Polling ahead of the 2021 NFL season indicates that, despite an increasingly political landscape for the sport and its fans, Americans overwhelmingly would prefer that the National Anthem continue to be the sole anthem played prior to games.
According to a recent poll conducted by Newt Gingrich's American Majority Project in conjunction with McLaughlin & Associates, a total of 61% of Americans believe that “only” the American National Anthem should be played at NFL Games. That figure ticks up slightly to 64% among Republicans, and falls to 58% among Independents, while 11% of those polled said they don’t know.
The poll was conducted in the wake of the NFL’s recent decision to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing" – often referred to as the black national anthem – before all games during the upcoming season, ahead of the playing of the American National Anthem. The song was initially introduced by the NFL when it was sung by Alicia Keys at the Super Bowl for the 2020-2021 season. The decision to play the song before each game is reportedly part of the league’s quarter-billion dollar investment in social justice messaging and initiatives.
Some have criticized the NFL’s decision to play both songs. Political commentator and TV host Armstrong Williams said the change is being driven by “woke progressive culture."
"This is all about symbolism for them. It will not change the life of one American Black in this country,” he said during an appearance on The National Desk. "If they really wanted to help black people, you can't do it with symbolism," he continued.
For several years, the NFL has been at the center of controversy about players kneeling during the National Anthem. Then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend back in 2016. Recently athletes have come forward to discuss their discomfort with focusing on politics instead of their sport and the ultimate goal of winning.
The Gingrich-McLaughlin poll showed Americans remain strongly committed to the original anthem written by Francis Scott Key, with 64% declaring Congress should adopt the "Star Spangled Banner" as America's "only" national anthem while 19% were opposed and 17% said they didn't know.
Regarding the question of whether the Star Spangled Banner should be the only anthem played at NFL games, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents maintained similar numbers across the board – a relatively rare phenomena in political polling.
"The National Anthem is typically a uniting, not dividing force. It's something most Americans agree on. It's something we should all agree on, and this poll shows that," said Jim McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates.