A majority of voters are accepting of athletes taking extreme measures to highlight the treatment of minorities by law enforcement in the United States.
Last week was an extraordinary one in the American sports landscape. Sports across the board were shut down as athletes forced the postponement of games in protest of the latest incident of police violence toward minorities: Jacob Blake, who is Black, was shot multiple times in the back by law enforcement on Aug. 23 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It began with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks refusing to take the court for their playoff game against the Orlando Magic, and within 24 hours similar actions had taken place in every major American professional sports league.
It’s a scale of protest we hadn’t seen before in the sports world. Therefore, this week’s Seattle Sidelines poll asked readers whether they were accepting of professional athletes postponing games as a protest against police violence toward minorities.
POLL: Are you accepting of professional athletes postponing games as a protest against police violence toward minorities? Full context, including a look at what the various leagues did, here: https://t.co/0nZ5gKm6hW
— Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson) August 31, 2020
Adding up the votes between the poll posted on Twitter and the one posted on the blog and 58% of responders said they were accepting of athletes postponing games as a protest, while 42% said they were not. So more than half of the voters were OK with athletes taking this type of stand.
Is this an indication public opinion is shifting on this subject? When I conducted a poll in 2017 about Seattle Seahawks players remaining in the locker room during the national anthem as a protest against racial inequality in the U.S., 61% of responders disapproved of the players’ actions. The needle shifted in this poll, and refusing to play a game is a more dramatic action than sitting out the anthem.
The other thing that needs to be noted is the wide spread between voters on Twitter and voters on the blog. On Twitter, 72% of responders were accepting of athletes postponing games, while on the blog 59% of responders were not accepting. That’s a 31-point swing. I can’t say for certain why there was such a large difference in results, but I would guess that the voters on Twitter are from a greater geographical swath, while those on the blog are more likely to be from Snohomish County. So it suggests those from the county have less tolerance for these type of actions by athletes.
The game boycotts are now over, as all the leagues have resumed play. Will it result in any real change? The NBA, at least, has agreed to establish a coalition to address social issues and citizen engagement, including turning NBA facilities into voting locations.
And with no apparent end to the examples of Black people dying at the hands of law enforcement — the latest to spark outrage is Daniel Prude’s suffocation death in Rochester, New York — it’s inevitable that athletes will continue to speak out on the subject.