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.
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
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
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.
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.
SOURCE USA Network