Sep 18, 2018

The 10 NFL Markets Most Likely to Impact November’s Election by Kneeling During the National Anthem

Author: Deep Root Analytics

The return of the NFL season has thrust NFL players protesting police brutality during the national anthem back into the spotlight. Moreover, the unveiling of Nike’s latest national ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the original kneeler, has heightened coverage of the issue.

President Trump has been outspoken in his opposition to this method of protest, and multiple Republican campaigns have featured the issue in their messaging already this year. So what impact might this issue have on electoral outcomes this November?

In anticipation of this issue, our newest round of Deep Root Audiences includes two groups of political targets specifically concerned about this issue:

Anthem Kneeling Persuadables: These voters are the persuadable middle of the electorate but oppose kneeling during the national anthem.

Anthem Kneeling GOTV: These are lower propensity Republican voters that oppose kneeling during the national anthem.

These two groups have the potential to shape the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections. In markets where a large number of persuadable voters oppose kneeling during the national anthem, candidates running on this issue or its continued relevance in the press may be enough to push these voters towards voting Republican. Likewise, in markets where many low propensity Republicans oppose anthem kneeling the issue could be enough to motivate these voters to turn out on Election Day.

After analyzing our data in this regard, we’ve identified the 10 NFL markets where we believe this issue could have the greatest impact:

Persuade and Motivate

One market stands out above the rest in our data. Nashville, Tennessee, home of the Titans, has a dense population of both our Anthem Kneeling Persuadables and Anthem Kneeling GOTV audiences. In fact, it has the highest density of the GOTV audience and the fourth highest density of the persuadable universe.

With a competitive gubernatorial race and senate race on the ballot in November, the potential impact of this issue is significant. Republicans opposing anthem kneeling can double their impact by both motivating their base and also persuading swing voters with just a single issue.


While there are fewer NFL markets where the anthem kneeling issue can persuade swing voters rather than motivate Republicans, in instances where this message is persuasive it is extremely impactful. In fact, there is a higher density of our Anthem Kneeling Persuadable audience in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Minnesota and Detroit, Michigan, than there is of the GOTV audience in any single market.

As such, keep an eye on the NFC north this cycle. Three of its four teams are home to persuadable voters who strongly oppose kneeling during the national anthem.


Unsurprisingly, the issue of kneeling during the national anthem is especially motivating to Republican base voters. Six markets stand out: Jacksonville, Phoenix, Tampa, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Dallas are all home to lower propensity Republican voters who strongly oppose kneeling during the anthem. In these markets this issue can be used to motivate these voters to show up on Election Day. With both gubernatorial and senate elections on the ballot in these markets this fall, it seems likely GOP candidates will continue to use this message to help turn out their base.