Editor’s note: Issues & Insights gratefully acknowledges its collaboration with tippinsights on the simultaneous and exclusive release of this story.
When hammer thrower Gwen Berry decided to protest the national anthem at an Olympic trials event last month, she raised the prospect that athletes will try to use the Tokyo Olympics to disparage their own nation.
If they do so, they will get precious little support at home.
The latest I&I/TIPP poll finds that the public overwhelmingly rejects athletes showing disrespect for the American flag at international games.
The poll found that 79% of the public say it’s important “for professional athletes to publicly respect the American flag on the international level,” with 60% saying it is “very important.”
Just 16% of the adults surveyed think it’s not important.
This sentiment was true across the board, with majorities in almost every demographic group broken out by the I&I/TIPP poll saying it was important for U.S. athletes to show respect for the flag when competing against athletes from other nations. That includes nearly two-thirds (61%) of black people surveyed and 69% of Hispanics.
By party breakdown, 93% of Republicans say showing respect is important, compared with 72% of Democrats. Support for showing respect increases with education as well – going from 73% of those with a high-school education to 81% of those with some college, and 83% of college graduates. Other breakdowns are shown in the nearby table.
Only young people don’t care if athletes respect the flag. Just 49% of those aged 18-24 say respect for the flag is important, while 39% say it’s not. Last week’s I&I/TIPP poll report showed members of this same age group were least likely to say they are proud to be an American: Just 36% said they are “very” or “extremely” proud of their nationality.
At the June trials, while the other two hammer throw winners stood with hands over hearts looking at the flag, Berry looked away and put a protest t-shirt over her head.
She claimed that she thought “it was a setup,” when the anthem was played while she and the first- and second-place winners took the podium. “They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there,” Berry complained.
The event planner said the anthem was played as scheduled. “We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards. The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule,” a spokesperson said.
In any case, the timing wasn’t the issue. Berry had been put on probation for raising her fist during the Pan-American Games in Peru in August 2019.
So, will American athletes use the 2021 Olympics – which were delayed a year because of the pandemic – to mount similar protests?
Some are already promising to turn the Olympics into a stage for anti-American protests.
U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team member Megan Rapinoe promised last year that Olympic athletes “will not be silenced,” regardless of the International Olympic Committee’s rule.
The IOC has a standing policy banning such protests. Rule 50 bars “political, religious, or racial propaganda” demonstrations. Whether the rule gets enforced is another question.
USA Today reports that:
The IOC has said incidents of athletes violating the rule will be evaluated by their home country’s national Olympic committee, along with their sport’s international federation and the IOC.
Discipline will be meted out on a case-by-case basis, according to guidelines outlined by the IOC’s Athletes Commission.
But the U.S. committee already allows U.S. athletes to protest at Team USA trials.
Either way, should athletes disrespect the American flag, they are likely to be the only ones from any country in the world who use the international Olympics to attack the nation that sent them there.
The I&I/TIPP poll was conducted by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence from June 30 through July 2, and includes responses from 1,424 adults, giving it a margin of error of +/- 2.8 points. This marks the second in a weekly collaborative effort between Issues & Insights and TIPP to provide polling results on a wide range of questions selected by I&I editors.