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With the NFL season set to start next week, a majority of voters believes it is inappropriate for players to kneel during the playing of the national anthem before games, according to a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.
Fifty-four percent of voters called kneeling during the anthem inappropriate, while 43 percent say that the practice is an appropriate way to bring attention to the problems that NFL players have cited for their protests, the poll said.
The protests against police brutality and racial injustice have drawn fiery condemnations from President Donald Trump and are likely to remain a hot-button cultural and political issue this fall.
Trump has lambasted the players' behavior as unpatriotic at his rallies and on Twitter, which has fired up his voter base. In June, he canceled the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles' White House visit over disagreement about the protests. The president said the team was "unable to come" because "they disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country."
Trump supporters, according to the poll, are vehemently against the kneeling protests.
The poll also comes after an arbitrator ruled that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led the way in the kneeling protests, will have his collusion accusation against the NFL heard in court. Kaepernick, a former Super Bowl starter who hasn't played since 2016, has accused NFL owners of denying him the right to sign with a team.
The country is deeply divided on the question along partisan and racial lines. While over 85 percent of the president's supporters call it inappropriate, 76 percent of Clinton voters disagree.
The poll also shows that 88 percent of Republicans say the protests are inappropriate, while 72 percent of Democrats think they're appropriate. Independents say the protests are inappropriate by a 57 percent to 42 percent margin.
Black voters show the most support for the protests, with 7 in 10 calling them appropriate. Yet only 38 percent of white voters say the same. Among Hispanics, 51 percent call the protests inappropriate, while 47 percent say they're appropriate.
For those who follow the NFL closely, relative sympathy for the kneeling players is highest -- 46 percent say the protest is appropriate, with 51 percent disagreeing. Among those who don't follow the sport, almost 57 percent are opposed to the practice.
The NBC News/WSJ poll was conducted August 18-22, with a margin of error for 900 respondents at +/- 3.27 percentage points.