Michael Sam, the University of Missouri defensive lineman who publicly announced he is gay, will participate in this year’s NFL Draft. What impact, if any, will Sam’s sexual orientation have on his NFL prospects? Close to two-thirds of football fans nationally — 65% — do not think it will make any difference where he is selected in the draft. One in four — 25% — thinks NFL teams will be less likely to pick him while 6% say it will make teams more likely to select Sam. Three percent are unsure.
This Marist Poll has been done in conjunction with The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
Men are slightly more likely than women to think that Sam’s announcement will have a negative impact on his professional football future. 29% of men, compared with 20% of women, believe Sam’s sexual orientation will make NFL teams less likely to choose him.
“These results indicate that many football fans view professional football as a sport which is increasingly accepting of openly gay athletes,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “They believe that Michael Sam’s abilities, not his orientation, will determine his professional future.”
To be eligible for the NFL Draft, football players need to be out of high school for at least three years. And, more than seven in ten football fans — 71% — think this is the right amount of time to wait before entering the draft. 15% believe the length of time is too long while 12% say it is not long enough. Two percent are unsure.
Majority Supports Rookie Salary Cap
57% of football fans think there should be a salary cap for new players and that they should be paid less than players who have more experience. 39%, however, believe rookies should receive whatever the market will pay them even if they earn more than their experienced teammates. Four percent are unsure. Men — 41% — are slightly more likely than women — 36% — to think the pay limit should be lifted.
How many Americans are football fans? 65% follow professional football, at least, a little. This includes 22% who watch a great deal of the game, 16% who follow a good amount of it, and 27% who catch a few games. 36% of adults nationally do not follow the game at all. The proportion of football fans has remained steady. When Marist last reported this question in 2011, 67% of Americans said they followed football, at least, a little.
Although there is a gender divide, nearly six in ten women — 57% — say they are football fans. This compares with more than seven in ten men — 72% — who follow the sport.