Poll: Anthem Protests Have Tanked the NFL’s Popularity in Texas

Anthem Protests
The Associated Press

A new poll has found that nearly half of the Lone Star State has a negative view of the National Football League.

The results of the new University of Texas at Austin poll show that football is still king in Texas, but the NFL has taken a major hit in popularity as player protests against the country continue to roil the league, the Texas Tribune reported.

According to the June poll, nearly half of the state’s registered voters have a negative view of the NFL with 47 percent of all respondents saying they are unhappy with the league. As in most polls on the topic, there is a split down racial lines with 55 percent of whites saying they don’t like the NFL but only 49 percent of blacks agreeing with that negative view. Still, with almost half of black voters saying they view the league negatively, that is a bad sign for pro football. The majority of Hispanics also said they have a negative view of the league, with 39 percent disapproving of the league, compared to 29 percent who say they still like the NFL.

Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin, tried to blame President Donald Trump for the results. “Trump made this an issue,” Shaw said. “He understood that making this about the national anthem was good politically. It’s very clear it has hurt the NFL, and that it’s polarized politically and polarized racially.”

Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin, agreed with Shaw that the controversies had taken a toll on the NFL among Texans. “If football was trumping controversy, these numbers would be much more positive than they are,” he said. “And they would not show the demographic patterns that are clearly evident here.”

However, evidence that fans were furious at the anti-American protests was clear well before President Trump said a word about the NFL. In the weeks after former San Francisco 49ers second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick first started his protests back in 2016, fans were seen across the country burning their NFL gear and vowing to quit their football habits. TV ratings also reflected fan ire as numbers were crashing long before Trump began talking about the issue.

Football has been an institution in Texas for decades and is the biggest sport for teens and colleges in the state. But if the NFL can lose Texas, where football is such an integral part of society, it is in serious trouble everywhere.

The UT/TT survey was conducted over the Internet of 1,200 registered Texas voters between June 8 and 17. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.83 percentage points.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.