Poll Finds Americans Suspicious of Professional Sports Teams

Jan 12, 2015

Following aggravated assault and child abuse charges within the National Football League, Americans are now more skeptical than ever when it comes to professional sports teams and player misconduct, according to the Robert Morris University Polling Institute.

Of the 1,004 people polled across the country, 82.4 percent believe sports teams and their owners hide reports of scandalous player behavior to protect a team’s image.

But David Synkowa, head of Robert Morris University’s Sports Management department, believes American media have painted professional sports in a bad light and has swayed public opinion.

“If there is something there, the teams are going to investigate it,” Synkowa said. “They hire top notch people in law enforcement, such as FBI or local police to investigate any allegations.”

He also said that social media has made professional sports teams more transparent.

“It’s really tough to hide anything nowadays,” he said. “If somebody hears something, if they see something, they’re going to take a picture of it and, whether it’s good or bad, word is going to spread.”

The poll found 85 percent of respondents view athletes as role models, but about 76 percent of people believe Americans overlook bad behavior because of a player’s celebrity.

Snykowa said that recent high-profile cases, such as the arrest, suspension and eventual reinstatement of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice on aggravated assault charges, has led to a misconception that all athletes are criminals.

“We look at other professions,” he said. “We see other professionals also engaged in other types of behaviors in terms of spousal abuse or committing felonies, and they do not receive the same amount of attention.”

At the same time, the controversies have led to important societal discussions in subjects such as child abuse, domestic abuse and rape.

“Any time that you can create an awareness and get people talking about it, it does have an impact,” he said.

According to the survey, about 74 percent of Americans are becoming less tolerant of criminal behavior by sports figures. About 62 percent of sports fans said they have made no changes in following their favorite teams regardless of player criminal activity.