Comprehensive Poll on Homosexuals in Sports Reveals Bias Against Gay Athletes Nearly a Quarter Believe That an Openly Gay Athlete Hurts Entire Sport

    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
     Here are some statements Americans have made about homosexuality and
 sports.  For each of the following, please indicate whether you agree or
                                                         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
     "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
     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.


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