This summer, as nationwide protests began after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others by police, many of us began to rethink how to become better advocates for minority communities and move beyond words towards creating action for meaningful change. But recent developments have only underscored the need for collective action in support of racial justice.

Last month, we were shocked and appalled once again by the video of a Kenosha, WI, police officer shooting an unarmed Jacob Blake seven times in the back. Just days later, a teenage vigilante was arrested for shooting three people at a protest calling for justice for Jacob. In reaction to this violence and hate, NBA players, starting with Wisconsin’s own Milwaukee Bucks, boycotted playoff games. Players from teams in Major League Baseball, the WNBA, and Major League Soccer followed suit.

This bold and unprecedented action by the players – which was supported by the leagues – has not been without controversy, but there’s new evidence it is the type of action their fans and the American public want to see professional athletes take. Altman Solon’s 2020 Global Sports & News Survey of more than 5000 U.S. consumers reveals that 42 percent of respondents agree that “pro athletes should use their platform and celebrity status to raise awareness about social and racial issues” while just 24 percent disagree. The survey found similar public sentiment around athletes and sports leagues playing a larger role in conversations about important racial issues.

The support for social justice action by athletes is, not surprisingly, stronger among younger respondents, with 53% of 18-34-year-olds saying they agree with athletes using their platform on social or racial issues. Survey respondents aged 55+ had a lower rate, with only 35% saying they agreed with this type of athlete activism. Still, the strong support among young people indicates that views on athletes taking social stands will only become more popular in the future.

Overall, the survey finds that a relatively large portion of respondents – about 1/3rd – is neutral on the question, which means the balance of public support could still potentially tip.

“Stick to sports” has never been a reality for athletes, as more than 100 years of professional sports in America have shown. But now, according at least to Altman Solon’s survey, the public and sports fans are realizing this in greater numbers – and are expecting more out of their sports idols and professional leagues.

Leadership and Oversight

Jonathan Hurd | Partner | Jonathan.Hurd@altmansolon.com
Matt Del Percio | Director | Matt.DelPercio@altmansolon.com

This data emerged from the 2020 Global Sports & News Survey, which was completed and released in October. To see results from the 2019 survey, please click here.