Recently, the NFL, which Statista notes is around 70 percent Black, has instituted a number of social justice programs to try and make the game more equitable. This includes the “Inspire Change” initiative, which formed a player-owner committee in 2017 to try and address racial changes within football.
The NFL says it has collectively donated $180 million in grants to social justice organizations as prat of the initiative.
Throughout the 2021-2022 NFL season, the league also implemented a number of on-field, in-arena decals, and messaging designed to bring awareness to social justice causes.
Despite this, however, a new Los Angeles Times survey shows that many Republicans who were polled had soured towards the NFL’s efforts in these areas. The survey was conducted across the first week of February in conjunction with SurveyMonkey, asked 7,590 people their opinions on a variety of issues within football.
Of those polled, 45 percent of Republicans, or those who lean Republican, said the NFL was doing “too much” to “show respect for its Black players.” This compares to a 22 percent nationwide total that felt the same, and just five percent of Democrats said they felt that way.
Thirty percent of Republicans also “strongly disapproved” of the Rooney Rule. This clause, implemented in 2003, requires NFL clubs to interview minority candidates for head coach and front office jobs in an effort to increase diversity.
These answers were nearly flipped when the opposite question was asked.
About 57 percent of Democrats felt that the NFL was falling short in terms of respecting Black players. However, just nine percent of Republicans felt the same way.
Self-identifying independents fell more in the middle, with 45 percent saying that the league had done “just enough” for its Black players.
The partisan divide regarding race seems to fall along lines with a large percentage of Republicans who have abandoned the NFL in recent years—46 percent stated that their fandom for the league is less than it was half a decade ago.
People who say they are less of a fan now than they were five years ago are more than twice as likely as everyone else to say the NFL is doing “too much to show respect for its Black players,” the Times noted. “The group who say they are now lesser fans is disproportionately Republican, the poll found.”
It was noted that this disparity among Democrats and Republicans was not seen in other categories that don’t involve race, such as the NFL’s handling of traumatic brain injuries. When asked, the average among people who did not approve of the NFL’s risk assessment on brain injuries versus those who did was 62 percent to 27 percent.
While this in of itself is a large difference, the Times stated “those numbers don’t vary significantly between those who say they are less of a fan now and those who do not.”
One reason for the recent Republican exodus from the NFL may be partly due to the influence of former President Donald Trump. The former president often quarreled with the NFL during his presidency, and in 2017 threatened to fine the league after some of its players started kneeling during the national anthem in protest.
Despite this, though, the league continues to push social justice initiatives.
The league’s move toward racial equality has been shown in recent years by the Washington team, which shed a Native American moniker that many considered racist in 2020. The club rebranded as the Washington Commanders at the beginning of February.
Newsweek has reached out to the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association for comment.