Nearly 70% of Americans support rule changes designed to make playing football safer for players, according to a new national survey released Wednesday by the Siena College Research Institute and Saint Bonaventure University’s Jandoli School of Communication.
In the survey of 3,201 United States residents showed, 69% of fans — including 79% of those identifying as “avid” football fans — favor rule changes aimed at reducing the potential of neurological injuries, “even if the rules change the game.”
According to the survey, 71% of adults believe that independent doctors that are not paid for by the individual teams should make decisions on whether injured players can re-enter a game.
“After seeing Damar Hamlin collapse on the field, and questionable responses to head injuries sustained by star quarterbacks such as Tua Tagovailoa and Matthew Stafford, many people are wondering if the NFL is doing enough to keep players safe,” Aaron Chimbel, dean of St. Bonaventure’s Jandoli School, said in a press release announcing the findings of the survey. “Their recent decision that requires independent doctors to determine whether injured players can return back into games is supported strongly by Americans, and will hopefully keep players healthy and safe.”
The results released Wednesday were the conclusion of the American Sports Fanship Survey conducted by Siena and St. Bonaventure.
The survey found that 73% of Americans identify themselves as a sports fan in some capacity — 26% as “casual” fans, 26% as “involved” fans and 21% as avid fans.
“For Avid fans, sports are woven into their lives every day, all day,” Siena College Research Institute Director Don Levy said. “They watch the games, listen to talk shows, check scores and banter with friends about sports constantly. Involved fans love the games but don’t engage every day, while a casual fan is more likely to check in on the weekends. The remaining quarter of Americans may watch a game infrequently, but sports are just not front and center all the time.”
The findings were released in three parts, covering Sports Fanship and Football, All Things Super Bowl and Sports Issues.
Here’s a brief look at some of what the survey found.
SPORTS FANSHIP AND FOOTBALL
Heading into the week of Super Bowl LVII, 72% of Americans say they are football fans, even if they don’t consider themselves sports fans.
The survey found the Dallas Cowboys as the most divisive franchise, as when asked which NFL team they most like or hate, respondents most often named the Cowboys for both. Tom Brady, who announced his retirement last week, was the most popular active player, with Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers tied for second. Joe Montana was listed as the most popular former NFL player, followed by Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Walter Payton.
ALL THINGS SUPER BOWL
According to the survey, 75% of Americans plan to watch Super Bowl LVII between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, while 53% consider the Super Bowl to be an important part of their life and 29% consider the game to be a national holiday.
The festivities around the game are also extremely popular, as 82% of respondents look forward to seeing the new commercials and 80% enjoy the halftime show. Chips and dip topped the list of top Super Bowl foods, with 75% of respondents listing them, followed by chicken wings, pizza and nachos.
Even with the rise of legalized sports gambling in many states, only 20% of respondents said they plan to wager on the game — although 52% of those identifying as “avid” fans said they will.
Along with support for initiatives regarding player safety, the survey found that a large majority of Americans — 60% of respondents — support displays of slogans such as “End Racism” on the back of helmets and on fields, including 78% of “avid” fans. Support for the messaging differed heavily by age — 75% of respondents under 34 support such social messaging, while only 38% of those over 65 did. Black (78%) and Latino (73%) respondents were also much more likely to support the messaging than white respondents (54%).
The survey also found that 40% of Americans — including 54% of those identifying as non-fans and 49% of women — support a permanent ban from the NFL for players accused of domestic violence, while 28% support a one-year suspension and 15% support a shorter suspension.
There’s also 2-to-1 opposition, 53-27%, to the use of public funds to build new football stadiums, such as the new Buffalo Bills stadium that will be constructed using $850 million in taxpayer funds. While 55% of “avid” fans support using public funds to build stadiums, 68% of non-fans and 59% of “casual” fans are opposed..
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