Sports

Most NFL Fans Support Colin Kaepernick’s Potential Return, but Fewer Want to Watch Him Play

Also, 1 in 3 NFL fans want to eliminate the annual Pro Bowl game, according to new data

NFL's Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick participates in a throwing exhibition at the Michigan spring football game on April 2 in Ann Arbor, Mich. NFL fans were split down the middle when asked how interested they would be in watching the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback if he returned to the league, according to new Morning Consult data. (Jaime Crawford/Getty Images)

NFL free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly completed a workout with the Las Vegas Raiders last month, his first since being blacklisted by the league after he knelt during the national anthem years ago to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. 

A new Morning Consult survey reveals that nearly 3 in 5 self-identified NFL fans (57%) believe Kaepernick should be given a chance to return after more than five years on the sidelines, but their interest in actually watching the 34-year-old isn’t as strong.

Half of NFL Fans Wouldn’t Want to Watch Colin Kaepernick Back on the Field

U.S. adults were asked how interested they would be in watching Kaepernick play if an NFL franchise signed him

Survey conducted between June 4-5, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

NFL fans split on watching Kaepernick 

  • Roughly half of NFL fans (51%) said they were either “not too interested” or “not interested at all” in watching Kaepernick if he signed with a franchise, according to the survey. 
  • Self-identified “avid” NFL fans showed more interest than regular fans, with 55% saying they’d be either “very” or “somewhat” interested in watching the quarterback, who has not played in the NFL since Jan. 1, 2017.
  • Support was divided among political party lines, with only 15% of Republicans saying they were at least somewhat interested in watching Kaepernick. Over half of Democrats (56%) said they were at least somewhat interested in watching him compete again. 
  • Kaepernick had a higher net favorability rating (the share with a favorable opinion minus the share with an unfavorable view) among avid NFL fans (10 percentage points), compared to regular fans of the league (6 points). The former San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback had a net favorability rating of 1 point among self-identified sports fans.

In other NFL offseason news, the league is considering alternatives to the Pro Bowl, the annual all-star game that has been criticized for its low intensity and lack of quality play.

If NFL Changes Pro Bowl Format, More Than Half of Fans Say They’d Watch a Quarterback Skills Competition

Self-identified NFL fans were asked how interested they would be in watching NFL players participate in the following potential replacements for the Pro Bowl game:

Survey conducted between June 4-5, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,387 self-identified NFL fans, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.
  • Given a list of events that could potentially replace the Pro Bowl, NFL fans expressed the most support for a quarterback skills competition, with 54% saying they were at least somewhat interested in watching the event. About 2 in 5 NFL fans (39%) said they were at least somewhat interested in watching a flag football game between alumni and current players or a dodgeball competition. 
  • Only 3 in 10 NFL fans said they watched February’s Pro Bowl, which drew 6.7 million viewers across ABC and other Walt Disney Co. platforms, the game’s lowest audience since 2006. Nearly half of NFL fans (48%) said they’ve watched the game in the past three years.
  • In spite of the recent drop-off in interest, over half of NFL fans (55%) and 64% of avid fans said they would watch the Pro Bowl in the future. 

The future of the Pro Bowl

Last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted what many fans have said for years: The Pro Bowl “doesn’t work.” Now, there are multiple options on the table, including eliminating the game altogether. The survey found that 1 in 3 NFL fans (33%) and 44% of “avid” NFL fans supported removing the game outright — a sign that there’s an appetite for the league to get creative with its annual all-star event. 

The survey was conducted June 4-5, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, including 1,387 self-identified NFL fans, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points and 3 percentage points, respectively. The survey also included 613 self-identified “avid” NFL fans, with an unweighted margin of error of 4 percentage points. 

Morning Consult