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.
9/18: Majority Calls Foul on NFL Response to Domestic Violence Cases, but Only Three in Ten Want Goodell to Go
In the wake of several cases of alleged domestic violence by professional football players, 53% of Americans, including 57% of football fans, think the National Football League has dropped the ball in handling the situation. Still, only 29% of Americans and 32% of fans believe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should lose his job. 43% of residents and 46% of fans do not want him to resign as commissioner.
In light of the controversy swirling around Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson, Americans also weighed in on whether or not it is wrong for parents to use corporal punishment to discipline their children. 60% of Americans, including 67% of women, do not think it is an appropriate way to discipline children. 34% of residents think it is an appropriate action for a parent to take, including 51% of Americans who live in the South. In other regions of the country, only about one-quarter of residents agree.
Awareness of the NFL controversy over domestic violence is widespread. 86% of Americans, including 93% of football fans, have heard, at least, something about the accusations of domestic violence by NFL players. About one in ten football fans, 11%, says the recent news about the NFL has made them less likely to watch the sport. 86% of football fans say their viewing habits will be unchanged.
- 53% of Americans disapprove of how the NFL has handled the domestic violence accusations against some of its players while 27% approve. 21% are unsure. Among football fans, 57% say the League should have responded differently, and 30% report the NFL’s response has been on the mark. 14% are unsure.
- When it comes to Goodell’s future, 29% of Americans want Goodell to resign. 43% think he should retain his position, and a notable 29% are unsure. Among football fans, 32% believe Goodell should step down, 46% want him to remain commissioner, and 21% are unsure.
- Looking at the impact this controversy has had on NFL viewership, 85% of residents, including 86% of football fans, say it has not changed the amount of football they watch. However, 12% of Americans, including 11% of fans, report they are less likely to tune into NFL games.
- While 60% of Americans, including 59% of football fans, report it is not acceptable to discipline their children by hitting them with a paddle, switch, or belt, 34% of residents say it is. 35% of football fans are among those who condone corporal punishment.
- Looking at gender, 67% of women and 52% of men disapprove of physically reprimanding their children.
- 51% of residents in the South believe corporal punishment is appropriate compared with 27% in the West, 25% in the Midwest, and 20% in the Northeast.
- 86% have heard, at least, a little about the recent controversy involving the NFL, including 93% of football fans.
- 71% of Americans describe themselves as football fans, including 77% of men who watch at least a little professional football and 65% of women.
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.
My hopes for a return of my Giants to the Super Bowl this year were dashed in a Joe Pisarcik-like collapse delivered at the hands and feet of Eagle Quarterback Michael Vick and followed the week later by the precision passing of Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now, the New Yorker in me, along with most of my Big Apple friends, says I should be pulling for the J-E-T-S to bluster their way to the Lombardi Trophy. More on Gang Green shortly. So, what are my rooting choices as the remaining four teams wind their way to Dallas and the February 6th showdown?
Let’s start with my oldest dislike. Pittsburgh. Now, I know it’s another sport but the memory of Bill Mazeroski’s walk off homer in the 1960 World Series is still raw. I know I’m supposed to get over it by now, but I was in my formative years. And, as they say, childhood memories last a lifetime. Besides, it’s the fiftieth anniversary of his Ballentine blast. Tapes of the game, recently discovered in Bing Crosby’s wine cellar, were unfortunately broadcast quality. Talk about pouring salt onto old wounds. So, the Steelers are not an option.
Next up chronologically is the Green Bay Packers. In the NFL Championship games of 1961 and 1962, the Lombardi led Packers won back to back titles over my Giants led by Sam Huff and his defensive stalwarts. The fact that the Packers bounced the Giants from the playoffs this year has nothing to do with my dislike of the occupants of Lambeau Field. I wouldn’t have been rooting for them anyway.
And, then there are Da Bears. Who can forget my Giants being manhandled by the monsters of the midway on that bone-chilling day at Wrigley Field in the 1963 NFL Championship Game? Certainly, I can’t. George Halas’ Bears won 14-10 over my Giants and hobbled Quarterback Y.A. Tittle. Let’s not even go down the slippery slope of “The Fridge” and the 1985 season ending playoffs for the G-men. Bears 21-0. Remember Sean Landeta’s whiff punt that was returned 5 yards for a touchdown? It makes DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard game-ending punt return to cap the Eagle’s comeback this year seem like child play.
So, that brings me back to the Rex Ryan coached Jets. Now, I have nothing against Joe Namath besides my dislike of the AFL and expansion teams…. I don’t have much need for the Nets, Islanders, or Mets either. But, more to the point, there’s something about the Ryan name that sticks in my throat like Chicago bratwurst or Philadelphia cheese steak. Maybe it’s that his father Buddy Ryan was Defensive Coordinator of the ’85 Bears and later coached the Philadelphia Eagles. He had earlier been the Jets linebacker coach on their ’69 Super Bowl winning team. (The only one of the remaining four teams he wasn’t a part of was the Packers whom he probably liked anyway.) Should the sins of the father be visited on the son? I’ve still got some soul searching to do on that one. But, in the short run, (and, probably a longer run, too) it disqualifies them for me.
So, I’m down to three thoughts. Should I be part of the 26% who tell us in the latest Marist Poll they watch the Super Bowl more for the commercials than the game? I think not. I like football too much to buy into that one. Second, maybe I can solve my Super Bowl dilemma by wishing that the best team wins. That’s probably the only charitable thing I’ve written so far. But, it doesn’t allow me to scream at the TV full throttle while the game is on like I do each Sunday for the Giants. Finally, deep down inside I’m thinking maybe things aren’t really too bad. It’s only slightly more than a month until pitchers and catchers. Go Yanks! But, I bet you could already tell I’m one of those Yankee fans who the rest of the sports world loves to hate.
The NFL has been cracking down on players who commit illegal helmet-to-helmet hits with fines and suspensions. But, what do football fans think the punishment should be for this type of player conduct? More than one-fifth — 27% — believe these players should be, both, fined and suspended. An additional 31% say they should be only fined while 22% believe they should just be suspended. One-fifth — 20% — believe neither punishment should be used.
Younger football fans are more tolerant of helmet-to-helmet hits. 27% of those younger than 30 years old don’t think any punishment should be imposed compared with 14% of fans 60 and older.
There is also a gender gap on this question. More men — 26% — compared with women — 11% — don’t think players should be penalized at all for these hard hits.
As for the number of U.S. residents who are professional football fans, 68% of residents report they watch the sport, at least, a little. There has been no change on this question since Marist’s October survey.
What should be done to reduce the number of head injuries in, both, the NFL and college football? The Marist Poll’s John Sparks took up the topic with Marist Poll Analyst and CBS Sports Play-By-Play Broadcaster Verne Lundquist.
Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.
Verne, there’s been more talk about football and head injuries this season than any other that I can recall in quite some time. What’s the reason?
Listen to Part 1 of the Interview:
Well, I think it’s the growing awareness that there’s been trauma because of head injuries, not only in the National Football League, but also in college and on down to high school. It just seems to me that the more science explores the impact of football and head injuries, the more they learn and the greater the safety precautions need to become, and so, I think that there’s just a heightened awareness about all of it.
You know even Congress has gotten in on the act. There’ve been hearings. You think there’s an answer on how we can reduce or eliminate concussions suffered on the gridiron?
I don’t know, John, unless it’s in the increased safety level and increasing technology in the development of the helmet. It is and always will be a contact sport as long as football is played with the current rules. I think you can change some of the rules too to — but you can’t change the nature of the game. I think it’s all going to be dependent upon technology and an increase in the safety of the helmet.
You know hard shell helmets, as we know them, were developed in the late ’40s to prevent fractured skulls, and some say that the helmets actually encourage players to hit harder and with more force because they feel they’re so protected. Do you think that’s true?
Well, I think for years the technique was taught to lead with the helmet. I think it was a coaching technique, and kids, probably not in junior high but in high school and certainly in college, were taught that technique and then perfected the — not the art of it, but the technique of it as they advanced into the higher levels of the sport. And, this goes back to the increasing awareness of the damage of helmet, not only helmet-to-helmet hits but helmet-to-body part hits. I just… I think that the technique… Well, not the technique, the coaching aspects of it need to change, and I think they are. I… You know the NFL is cracking down now on helmet-to-helmet hits. The college game is. We had an example in a recent big time game, Georgia and Auburn, where one of the Auburn defensive players was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. He used his helmet to spear the opposing quarterback in the small of the back long after the ball had been released and was gone. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike, but that was a potentially serious injury, a potential serious injury, and there’s a school of thought that he should’ve been suspended for a game, and the more suspension… I did see somewhere someone was suspended just this past weekend in college, and I think we need to have more of that.
So, in the NFL, for instance, a player who commits an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit, think they ought to be fined or suspended then?
Listen to Part 2:
Well, I think suspension works better than fines because it’s so — it’s such an incidental part of their financial compensation package. For these multimillionaire athletes, I think suspension without pay is much, much more effective than strictly a fine. It’s a pittance for most of them. It sounds great to the average American, you know $25,000. That’s a salary — a yearly salary for some folks, and at least a half yearly salary for most people. But, for a guy who’s making $3 million a year, it’s the cost of doing business. So, I’d rather see them suspended without pay for a game or two.
There’s been a suggestion by some folks that we just do away with helmets; we slow down the game; we change it. That would ease parents fears who worry about injuries to their kid. Do you think we’d ever seen anything like that happen?
Well, we have a sport; it’s called rugby, and it’s as violent as football is except it’s played with no pads and no helmets, so I don’t see it happening. I think the sport is so popular that they’re not going to do away with helmets in the game. At the base of the attraction of football for most of us is the anticipation. It’s not anything we should be proud of, but I think there’s an attraction to… not the violence of the game, but the aggressive nature of the sport. I think that is part of what makes it attractive to fans and players, so, you’re not going to completely get away with that — get away from it rather.
I didn’t realize it, but I’m not surprised, there is an organization called the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. Now, that’s a mouthful. But, one of its board members who is a…
Listen to Part 3:
I didn’t know that either.
One of its board members, he’s a neurosurgeon up in Massachusetts, and he says you can prevent concussions, but to do that, the helmets would have to be much larger and the padding much larger. And, he add that other than making players look like aliens from another planet, the hit of your helmets would be more likely to cause neck injuries. So, here we again. Do you see that we might get to this stage where we drastically reformat/redesign the current paraphernalia that we wear?
No, I don’t think so. Remember there was a kid — a kid, a young man from Buffalo Bills, I want to say his name was Mark Kelso, and he had his helmet designed with the padding on the outside of it, and so his helmet was much larger than most. And, God bless him, he did look a little like an alien, and he paid a price every week in the taunting that he received from the opposition, and I just think the innate narcissism of most athletes is that they’re not going to go for anything that makes them look less attractive, and that certainly would.
I guess the bottom line is that really football wouldn’t be football if you changed the game, and everything I sense is that it’s the most popular game in the country. I know you’re preparing for the current CBS Game of the Week. I presume that ratings are as high as ever.
Well controversy helps, doesn’t it, John? And, we’re in the midst of this Cam Newton scandal or non-scandal, depending on your perspective, and so last week we had Georgia/Auburn game featuring Cam Newton: Will he play? Won’t he play? And, we had our highest rating of the year. So, I mean we all know that. P.T. Barnum taught us all that 125 years ago that if you can get them into the tent, keep them entertained, and it’s kind of sad. It’s not a grateful — gracious commentary on the fan base, but it’s true, and we know it. And, it goes back to the point I made: I think the element of violence is part of the attraction of the sport of football. I really… I’m not proud to say that, but I think it’s true.
Hey, I appreciate your time, Verne. It’s always a pleasure talking with you. Good luck with the broadcast this weekend.
Thank you, John. I’ll talk to you down the road.
54% of U.S. residents are college football fans. This includes 12% who watch college football a great deal, 10% who enjoy a good amount of it, and 32% who say they follow it a little. 46% do not watch college football at all.
Men, residents who earn $50,000 or more annually, and those in the Midwest, West, and South are those who are most likely to be college football fans.
Americans, however, are more inclined to be professional football fans than college football fans. More than two-thirds of U.S. residents — 68% — tune into the NFL at least a little bit. This includes 20% who watch the sport a great deal, 16% who follow it a good amount, and 32% who catch it a little. 32% do not watch it all.
Although there is little difference among geographic regions, men and Americans younger than 45 years old are more likely to be professional football fans.
Is there an overlap in the proportion of U.S. residents who watch both professional football and college football? Yes. Nearly half of Americans — 49% — watch both NFL and college football. The proportion who watches just professional football outnumbers those who tune into just college football. Nearly one in five — 19% — check out only the pros tossing the pigskin around while only 5% follow just college teams. More than one in four residents — 27% — do not watch either professional or college football.
Quarterback brothers Eli and Peyton Manning will square off this Sunday night when the Indianapolis Colts play the New York Giants. So, which brother will claim bragging rights in the Manning family? According to 61% of football fans nationally, Peyton Manning will lead the Colts to victory this Sunday while 27% report that younger brother Eli and the Giants will be triumphant. 12% are unsure.
While Peyton Manning is the favorite among football fans, regardless of geographic region, more fans in the Northeast (40%) than in the West (25%), Midwest (23%), and the South (22%) think Eli Manning will lead the Giants to victory.
Saints Shine as Early Super Bowl Favorites
The NFL season may have just begun, but football fans are already prognosticating about the Super Bowl. Who is the early favorite? 13% of football fans think the New Orleans Saints will receive the Lombardi trophy for the second consecutive year. 9% have their money on the New England Patriots while 7% predict the Pittsburgh Steelers will be victorious. The Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, and Green Bay Packers each receive the support of 6% of football fans. 34% think another team will win, and 19% of fans are unsure.
Not surprisingly, there are regional differences on this question. Football fans in the Northeast – 22% — are more likely to choose the Patriots than any other team. In the Midwest, 15% back the Saints, but the Colts and Packers follow closely behind. Each receive 12%. The Saints are also the top pick in the South. Here, 16% predict the Saints will win the Super Bowl. 13%, though, are banking on the Cowboys. And, in the West, the Saints and the Steelers vie for the top spot. Each team gets the support of 10% of football fans.
Men are more likely than women to favor the Saints in their Super Bowl pick.
Who do football fans think will have the better football season this year? Will it be the New York Jets or the New York Giants? Find out in the latest NY Daily News/Marist Poll. To read the full Daily News article, click here.
Tables for The Marist Poll Conducted for the Daily News:
As the NFL heads into the final weeks of the regular season, which team do football fans think has the best chance of winning the Super Bowl? The New Orleans Saints top the list with 32% of football fans saying they will still be victorious come February. The Indianapolis Colts receive 15% followed by the Minnesota Vikings with 8%, the Dallas Cowboys with 5%, and the New England Patriots with 4%.
What a difference six weeks make! When Marist last asked about the Super Bowl favorite in October, the Vikings were the pick of 13%. The Colts came in second with 10%, and the New York Giants ranked third with 9%. The Pittsburgh Steelers also scored with 9%, and the Patriots followed with 8%.
Looking back to pre-season picks, 16% of football fans favored the Patriots. The Steelers were close behind with 13%.
Battle of the Quarterbacks
If Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints hasn’t insured his throwing arm, maybe, he should. 25% of football fans say he’s the best quarterback in the NFL. But, Brees shouldn’t get too cocky. The same proportion of armchair quarterbacks report Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts is the man with the golden arm. 23% of fans say the unretired Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings is the man to beat while 8% say the same about Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals receive 2% and 1%, respectively. Less than 1% think Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers is the best quarterback in the NFL this season.
From the Sidelines
How big of a deal is football to Americans? More than six in ten Americans are football fans. This includes 19% who report they follow the sport a great deal, 15% who say they watch it a good amount, and 28% who keep tabs on the NFL a little. 38% of Americans don’t follow the sport at all.