ST. LEO, FL – In the four years since Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem at an NFL game, more athletes have joined in protests before sporting events. Following the deaths this year of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests in cities across the United States, kneeling by athletes has increased, with athletes and teams from different sports joining the cause. On August 1, the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba became the first NHL player to take a knee during the anthem.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( first surveyed in 2016 on Americans’ opinions about athletes kneeling during the anthem. In its most recent poll, Saint Leo found those strongly and somewhat supporting professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem is at 43.7 percent, which is an increase from 34.1 percent in 2016. The 2020 poll was conducted online from September 27 through October 2, among 1,000 total respondents nationally. Opposition to taking a knee dropped to 46.4 percent—those who say they strongly or somewhat oppose kneeling—from 58.2 percent in 2016.

Among poll respondents, those who are African-American showed the strongest support with 72.2 percent saying they support kneeling during the anthem. Among Hispanic respondents, 52.1 percent offer support while 35.2 percent of whites say they agree with this form of protest.

There is some difference among the age groups polled as 53.7 percent of those ages 18-44 say they agree with kneeling, while 52.7 percent of those 65 and older, and 34.9 percent of those ages 45-64, support kneeling during the national anthem.

Among Democrats who were polled, 71.6 percent support kneeling while 35.5 percent of those who are independents, and 24.1 percent of Republicans, support kneeling.

The 2020 poll also asked questions related to politics in sports. The table below shows cumulative totals for those strongly and somewhat agreeing with the following statements:

Statements Agreeing:

National %

The Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” should be played before national sport league games/matches


The national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” should be played before national sport league games/matches


Professional athletes who are protesting are creating a platform to create a long-term movement, rather than just a moment related to social justice 49.2


While the addition of the Black national anthem to sporting events received some support, 59.7 percent of the poll respondents say they somewhat or strongly disagree with it being played before games. The playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” itself also received great support, at 75.5 percent strongly or somewhat agreeing that it should be played.

“The interesting statistic is the increase in individuals who support athletes kneeling during the national anthem compared to 2016,” said Dr. Dené Williamson, Saint Leo University associate professor of sport business. “This could be attributed to more individuals understanding why Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. The fact that the National Football League’s (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement that he wishes he ‘would have listened earlier’ may have reignited a different, more positive dialogue.”

The shift from 2016 [polling results] “could be attributed to the realization that kneeling is not about the flag or disrespecting the military, but is about the issues of racial injustice and police brutality,” Williamson said. “Goodell has since used his platform to ‘condemn racism and a systemic oppression of black people’ and admitted wrong in silencing players from peacefully protesting,” Williamson noted. His statement also explicitly affirmed that those at the NFL ‘believe Black Lives Matter,’ ” Williamson said.

About one-half of all Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey respondents— 49.2 percent—say they strongly or somewhat agree that protesting professional athletes are creating a long-term movement, rather than just a moment related to social justice.

About the Poll

METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from September 27 through October 2, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

Media contacts:

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations,, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.

Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).   

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 19,500 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 95,000 alumni. Learn more at