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Poll: Majority disapprove of NFL commissioner’s handling of protests

Poll: Majority disapprove of NFL commissioner’s handling of protests
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A majority of voters disapprove of how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has handled player protests during the national anthem, a new poll finds.

According to data from The Harris Poll, 60 percent said they disapprove of Goodell’s handling of the matter. Fifty-five percent said Goodell has handled the issue in a way that has made both sides unhappy.

A strong majority, 77 percent, said the players should stand for the anthem. Fifty-nine percent said there should be a rule requiring the players to do so.

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Goodell has a 50 percent approval rating, the poll found, although 56 percent of self-described hardcore fans say they disapprove of the job Goodell is doing.

The survey comes at a sensitive time for Goodell, who is in the process of renegotiating a new contract. That process has become complicated by reports that Goodell is seeking $50 million a year and lifetime use of a private jet, although the NFL has disputed those reports. Goodell makes about $30 million a year presently.

“It is nearly unheard of to have a commissioner of a national sports league be this divisive,” said Harris Poll Chairman Mark Penn. “Asking for $50 million dollars at a time when his approval is less than 50 percent among self-identified hardcore fans is pretty striking.”

“The data shows the league clearly has a lot of work to do to rebuild its relationship with the country and its most loyal fans.”

President Trump has hammered the NFL for the player protests. Vice President Pence walked out of a game after several players refused to stand and the White House has said the players are disrespecting the country and dishonoring the troops by kneeling during the anthem.

Many of the players are frustrated, believing their protests have been twisted for political reasons. The first player to kneel, former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, knelt to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

At the league’s fall meeting last month, Goodell and several team owners decided they would not change the NFL’s policy to require players to stand. As it is, the league says players have to be on the field for the national anthem and suggests that they “should stand” for it.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he will not play any of his players who kneel during the anthem. Jones has also expressed frustration with the amount of money Goodell is said to be seeking.

Still, 66 percent of those polled, including 58 percent of self-described hardcore fans, said Goodell does not need to resign for his handling of the anthem protests. 

Sixty-four percent said the controversy has not impacted how much football they’re watching, although 28 percent of those surveyed said they’re watching less.

The poll of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted Nov. 16-17 and has a 3 percentage point margin of error. The partisan breakdown of the survey is 39 percent Democrat, 31 percent independent and 24 percent Republican. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed described themselves as hardcore or casual NFL fans.