As the controversy surrounding National Football League (NFL) players kneeling during the national anthem flares up once again, a new poll has found that most Americans disapprove of the protest.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday found that 54 per cent of Americans believe kneeling during the anthem is “inappropriate,” while 43 per cent says it is an appropriate way to raise awareness about racial inequality.
The protests, which first began in 2016 by former player Colin Kaepernick, are in the news again as the football season is set to begin on Sept. 6. U.S. President Donald Trump has also been ramping up his verbal attacks on the players.
While at a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, earlier this month, Trump told the crowd: “You’re proud of our country. You’re proud of our history, and unlike the NFL, you always honour and cherish our great American flag.”
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But the issue is as polarizing as it has ever been, with several people also coming to the defence of players’ right to protest.
Among them is U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who is vying for victory against Republican Ted Cruz.
In a viral video, which according to news outlet NowThis has been watched more than 44 million times, O’Rourke said there is “nothing more American” than the protests.
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“Non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it.”
O’Rourke added: “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up — or take a knee — for your rights anytime, any place.”
The powerful response prompted both praise and anger and prompted Ellen DeGeneres to invite the politician on her show.
According to Friday’s poll, O’Rourke’s sentiment on the protests is something many Democrats agree with.
Seventy-two per cent of respondents who voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton supported the protests — that’s compared to 89 per cent of Trump voters who disapproved of the protests.
The divide in support was also clear in other groups. Among black voters, seven in 10 supported protesting players. Thirty-eight per cent of white voters had favourable views of the protests.
Support among Hispanic voters was split; 51 per cent said the protests were inappropriate and 47 per cent said they were justified.
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As the controversy brews into another football season, the NFL is in talks with the players’ union in hopes of resolving the issue.
But a resolution may be hard to achieve in the near future, according to a report by ESPN.
However, both the NFL and the NFL Players Association have been “encouraged” by ongoing dialogue on the subject, ESPN said. Members of the league’s executive committee and the NFLPA met earlier this week in East Rutherford, N.J., to discuss a policy or universal protocol for the national anthem.
In May, owners announced a new policy that required players to either remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem or stand to show respect.
The policy, which stated players could be fined for violations, was quickly scuttled as the NFLPA resisted the measure as not being the result of collective bargaining.
This NBC/Wall Street Journal poll was conducted Aug. 18-22. With 900 respondents, the margin of error is +/- 3.27 percentage points.
— With files from Reuters