What Do Sports Fans Think of the National Anthem?

© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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The tradition of playing the national anthem at U.S. sporting events symbolizes unity and patriotism but has also become a platform for contentious debates surrounding freedom of expression and social justice. High-profile incidents, such as Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 kneeling during the anthem to protest racial injustice during an NFL game, have ignited fierce discussions and widespread media coverage, polarizing public opinion and spotlighting diverse interpretations of national values.

Oddspedia surveyed 3,000 passionate sports fans to gauge their views on this tradition. By examining whether fans support the anthem’s presence at games and the expectations of athletes during this moment, we wanted to find out how deeply sports intermingles with American identity and if times are changing.

Almost three in five Americans want the national anthem before a sporting event

Should the national anthem be played before the first whistle? In our study, 57.4% of respondents advocate for the anthem’s presence at sporting events. This includes 26.9% who are staunch supporters, believing firmly in the anthem’s role in fostering national unity and pride. Another 30.6% also agree with continuing the tradition.

However, there’s a notable 19% opposed to the anthem being played before games, some of whom question its relevance or support athletes’ rights to protest. This split underscores the ongoing debate over the anthem’s role in sports and broader societal issues.

Strongly agree 26.9%
Agree 30.6%
Neither agree nor disagree 23.5%
Disagree 12.8%
Strongly disagree 6.2%

Generational differences are particularly striking: those between 55- to 64-years old are the anthem’s most fervent champions, with a 75.1% majority in favor. On the other end, the 25- to 34-year-old bracket shows a discernible detachment—23.1% stand opposed, hinting at a cultural shift among the younger demographic.

When it comes to gender, women lead the chorus with 63% supporting the anthem, compared to 55% of men.

Political lines draw a stark contrast as well—90% of Republican fans are in favor, doubling the Democratic approval rate of 44%. The split widens further with only 4% of Republicans against playing the anthem versus 28% of Democrats who could do without.

Is it necessary for athletes to stand and attend the national anthem? Views are mixed

There’s a clear divide in opinions on whether standing and presence at the national anthem should be compulsory for athletes. A combined 40.7% of respondents believe athletes should stand and on the flip side, 42.7% oppose this requirement.

Strongly agree 22.9%
Agree 17.8%
Neither agree or disagree 16.5%
Disagree 23.5%
Strongly disagree 19.2%

Generational differences are stark. Among seniors aged 65 and older, 61.5% want to uphold the tradition which is in direct contrast to the 51.4% of 25- to 34-year-olds who don’t strongly disagree or disagree with the need for this.

Political leanings strongly influence opinions: 81.2% of Republicans support it, contrasting sharply with 22.8% of Democrats. Independents land in the middle, with 38.6% backing the requirement.

Do you feel that NCAA athletes losing their scholarships for missing or not standing for the anthem is…

Earlier this year, Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry urged the state’s higher education boards to implement policies that would revoke scholarships from athletes who are not present for the national anthem at the beginning of a game.

The question of penalizing NCAA athletes who do not stand or are absent during the anthem draws widespread criticism, with 72.6% of respondents across all age groups agreeing that such measures are overly harsh. Conversely, a small minority of 2.8% believe the penalties are too lenient.

Too harsh 72.6%
About right 24.5%
Too lenient 2.8%

Exploring the demographics further reveals that 3.3% of seniors aged over 65 consider losing a scholarship to be too lenient, and that Republicans mostly thought it is “about right” as a punishment.

Should pro athletes be fined or suspended for missing or not standing for the anthem?

Most respondents, 65.2%, believe professional athletes should not be fined or suspended for missing or not standing during the national anthem, calling for leniency. Meanwhile, 16.7% support fines, 3.7% believe in suspensions, and 14.3% think both penalties are appropriate, indicating a minority who want stricter disciplinary action.

Suspended 3.7%
Fined 16.7%
Both 14.3%
Neither 65.2%

Generational views on disciplining professional athletes for anthem non-compliance vary significantly. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, a substantial 77.6% oppose any fines or suspensions. In contrast, the older generation aged 65 and over shows partial support for punitive measures: 7.7% favor fines, and 27.5% believe a combination of fines and suspensions is appropriate.

Here, the majority of Republicans agreed that both fines and suspensions the correct course of action, where as both Democrats and Independents largely believe that neither is best.

Which states are most passionate about the national anthem in sports?

New Hampshire leads national support for the national anthem in sports with 87.5%, followed closely by Arkansas and Maine at 83.3%. Check the infographic below to see where your state ranks in its passion for this patriotic tradition.

Methodology

Oddspedia surveyed 3000 sports fans from the US in April 2024 to investigate attitudes surrounding the national anthem debate. All participants were over the age of 18.

Statistical analyses were conducted to reveal trends and associations, providing insights into the public opinion about the national anthem in sports. Results where states had less than 10 respondents were omitted.

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