­zona, busi­ness owner Larry Frank, 67, said the protests are in­ap­pro­pri­ate and dis­re­spect­ful to mil­i­tary veter­ans. Trump's re­sponse, he said, was “dead-on.”

“We should keep pol­i­tics out of our sports,” said Frank, who served in the Air Force. “We pay them to come out and play games and en­ter­tain us. Us­ing this medium is not the right way to do it. Do it off the field. Let's not in­ter­fere with the process of a good busi­ness and a fun sport.”

The poll shows that over­all, about 6 in 10 Amer­i­cans agree with the as­sess­ment that re­fus­ing to stand for the an­them is dis­re­spect­ful to the mil­i­tary, and most also think it's dis­re­spect­ful to the coun­try's val­ues and the Amer­i­can flag. About 6 in 10 blacks said they did not con­sider it dis­re­spect­ful.

Just 4 in 10 Amer­i­cans over­all, and about half of African Amer­i­cans, think re­fus­ing to stand for the flag can be an act of pa­tri­o­tism.

Frank, an avid Ari­zona Car­di­nals fan who is white, said he plans to boy­cott watch­ing foot­ball on Veter­ans' Day to show his dis­gust with the play­ers' protest, part of a larger cam­paign be­ing pro­moted on so­cial me­dia.

Thomas Peo­ples of New Brunswick, New Jer­sey, said the protests are a per­sonal de­ci­sion for each player. He doesn't think their ac­tions are meant to dis­re­spect the coun­try or the mil­i­tary.

Still, he would not par­tic­i­pate in such a protest.

“It's not my ap­proach to re­solve a prob­lem,” said Peo­ples, 66, who is black. “I'm not a pro­tester. But they're ex­press­ing their feel­ings about how some Amer­i­cans are treated in this coun­try.”

The AP-NORC poll of 1,150 adults was con­ducted Sept. 28-Oct. 2 us­ing a sam­ple drawn from NORC's prob­a­bil­ity-based Amer­iS­peak panel, which is de­signed to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. The mar­gin of sam­pling er­ror for all re­spon­dents is plus or mi­nus 4.1 per­cent­age points. The poll in­cludes a to­tal of 337 black re­spon­dents, who were sam­pled at a higher rate than their pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion for pur­poses of anal­y­sis. The mar­gin of sam­pling er­ror among blacks is plus or mi­nus 5.7 per­cent­age points. For re­sults re­ported among all adults, re­sponses among blacks are weighted to re­flect their pro­por­tion among all U.S. adults.

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