Poll: Fans think it’s OK for athletes to sit out due to mental health issues
Two-thirds of American sports fans say that it is “acceptable” for an athlete not to compete due to mental health issues or concerns, and more than 70 percent think teams should employ mental health counselors just as they do athletic trainers and physical therapists.
These were the findings of a Seton Hall Sports Poll that was conducted before the widely-covered mid-game departure of Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ receiver Antonio Brown last week. Brown’s exit has brought the issue of athletes and mental health back to the forefront as colleagues of the wide receiver and media pundits have raised it as a possible concern.
“That’s an overwhelming level of acceptance among sports fans,” said Seton Hall Marketing Professor and Poll Methodologist Daniel Ladik. “Whether you look at individual or team sports – 66 to 7 and 67 to 9 percent respectively – that’s better than a 7 to 1 margin who say it’s OK not to compete due to mental health concerns. What’s more, the support for teams employing mental health counselors in the same way they employ athletic and physical trainers is even greater.”
“The movement on this issue is a long time coming,” said Professor Charles Grantham, director of the Center for Sport Management at Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business. “Care for the whole athlete – especially student-athletes – is essential. Although the rewards can be great, so are the pressures. It is encouraging to see that mental health care now has a more appropriate level of attention and the momentum necessary to make continued strides. And it is good to see that the public supports it – the days of stigmatizing have receded.”
By a nearly four to one margin, the American public and its sports fans believe that the presence of social media contributes to the mental health issues of athletes more so than traditional media. Among the general population, 47 to 14 percent said social media had the greater negative impact, while among sports fans the ratio rose to 51 to 12 percent.
“At one point in our nation’s sports history, a player could choose to escape the media spotlight by playing in a ‘small market’ city,” said Professor Ladik. “But with the advent of social media there is no escape: the spotlight never dims.”
More from the poll is online at blogs.shu.edu/sportspoll.