GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Members of the Dallas Cowboys link arms and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Members of the Dallas Cowboys link arms and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:42
CNN poll: Americans split on anthem protests
Stephen Curry Van Jones Show
CNN
Stephen Curry Van Jones Show
Now playing
02:58
Stephen Curry opens up about Trump feud
Steve Kerr Axe Files
Steve Kerr Axe Files
Now playing
01:58
NBA coach calls out Trump for NFL attacks
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/File
Now playing
01:06
Charles Barkley knocks Roy Moore
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 05:  Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Oakland Raiders looks on during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 05: Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Oakland Raiders looks on during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:47
Trump calls on NFL to suspend Marshawn Lynch
Now playing
01:41
Trump's war of words with LaVar Ball
lavar ball cuomo intv 2
CNN
lavar ball cuomo intv 2
Now playing
01:12
LaVar Ball: I sent Trump shoes after fallout
Now playing
01:58
UCLA basketball players released
Sep 24, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Marcus Peters (22) protests next to running back Charcandrick West (35) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (98) during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Marcus Peters (22) protests next to running back Charcandrick West (35) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (98) during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Now playing
01:28
How sports and politics clashed through history
Sports Illustrated
Now playing
01:28
Curry slams latest Sports Illustrated cover
Rex Ryan Trump NFL pissed orig vstan dlewis_00003104.jpg
Rex Ryan Trump NFL pissed orig vstan dlewis_00003104.jpg
Now playing
01:02
Ex-NFL coach who backed Trump: 'I'm pissed'
Now playing
02:02
Spike Lee, Hines Ward spar over politics in sports
whpb 09282017
CNN
whpb 09282017
Now playing
02:41
Sanders, reporter spar on Trump's NFL comments
nfl protests trump zw js orig_00001313.jpg
nfl protests trump zw js orig_00001313.jpg
Now playing
02:26
#TakeAKnee heats up on and off the field
Now playing
01:56
Costas: Patriotism comes in many forms
Pool
Now playing
01:24
Sessions: NFL protests are a big mistake

Story highlights

Racial split over player protests: 82% of blacks say they're right vs. 34% of whites

Six in 10 say Trump did the wrong thing by criticizing protesting players

24% say they plan to boycott NFL games, broadcasts or products due to protests

(CNN) —  

Americans are sharply divided over whether NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem are doing the right thing to express their views, but a majority agree that President Donald Trump did the wrong thing by criticizing their actions, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

Overall, 49% say the protesting players are doing the wrong thing to express their political opinion when they kneel during the National Anthem, while 43% say it’s the right thing. Those views are sharply divided by race, partisanship and age.

Among whites, 59% say the players are doing the wrong thing while 82% of blacks say it’s the right thing to do. Almost 9 in 10 Republicans say it’s the wrong thing (87%) while just about three-quarters of Democrats say the opposite (72%). And most younger Americans call it the right thing (56% among those under age 45) while a majority of older Americans say it’s wrong (59% among those age 45 or older).

Six in 10 Americans say that Trump did the wrong thing by criticizing those players, however, including 51% of whites, 97% of blacks and majorities of Democrats (86%) and independents (61%). Among Republicans, 23% called it the wrong thing to do, and even 32% of those who think the players are doing the wrong thing disagree with Trump’s criticizing them.

The public is also closely divided over whether professional sports leagues should require their players to stand during the National Anthem, as Trump has called for – 49% say yes, 47% no. There has been a massive shift since last fall on this question among blacks. In a poll conducted by Marist for HBO Real Sports last fall, 42% of African-Americans said players should be required to stand; now, that stands at just 13%. Views among whites and Hispanics have largely held steady.

The poll suggests Trump’s highlighting of the issue could have repercussions for the NFL generally. Almost a quarter of Americans (24%) say they plan to boycott the NFL’s games, broadcasts or products as a result of these protests, and that rises to 50% among Trump’s supporters – those who approve of his handling of the presidency. Among Republicans, 45% say they plan to boycott as do 25% of independents and 10% of Democrats. Those who say they are current fans of the NFL are somewhat less apt to back a boycott (20%).

Americans’ divisions over these protests extend to perceptions of what the protests mean. While 46% say protesting during the anthem is disrespectful to the freedoms that the anthem represents, an almost equal 45% say such protests demonstrate those freedoms.

About half (51%) say Trump chose to criticize protesting athletes because he believes these protests are unpatriotic and disrespectful, but 31% say he was motivated by disagreement with the players’ views on racism in America.

More generally, 6 in 10 say celebrity protests are at least somewhat effective, but more (66%) say protests by everyday Americans are that effective.

The controversy hasn’t prompted a steep decline in views of Trump’s handling of the presidency or race relations more generally. Overall, 37% approve of his work as President; that stood at 40% in a CNN poll conducted before he raised the issue at a rally for then-Alabama Senate candidate Luther Strange a week ago. His steepest decline has come among younger Americans, with his approval rating dropping 8 points among this group since last week.

Overall, 63% disapprove of the way he’s handling race relations; that’s up slightly from 59% disapproval in the previous poll.

And there hasn’t been a large shift in the share who see Trump as distracted from the nation’s most important problems. About 6 in 10 say Trump hasn’t paid enough attention to those issues now, the same as in an early-August CNN poll.

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone September 26-28 among a random national sample of 1,037 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.