By Alexandra Sosik
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Virginians are split almost down the middle about whether they would ban high school athletes from participating in protests during the national anthem, according to a poll released Tuesday by Virginia Commonwealth University.
The poll by VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs found that 50 percent of the respondents said they were against having a rule to forbid protests, while 45 percent said they would support such a rule. The others were undecided.
In 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality. That sparked a nationwide movement in which countless athletes have either kneeled or sat during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Robyn McDougle, director of the Wilder School’s Office of Public Policy Outreach, said no legislature or rule against protests during the national anthem has been suggested in Virginia. But such a rule would be contentious if proposed, the 2017-18 Winter Policy Poll indicates.
“The national debate on the issue led us to measure public opinion on the hypothetical question,” McDougle said. “And it shows that any such proposal would be controversial, especially in Northern Virginia and for nonwhite Virginians.”
The statewide poll involved a random sample of 788 adults. They were interviewed by landline and cellular phones between Dec. 8 and 26. The poll’s margin of error is about 3.5 percentage points.