5 poll takeaways on white support for Colin Kaepernick

Is there also white generational divide on support for Colin Kaepernick not standing for the anthem?

According to a recently released HBO RealSports/Marist Poll of 1,298 Americans, that appears to be the case. The two-week old poll, spurred by Kaepernick’s protests against systemic police brutality, came and went rather quietly, but it is worth a second look – election year-style.

The central poll question asked if not standing for the national anthem was “disrespectful” to the “freedoms the anthem represents” or if it “demonstrates” the freedoms the anthem represents.

The answers reinforced a persistent racial divide from previous related polls, and on HBO’s “Real Sports”, Bryant Gumbel highlighted the political division between Democrats and Republicans (more coming).

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A third common growing divide of age is worth exploring deeper.

OCT. 2, 2016 FILE PHOTO

Older white Americans are most likely to take issue with Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Takeaway #1: Young whites are more aligned with people of color than older whites

Overall, 65% of people age 18-29 did not perceive disrespect, but believed not standing for the protest “demonstrates the freedoms the anthem represents.” The poll did not provide mixed results for age and race, but the vast majority of those polled were white (a good estimate for young whites is about 60%).

The 65% of young people polled is also consistent with polled African Americans (68%) and Latinos (64%) of all ages.

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Below is the age breakdown for answering in the affirmative to the question: Is not standing for the national anthem “disrespectful to the freedoms the anthem represents?”

31% – 18 to 29

47% – 30 to 44

53% – 45 to 59

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63% – 60 and older

The white notion of “disrespect” increases steadily with age.

In short, finding Kaepernick’s actions “disrespectful” is clearly a sentiment of aged whites.

Military veterans are more open to protest against the national anthem than conventional wisdom suggests.

Military veterans are more open to protest against the national anthem than conventional wisdom suggests.

(Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Takeaway #2: Republicans Disapprove of Anthem Protests More Than Military Members

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A whopping 77% of Republicans believe not standing for the anthem is disrespectful to the freedoms the anthem represents. Only 24% of Democrats agree. Yes, that’s a political divide.

Interestingly, a lesser percentage of U.S. military veterans polled (61%) believed not standing for the anthem was also disrespectful. In short, Republicans, who often associate the anthem with the military, are more likely to be offended on behalf of the military than veterans themselves.

A significant 35% of military veterans DO NOT believe anthem protests are disrespectful. While 35% does not constitute a majority, it does make up a significant minority of dissent to put to rest common assumptions military members are a monolithic group with a monolithic opinion. For more military myth-busting, see the Twitter hashtag #Veterans4Kaepernick.

So which demographic are the most staunch opponents to Kaepernick-like protests?:

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Old white Republicans.

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has expressed disdain for those kneeling during the anthem.

(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Takeaway #3: NFL Owners tend to be Old White Republicans

The allegiance of NFL owners, whose membership is 100% white mind you, to the Republican party is well-documented, and unfortunately they are the ones with the most power. It is also probably no surprise that some of the most vitriolic reactions to Kaepernick’s stance come from NFL front offices.

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report wrote last month how “quietly growing level of support among NFL players” was being stunted by NFL management. Many players interviewed by Freeman spoke anonymously out of fear of repercussions.

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Freeman wrote:

“Players also said there’s been a strain between the locker room and teams’ front offices, some of which, these players explained, have distanced themselves from the players who support Kaepernick. ‘Some front offices have actively discouraged their players from supporting Kaepernick,’ one player explained.”

In a league where guaranteed contracts do not exist the “active discouragement” to support Kaepernick comes with the real threat of a pink slip.

Given the stance of their owner, the Cowboys have not had players take a knee during the anthem.

Given the stance of their owner, the Cowboys have not had players take a knee during the anthem.

(LARRY W. SMITH/EPA)

So when an owner like Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys publicly expresses disdain for kneeling during the anthem, there should be little surprise why no members of “America’s Team” have chosen to kneel.

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Back to the young guys.

Takeaway #4: Young Whites Breaking from Older Whites is a Continuing Trend

In February, a poll of NFL fans showed a racial divide between white fans and all other fans on whether a certain Washington D.C franchise should change their name. While polled African-Americans and Latinos favored a new name (as do Native-Americans), a whopping 77% of white fans oppose any name change.

Despite this total, 70% of young fans 18-29, sharply disagreed with older voters and wish to change the team’s name.

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Young whites viewing race differently than older whites is both a consistent and a growing trend that includes the larger Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement – a movement with strong majority support from polled African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans.

In a September GenForward poll, 51% of whites ages 18-30 said they support the Black Lives Matter movement vs. 42% who said they do not support.

The 51% marked a 10 point increase since June, only three months earlier.

How much this increase is due to the most recent wave of police shootings caught on video (see Alton Sterling; Philando Castille; Terrence Crutcher; Keith Scott), the mass protests that followed, or “The Kaepernick Effect” is uncertain. What is clearer is that attitudes of younger whites are shifting in ways older whites have not.

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As such it is not uncommon to see contingents of young white protesters at rallies to restore justice for lost black lives at the hands of the police.

Though white NFL players have yet to catch up.

Colin Kaepernick's movement has yet to find public on-field support from white NFL players.

Colin Kaepernick’s movement has yet to find public on-field support from white NFL players.

(Mike Groll/AP)

Takeaway #5: Young White Attitudes Have Not Translated into Action by White NFL Players

Lindsay Gibbs of ThinkProgress has tracked “The Kaepernick Effect” which includes at least 47 NFL players from 13 NFL teams who have knelt, sat or raised a fist during the national anthem on game day.

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This also includes 14 WNBA players, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, gold medal swimmer Anthony Ervin, at least 21 colleges and 44 high schools across the country.

After interviewing 14 NFL players, Freeman writes about an “awakening” of team support inside the locker room: “Kaepernick’s protests have united many players and members of the coaching staff. Coaches, players said, have largely supported any player who wanted to publicly express support for Kaepernick.”

Even amidst such unity, none of the 47 NFL protesting players are white.

This despite public requests by Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who implored his lighter-hued NFL colleagues: “You need a white guy to join the fight. The white guy is super important to the fight.”

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If most young white attitudes are shifting, why is that not translating into NFL solidarity in public?

Statistically speaking, these polls and numbers shouldn’t add up to white silence, Freeman writes:

“Interestingly, the white players interviewed said they support Kaepernick’s kneeling (and added they have spoken to or texted Kaepernick in support) but won’t publicly do so, as one said, ‘Because it’s not my issue.”

In many ways, Freeman’s initial findings makes matters even worse.

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For starters, must a white NFL player’s child be killed or brutalized by police for it to become “my issue”?

Let’s hope not.

Secondly, this cowardly business of private support but public silence is almost more disappointing than non-support. It means “you get it”, but just not enough to inconvenience your life over your teammate’s lives.

Call it “The White Action Gap.”

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The white action gap is not related to consciousness.

It is not dependent on a changing attitude, a newfound awareness or even a passing outrage that the killers of Eric Garner, Natasha McKenna or Alton Sterling all remain free and gainfully-employed.

Nor is it dependent on being disgusted that the Beaumont Bulls football team of 11- and 12-year-olds would receive racist taunts, death threats and even have their entire season cancelled – on account of their audacity to kneel.

Certainly some white NFL players have some of these feelings.

The white action gap is based on preserving white privilege over calling on courage.

And no new poll can measure that.

Tags:
nfl
san francisco 49ers
colin kaepernick
national anthem protest
racial injustice

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