An overwhelming majority of voters across Western New York oppose NFL player protests during the national anthem, according to a new poll.
Big Dog Strategies president Chris Grant says 71 percent of voters say there is a more appropriate place to protest than at a football game. Grant says the survey, taken after Sunday's game in which several Buffalo Bills kneeled during the anthem, also shows people are abandoning the team and the NFL and watching less football.
"What the NFL and the Buffalo Bills are facing is a real problem in terms of losing fans and viewers because they've allowed the NFL and teams to become a political event rather than a sporting event," Grant said.
Grant has strong ties to the Republican Party and is a political adviser to Rep. Chris Collins, a Clarence Republican who is an ally of President Trump.
The sample of likely 2018 voters is relatively even among Republicans and Democrats. It finds 50 percent of those surveyed are less likely to tune into future Bills games and 82 percent want there to be less politics during sporting events.
Big Dog Strategies said it partnered with Remington Research Group to commission the survey of 1,390 likely general election voters in Western New York. Survey sponsors say the margin of error is +/- 2.62% with a 95% level of confidence.
Grant says a significant number of viewers and fans are watching less football than in previous years.
"The NFL is a TV-driven business. Its growth has come from television and its sustaining power comes from television. If the ratings continue the downward trajectory we've seen overall, the NFL is going to look back on these protests and really see that this was the day that they made a major mistake for their long-term financial stability," Grant added.
The poll also shows 50 percent of voters agree with President Donald Trump that players should be fired for kneeling during the national anthem and 55 percent say the Bills should punish running back LeSean McCoy for stretching during the anthem.