New Study Proves NFL Fans Have a Conscious
It’s hard to be a fan of the NFL sometimes. Why? It’s because of the arrests, bad behavior, and lack of character of some of the players in the league. We could dedicate a whole site to report the transgressions of ex and current players. There are a bunch of “worst guys in league history” lists. Off the top of our heads, the lists should include Bill Romanowski (spit in the face of 49ers’ WR JJ Stokes), Rae Carruth (arrested for conspiracy to commit murder), Ray Rice (domestic abuse), Adrian Peterson (child abuse), and Greg Hardy. There is hope, a new study from the data team at TickPick found that bad personal conduct does in fact negatively impact fan sentiment. NFL fans have a conscious! Who knew?
TickPick surveyed more than 1,500 NFL fans representing each franchise for its Perception of NFL Players report. The study revealed which actions have the greatest impact on fan sentiment. The questions ranged from players’ political stances to personal conduct. On-field performance is the most powerful deciding factor in positive fan perception, but surprisingly, the players’ behavior and stances on social issues had significant influence. The most grievous behavior according to 92% of respondents was domestic violence, sexual harassment, or rape convictions. Roughly half of the fans said the appropriate punishment is a full-season suspension. Also, if players post racist content on social media, 68% of fans believe the league should levy fines and suspensions.
Just Say No
The NFL finds itself in a precarious position relating to player conduct and drugs. Public opinions and laws regulating marijuana use are changing around the country. In 2019, recreational weed use is legal in 10 states and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states. Fans took a hard stance on players with drug convictions, especially in Miami and Seattle. Fans of all 32 teams were overwhelmingly opposed to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Player convictions for PEDs use were deemed unacceptable by 80% of respondents.
When ex-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and criminal justice issues, it created a PR and national firestorm. At first, the league stood in solidarity as more players joined in. Then came the backlash from conservative media, the President, and some fans. Owners discussed penalizing teams who protested the anthem and outlawing kneeling league-wide. Eventually, the scandal calmed down, but questions remained. If players actively voice their political opinions will it alienate fans? According to the survey, no. Only 1/5 of fans felt political speech by players was unacceptable.
More than three-quarters of respondents said it was acceptable for players to voice their opinions on racial injustice and police brutality issues. Further, regardless of team affiliation, racial identity played a role in fans’ views on political protest. Relative to their white peers, African-American fans were 24 percent more likely to find kneeling during the anthem acceptable.
What Did We Learn?
The survey is much more complex and nuanced and we encourage you to read all the findings. It features team by team breakdowns on all the topics explored and answers to the burning questions of the day. The survey included an analysis of how fans feel about players dating adult entertainers, declining invitations to the White House and what fanbases are most tolerant.