Americans’ opinion of the sports industry has plunged in the past year, according to a recent Gallup poll. Of the 25 U.S. industry sectors examined, only the federal government (-20) and the pharmaceutical industry (-15) had a worse net negative rating than the sports industry (-10). In fact, more people had a very positive or somewhat positive view on pharmaceuticals (34) than the sports industry (30).
A two-week polling sample from August 2019 was compared to a two-week sample in August 2020, and Americans’ opinion of the sports industry declined drastically. There was a drop of 15 points in people who had a very or somewhat positive view of the sports industry, which edged out the travel industry that fell 11 points for the bottom spot.
Based on the recent survey of 1,031 American adults, only 30% of people view the sports industry in a positive light, compared to 40% of Americans who have a negative point of view. In 2019, 45% of Americans held positive feelings for the sports industry and only 25% viewed it negatively.
The nosedive in favorability comes as sports leagues have embraced social justice movements, including Black Lives Matter. The backlash is evident in political bases with positive views from Republicans crashing from +11 in 2019 to -35 in 2020, a devastating 46-point drop. Independents are also shunning sports; going from +26 in 2019 to -10 in 2020, a significant 36-point decrease. Democrats saw a slight decrease from +16 positive rating to a +11 rating.
Non-whites Americans’ positive opinions of the sports industry plummeted from +51 last year to only +16 this year, a 35-point decline. White Americans went from +4 in 2019 to -22 in 2020, a 26-point drop in positive outlook.
“Sports has been acutely affected by the twin events steering news and culture in 2020: the pandemic and the renewed movement for racial justice,” Gallup wrote. “The sports industry’s relationship with fans has been disrupted by the need to shrink its seasons and schedules and play to empty venues as a means of keeping fans and players safe.”
“At the same time, the greater social and political activism of players and, in some cases now, coaching staffs and entire leagues appears to have turned off Americans who disagree with their messages or the way they express them,” the article read. “The net effect at this point has been negative for the industry’s image.”
TV ratings also show fans’ frustrations in sports this year. The NFL suffered a double-digit ratings drop for its season opener that featured an overwhelming amount of social justice activism.
NBA ratings are down 20% during the playoffs. One poll found that 38% of fans are not watching the NBA because it’s “too political.”