Not as many Americans support Trump’s view of NFL protests as he implies

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Miami Dolphins players Arian Foster (29), Kenny Stills (10) and Michael Thomas (31) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game last September in Foxborough, Mass. (Steven Senne/AP)

President Trump and his supporters often claim that most Americans back the president’s stance on NFL players protesting during the national anthem.

After the NFL adopted a policy that could bring disciplinary action to players who kneel or make other protests during the national anthem, Trump told Fox and Friends, “I think the [American] people pushed it forward. This was not me. This country is very smart. We have very smart people.”

But the most recent data shows that a narrow majority of Americans don't see the issue as the president does. A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday found the following:

  • 58 percent of American voters don’t think players who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the anthem are unpatriotic.
  • 53 percent believe that athletes have the right to protest on the playing field or court.
  • 51 percent oppose fining NFL teams if players do not stand for the anthem.
  • 51 percent support the NFL policy requiring players on the field stand for the anthem.

“Voters are clearly torn on the national anthem issue. They seem to be saying, ‘You can still love your country and kneel during its Anthem,’ but the NFL’s new ‘must stand’ mandate is fine with them, too,” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll said.  “As for teams that defy the new rule, Americans say, ‘Don’t throw a flag on them.’ ”

But the differing views of various groups of Americans on the issue are worth noting.

Despite frequently tweeting and speaking against the protest, Trump and Vice President Pence don’t acknowledge the reasons for the players’ demonstrations — to protest racism and police violence in America.

The reasons for not accurately portraying the protests in the way organizers intended are not clear. Some have said it is because Trump knows that doing things like calling any protesting player a “son of a bitch” or that they “shouldn’t be in the country” plays well with his base.

Based on the recent poll, he’s right.

The overwhelming majority of Republicans — 81 percent — say that players do not have the right to protest on the playing field. And more than half of white voters, a group Trump won in 2016 that continues to give him favorable marks, say athletes do not have the right to protest. But most Americans are not Republicans and a growing number of people in the country are not white. And their views on the issue are worth considering — particularly because some of these other groups view the issue so differently than Trump.

  • Most independent voters say professional athletes have the right to protest on the field or court.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 Hispanic voters say athletes have the right to protest.
  • The overwhelming majority — 85 percent — of black voters say the NFL players have the right to protest.

Protest, activism and advocating for the civil rights of people of color have been prevalent in the United States far longer than football and even the national anthem. And while Trump shows no signs of backing down on the issue, neither do those who disagree with him.