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12/12: Sports in 2017: A Year in Review

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12/12: Sports in 2017: A Year in Review

As 2017 draws to a close, Americans share their opinions about the numerous hot-button issues which emerged in the world of sports this year and were covered by HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

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As 2017 draws to a close, Americans share their opinions about the numerous hot-button issues which emerged in the world of sports this year and were covered by HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

Youth Travel Leagues
Despite the time and financial commitments, a majority of Americans think travel teams are a worthwhile recreational sports activity for children.

  • 53% of Americans, including 55% of parents with children under 18 years old, do not think travel teams defeat the purpose of sports as a fun, recreational activity for kids. 39% think they detracts from the enjoyment of the game.
    • Not surprisingly, income is a factor. 57% of those who make $50,000 or more annually, compared with 49% of those who earn less, think the cost and time commitment to travel leagues is worth it.
    • 63% of African Americans and 50% of whites agree that travel leagues are a good activity for kids and are worth the added time and expense.
    • Younger Americans are more likely than their older counterparts to say travel teams are enjoyable for children. 60% of residents under 45 years old, including 67% of those under 30, say the added effort to participate in youth travel teams does not take away from the enjoyment of sports. The plurality of those 45 or older, 47%, say the same.

Media Coverage of Long-Term Brain Injury from Football
Most Americans think the risks of long-term brain injury from playing professional football are an issue that should be widely discussed by the media. And, nearly six in ten U.S. residents believe the National Football League needs to own the responsibility for protecting its athletes from long-term brain injury. Still, many Americans believe pro football players are fully aware of the risks of playing the game.

  • 45% of Americans, including 44% of football fans, do not think there has been enough media coverage about the risks of long-term brain injury from playing professional football. 43% think the amount of coverage has been about right, and only 9% say it has been too much.
    • Majorities of Democrats, 54%, those who identify as liberal or very liberal, 54%, and African Americans, 54%, are those most likely to say there has not been enough media coverage.
    • Regardless of demographic group, most U.S. residents say the media either needs to give more attention to the story or the amount of coverage of the issue has been appropriate.
  • 59% of residents, including 61% of football fans, think the National Football League is mostly responsible for protecting professional football players from long-term brain injury. 36% of adults think the responsibility should mostly lie with the players.
    • Democrats, 75%, and independents, 58%, are more likely than Republicans to believe it is up to the NFL to keep its players safe from head injury. Republicans divide. 48% say the responsibility is that of the players while 45% think it belongs to the NFL.
    • African American residents, 76%, are more likely than whites, 57%, and Latinos, 57%, to consider the onus to be on the NFL.
  • 62% of Americans, including 63% of football fans, assert that professional football players are fully aware of the risk of long-term brain injury from playing the game. 35% do not think they know the extent of risk.
    • Midwest residents, 70%, are more likely than those in the Northeast, 63%, South, 58%, or West, 57%, to say NFL players are fully knowledgeable about the risk of long-term brain injury.
    • Whites, 66%, are more likely than African Americans, 55%, and Latinos, 55%, to say players are fully aware of the risks.
    • A gender gap exists. Men, 68%, are more likely than women, 55%, to think professional football players know the risks of playing the sport.

Long-Term Brain Injury & Change in the NFL
Given the risk of long-term brain injury from playing football, Americans and football fans alike divide about whether the NFL needs to make changes to the game so as to continue to attract talented players. However, there is overwhelming consensus that athletes who stop playing football at the height of their career due to this risk are sensible to look out for themselves.

  • 48% of Americans think the NFL needs to make changes to address the risk of long-term brain injury to continue to attract talented players while 46% believe no changes are needed.
    • Football fans also divide. Among this group, 49% do not think changes are needed to attract talented players while 47% believe they are.
    • While a majority of residents in the Northeast, 54%, believe the NFL needs to make adjustments to recruit the best talent, residents in other parts of the country divide.
    • 56% of Americans under the age of 45, including 64% of those under 30, do not think the NFL needs to adjust to continue to attract talented players given the risk of head injury. 55% of those 45 or older do think the League needs to makes changes.
    • A gender gap exists. 51% of men think the League should not react to concerns about long-term brain injury by making changes to how the game is played. 53% of women think the NFL needs to make improvements to attract up and coming talent.
  • 93% of adults nationally think athletes who stop playing football at the height of their career due to the risk of long-term brain injury are sensible to look out for themselves. Only four percent think they are foolish to give up such a worthwhile career.

Sex Abuse in Youth Sports
A majority of Americans think it is the responsibility of youth sports leagues to protect children from sexual abuse.

  • 56% of Americans, including 54% of parents with children under the age of 18 years old, think youth sports leagues should be responsible, even more than parents, to protect children from being sexually abused by their coaches. 39% think it is up to the children’s parents to keep them safe.
    • Opinions differ based on political party and ideology. 68% of Democrats and 52% of independents say the responsibility is on youth sports leagues. Republicans divide. 49% of the GOP say parents must be the ones to protect their kids while 46% say it is the leagues’ responsibility to do so. Many Americans who consider themselves to be liberal or very liberal, 70%, and a majority who say they are moderate in their political views, 58%, say leagues must have safeguards in place. A slim majority of those who are conservative or very conservative, 51%, say parents should be the ones to protect their kids from sexual abuse by coaches.
    • 67% of Americans under 45 years old believe youth sports leagues should be tasked with protecting children from abuse. Those 45 or older divide. 46% say the responsibility is on the leagues, and 47% consider the parents to bear the burden.

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef
More than seven in ten Americans consider the issue of climate change to be a real threat, and nearly six in ten say the issue should be given priority even if economic growth slows in the process.

  • 72% of Americans think climate change is a real threat. 24% disagree.
    • Partisan differences are present. 88% of Democrats and 74% of independents think climate change is a looming danger. While 53% of Republicans disagree, a notable 42% of the GOP consider climate change to be a real threat.
    • Along with Republicans, those who identify as conservative or very conservative and those who are President Donald Trump supporters do not consider climate change to be a real threat. At least six in ten residents in all other demographic groups consider climate change to be an impending danger. Conservatives divide. 46% say climate change is a real threat. 48% say it is not. Among Trump supporters, 48%and 47%, respectively, share these views.
  • 57% of Americans think climate change should be given priority even at the risk of slowing economic growth. 36% disagree and assert economic growth should be given priority even at the risk of ignoring climate change.
    • Republicans, 67%, Trump supporters, 65%, and those who identify as conservative or very conservative, 59%, are more likely than any other group to prioritize economic growth over climate change.
    • Of note, Latinos divide. 49% believe climate change should be addressed at the risk of slowing economic growth while 46% believe economic growth should be the priority. African Americans, 69%, and whites, 56%, assert dealing with climate change is the bigger issue.

Athletes Targeted by Gun Violence
While Americans divide about whether or not stricter gun control laws would help reduce the number of murders in this country, a majority of Americans believe it is more important to control gun violence than to protect gun rights. The proportion of adults nationally who prioritize controlling gun violence over protecting gun rights is at its highest since this question was first asked more than four years ago.

  • 49% of Americans think stricter gun control laws would help reduce the number of murders in the United States. The same proportion, 49%, disagrees.
    • Stark political differences are present. 72% of Democrats assert that stricter gun laws will lower the national murder rate. 78% of Republicans disagree with that premise. Independents divide, 48% to 51%.
    • Americans who supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, 81%, are more likely than any other demographic group to say stricter gun laws will not reduce the number of homicides nationally.
    • A majority of white residents, 54%, do not believe tightening gun laws will reduce the number of murders in the United States. A majority of Latinos, 52%, and many African Americans, 71%, think stricter gun laws will reduce the murder rate.
    • A majority of women, 54%, believe stricter gun laws will reduce the number of murders in the United States while a majority of men, 55%, disagree with that argument.
    • Americans younger than 30 years old, 53%, are more likely than their older counterparts to associate stricter gun control laws with a lower murder rate in the United States.
  • 55% of Americans think it is more important to control gun violence than to protect gun rights, 42%. The proportion of U.S. residents to emphasize controlling gun violence has peaked since this question was first reported in March 2013. When last released in October, 52% thought controlling gun violence was the priority.
    • Not surprisingly, a political divide exists. 88% of Democrats favor controlling gun violence over protecting gun rights. 71% of Republicans put the emphasis on protecting gun rights. 51% of independents believe curbing gun violence is essential. 47% emphasize protecting gun rights.
    • 77% of Trump supporters think the protection of gun rights is the larger issue.
    • Opinions differ based on race. Most African Americans, 84%, and nearly six in ten Latinos, 58%, perceive controlling gun violence to be more important that protecting gun rights. Whites divide. 48% of whites say the protection of gun rights is the priority. 49% consider controlling gun violence to carry more weight.
    • 63% of women think curbing gun violence is more important than protecting gun rights. Men divide. 49% think protecting gun rights is the priority while 48% say managing gun violence is more important.

Las Vegas Sports Betting
Many Americans say they have never placed a bet on professional or college sports game, but a majority favors changing the law to allow people in all fifty states to place bets on sports events.

  • 60% of U.S. residents say they have never placed a bet on professional or college sports games including a friendly wager, filling out a bracket, or participating in an office pool. 40% say they have.
    • A majority of men, 53%, say they have placed a bet, but more than seven in ten women, 72%, say they have not.
    • African Americans, 30%, are less likely than Latinos, 37%, and whites, 43%, to say they have put a wager on a sporting event.
  • 57% of residents nationally favor changing the law in the United States to permit people to place bets on sports in any state in the country. 35% oppose such a measure.
    • Latinos, 75%, and African Americans, 64%, are more likely than whites, 51%, to support the legalization of sports betting in all fifty states.
    • Men, 63%, are more likely than women, 52%, to favor a change in the law.
    • The younger Americans are, the more likely they are to support a measure to allow betting nationwide. 72% of those younger than age 30, compared with only 37% of those 60 or older, have this view.

National Anthem Protests
Most Americans think the National Anthem should be played at sporting events. However, about two-thirds the think NFL owners who have spoken out against players kneeling during the anthem are more concerned about revenues than respect for country.

  • 82% of Americans, including the same proportion of football fans, think the National Anthem should be played at sporting events. 13% disagree.
    • 86% of whites, 80% of Latinos, and 69% of African Americans, think sporting events should begin with the national anthem.
  • 67% of Americans, including 70% of football fans, believe NFL owners who have spoken out against players kneeling during the national anthem are thinking more about protecting the public reputation and revenues of the team rather than respecting the anthem, 22%.
    • Democrats, 73%, and independents, 71%, are more likely than Republicans,
      58%, to say owners are trying to protect the public image of their teams. Among Republicans, 29% say their reaction comes from respect for the anthem.
    • Latinos, 27%, are more likely than whites, 22%, and African Americans, 16%, to consider the reaction of the owners to be one of respect for the National Anthem.
    • Age and gender differences also exist. Men, 70%, and those under 45 years old, 72%, are more likely than women, 63%, and Americans 45 or older, 62%, to say the owners are trying to protect their brand.

Participation in International Competition
More than six in ten Americans say professional athletes from countries with repressive governments that engage in human rights violations should be included in international sports competitions.

  • 61% of Americans believe professional athletes from nations with repressive regimes who violate human rights should be included in international sports competitions. 30% say these athletes should be excluded from competition.
    • Regardless of demographic group, at least a majority believes these athletes should be allowed to participate in sports competitions.

Complete December 12, 2017 HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll Release and Tables of the United States

Methodology

Nature of the Sample

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