NEW YORK, April 12 /PRNewswire/ -- In a startling new NBC/USA Network poll on "Homosexuality in Sports" conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland, nearly a quarter of those surveyed say that an openly gay athlete on a team harms the team and the entire sport, with 14 percent going as far as saying that openly gay athletes should be excluded from playing team sports. The poll, released today in this week's Sports Illustrated, shows there are very strongly held beliefs among Americans regarding the impact of gay athletes on professional sports. While 67 percent of Americans agree that "what athletes do in their private lives is their business," more than one third of Americans say it is "not appropriate" for gays to work with children in roles such as Little League coaches, referees and umpires. We'd like to know your attitudes about athletes, in general. Here are some statements that Americans have made about professional athletes. For each statement, please indicate whether you agree or disagree. Agree Disagree What athletes do in their private life is their own business 67% 34% Openly gay athletes should be excluded from playing team sports 14% 86% These attitudes translate into a marketing problem for gay athletes. Though 48 percent of Americans say they "admire any athlete who is openly gay," 68 percent say "it would hurt an athlete's career to be openly gay," and 51 percent believe "gay athletes cannot receive the same endorsement deals as other athletes." According to the poll (taken from March 18 through March 21) the numbers spike against gay athletes when discussing contact sports, with about 90 percent of those surveyed believing that those involved in sports such as boxing, football, wrestling and hockey are strongly intolerant of gays. Here are some statements Americans have made about homosexuality and sports. For each of the following, please indicate whether you agree or disagree. Agree Disagree Among All It would hurt an athlete's career to be openly gay 68% 21% Openly gay athletes cannot receive the same endorsement deals as other athletes regardless of how they perform on the field 51% 49% I admire any athlete who is openly gay 48% 52% Here is a list of different professional sports. On a scale from 1-5, please indicate whether you'd expect these sports to be tolerant or intolerant of gays in their profession where "5" is extremely tolerant and "1" is extremely intolerant. Among All Tolerant Intolerant Boxing 11% 90% Football 11% 89% Wrestling 11% 89% Hockey 11% 89% "I now understand why gay athletes would choose to stay in the closet," said Doug Schoen of Penn, Schoen & Berland. "The poll shows us that we still have a long way to go in this country before homosexuality is accepted in sports." "What prompted USA's interest in this subject is our upcoming premiere of "Ring of Fire," a powerful, heartbreaking film," said Bonnie Hammer, President, USA Network and SCI FI Channel. "Its central character, a world- class athlete, endured tremendous personal torment and public humiliation over what should have been the most private of subjects -- his sexuality." The poll's findings reveal some of the same divisiveness seen in 2004 elections on the issue of homosexuality. Fifty-five percent of Democrats agree that "America needs to partake in an open discussion about homosexuality and sports," whereas 65 percent of Republicans disagree. While sixty-six percent of those polled agree that "gay athletes are unfairly treated in both their private and professional lives," 44 percent believe that "engaging in homosexual behavior is a sin." The poll also found that Americans (52 percent) do not think open discussion on this topic is needed. Thinking more generally. Here are some statements that may or may not express how you feel about the issue of gay rights. For each statement, please indicate how much you agree or disagree. Agree Disagree It is a sin to engage in homosexual behavior 44% 48% Homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society 61% 33% "As one might suspect, views on homosexuality in society and sports are largely defined by political ideology and geography. The red state/blue state phenomenon witnessed in the last election is at work here as well, particularly when it comes to open discussions about homosexuality," said Schoen. The survey was based on a random sample of 979 people among the general population. The poll's margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.
SOURCE USA Network