- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2018

With the NFL regular season set to start in a week and no national-anthem resolution in sight, a newly released poll shows most Americans still aren’t fans of the sideline protests.

Fifty-four percent of voters polled said kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality was “inappropriate,” versus 43 percent who described it as “appropriate,” according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey.

The poll conducted August 18-22 by Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies also found the number of those who follow the NFL “not closely at all” has continued to swell, from 21 percent in January 2014 to 31 percent in August 2018.

Another 24 percent said they follow professional football “very closely,” about the same as the 25 percent who said so in January 2014.

The poll of 900 registered voters released earlier this week comes with the NFL and NFL Players Association still in negotiations over whether to require players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” with the final round of preseason games slated to kick off tonight.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced in May that players and league personnel would be required to stand and show respect for the flag on the sideline. Players would also have the option to remain in the locker room during the pre-game ceremony.

That policy was placed on hold July 19 after the NFLPA balked, saying it should have been consulted on the rule change. So far there has been no announcement on a revised policy, although the kneeling has subsided significantly in the preseason.

Two Miami Dolphins players have knelt before preseason games, while Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has sat on the bench for the anthem, as he did last season. Several other players have raised fists while standing or remained off the field in the tunnel or locker room.

President Trump drew attention last season to the take-a-knee protests, at one point arguing that the owners should fire anyone who refuses to stand.

NFL ratings dropped by about 10 percent in the 2017 regular season after falling by 8 percent from the previous season, a decline attributed to fan outrage over the protests as well as cable cord-cutting and the quality of the games.

The first game of the 2018 regular season is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 6, as the Atlanta Falcons meet the Philadelphia Eagles.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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