Looking back at some of the sports stories that made headlines in 2014, domestic violence in the National Football League tops the list as the year’s biggest sports story. Regardless of demographic group, this story is the one that resonated most with sports fans nationally.
When it comes to the biggest sports accomplishment during the past twelve months, the San Francisco Giants third World Series victory in five years and the advance of the men’s national soccer team to the elimination round of the World Cup top the list. And, while Peyton Manning is considered to be the athlete with the largest impact on his sport in 2014, LeBron James gives him a run for his money. On many of these questions, there are differences based on race and age.
This Marist Poll is done in conjunction with The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“These results reinforce the prominence of football in America. It’s once again where America finds its biggest star and its most dire situation,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “Americans are sending the NFL a clear message that they want the League to establish a sustainable domestic abuse policy.”
- Nearly half of sports fans, 49%, cite the domestic violence controversies in the NFL as the story with the biggest impact on sports this year. The banning of Donald Sterling, the, now, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, from the NBA for his racist remarks places a distant second with 24%. Academic fraud in University athletic programs is mentioned by 11% while another 11% think the suspension of Alex Rodriguez for using performing enhancing drugs had the largest effect on sports in 2014.
- When it comes to the biggest sports accomplishment of the year, 29% of fans think the San Francisco Giants third World Series win in five years takes the top spot while 27% believe the advance of the U.S. Men’s national soccer team to the elimination round of the World Cup deserves the top honor. One in five sports fans, 20%, mentions the wins by both UCONN’s men and women in the NCAA basketball championship, and a similar, 19%, cite Serena Williams 18th Grand Slam victory.
- Age and race matter on this question. 38% of sports fans under 30 and 31% of those 60 and older choose the Giants’ win while 36% of those 30 to 44 think the men’s performance in the World Cup deserves the top honor. There is little consensus among those 45 to 59. Looking at race, 42% of Latino sports fans select the Giants’ World Series win while 37% of African Americans choose Serena Williams’ 18th Grand Slam title. White sports fans are torn between the performance by the men’s U.S. soccer team, 30%, and this year’s World Series victors, 29%.
- NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, 33%, edges out LeBron James, 29%, as the player who had the biggest impact on their sport this year. This is the third year that Manning has been selected as the most influential player by sports fans. A majority of sports fans, 55%, selected Manning in 2013. MLB’s Derek Jeter was chosen by 24% of sports fans this year. One in ten fans pick professional soccer player Lionel Messi.
- Age and race make a difference. 42% of sports fans 60 and older and 38% of those 30 to 44 believe Manning had the largest influence on his sport, football. 32% of sports fans under 30 say James is tops as the player with the greatest impact on his sport, basketball. There is little consensus among sports fans 45 to 59 years of age. Nearly half of African American sports fans, 48%, and a plurality of Latinos, 35%, selects James while 37% of white sports fans choose Manning.
- Six in ten Americans, 60%, up from 55% last year, are sports fans.
Keith Strudler, Ph.D., is the director for the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. Dr. Strudler founded Marist’s popular concentration in sports communication in 2002, now one of the nation’s largest in the discipline. He studies and teaches in the areas of sports media, sports and society, and sports reporting and information. Dr. Strudler also writes weekly sports commentary for WAMC, an NPR radio station in Albany, NY.