In an interview with Sports Illustrated that was published on Wednesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the public’s response to the league’s new-found commitment to social justice.
“I understand critics who say that they turn to sports to avoid controversy,” he said. “But it’s unavoidable at this moment in time in our country. I wish there was an easier path for us to follow right now. Even if there were, I don’t think it would necessarily be the responsible thing to do.”
When Silver mentions “critics,” he’s referring to people like Donald Trump, who make it their mission in life to bitch and moan every time Black people have the audacity to demand equitable treatment. But a recent survey conducted by ESPN found that Trump is more of an outlier than the norm.
More than seven of 10 sports fans support teams and athletes speaking out on issues of social justice and racial equality, according to an online survey of 837 sports fans conducted for ESPN.
Of the 71% of fans who supported athletes speaking out, 44% strongly supported it. Nearly half of the fans surveyed said they are more likely to support teams and athletes who speak out than they were last year, while 20% say they are less likely to (33% were unchanged).
Where things get interesting is that there’s a clear divide on where fans believe these issues should be addressed. 51 percent support players expressing their views during sporting events, while 49 percent would prefer they do so off the court/field.
There’s also this gem:
When broken down by race, 76% of Black fans thought athletes should be speaking out while games are being played; 61% of Hispanic fans and 46% of white fans thought the same.
When asked how long they’d like to see athletes speak out on these issues, 45 percent of Major League Baseball fans said for the duration of the season, while 51 percent of NBA fans said the same. On the flip side, 34 percent of MLB fans would prefer that players not address social justice at all, while 25 percent of NBA fans said the same.
Here’s how fans felt in regards to kneeling during the national anthem:
- 56 percent support it, 44 percent oppose it.
- White fans were split 50-50, but 84 percent of Black fans support doing it while 67 percent of Latinx fans agreed.
Fans were also asked whether they believe that exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who hasn’t played since 2016, deserves an apology from the NFL. 54 percent of fans said the league should “definitely or probably” apologize to him, while 34 percent disagreed. In what should come as a surprise to no one, 85 percent of Black fans believe that the athlete-turned-activist deserves an apology, while only 49 percent of white fans feel the same way. Additionally, 37 percent of fans said that they view the 32-year-old more positively in recent months.
Fans also shared their thoughts on NASCAR’s Confederate flag ban (64 percent of fans support it), the NFL’s plan to display social justice messaging during each home opener (63 percent support) and the NBA’s decision to print “Black Lives Matter” on the court as part of the league’s restart (55 percent support).
I don’t find any of these results particularly surprising, but if anything, they just reinforce the need for our so-called “allies” to do the work.