The NFL's decision to prohibit players from protesting during the national anthem didn't come without its research, it seems. According to a report by Yahoo Sports, the NFL engaged a Washington consulting firm to conduct a wide-ranging poll of its audience in the summer of 2017. It included questions about whether Colin Kaepernick should have been signed by an NFL team, and revealed a "deep racial, political, and generational division" among fans concerning anthem protests, according to Yahoo Sports's sources.
No exact numbers were provided to Yahoo, but unnamed sources broke down the demographics.
Specifically, divisions in which a majority of white NFL fans supported disciplining players for not standing for the anthem versus a majority of the NFL’s African-American and Latino fans who didn’t. The sources also said a majority of Republican NFL fans supported the disciplining of players versus a majority of Democrats who didn’t, and a majority of Baby Boomer NFL fans significantly supported discipline more than both Generation Xers and Millennials.
While it should come as no surprise that the NFL fan base is divided on racial and political issues, it's certainly suggestive that the NFL used this poll as a litmus test in formulating the anti-protest policy announced yesterday. Following the poll, on October 10, 2017, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, emboldened by the data, released a memo stating, “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.”
The polling also allegedly contained questions about Colin Kaepernick—the only player singled out—asking about whether or not he should have been signed and whether fans believed that his refusal to stand was a factor in those teams' decisions. If this information was disseminated beyond league officials, and put in the hands of team owners, this will become a factor in his collusion lawsuit against the NFL.
The entirety of the poll, however, and the aftermath revealed yesterday, reveals the stark contrast between the NFL's interest in audience reactions versus their interest in players'—many of whom sit across that racial, political, and generational divide—opinions on the matter. At least the fans were consulted, the players or the NFLPA had no input whatsoever on this new policy that governs their behavior.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.