Before a pre-season game last year, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand during the National Anthem. While still a very popular player among fans, the NFL star still remains a free agent. Some people are of the opinion that he is being blacklisted by the NFL.

Opinions differ

Athletes generally came out in support of his stance. The US sprinter Tommie Smith famously drew criticism in 1968 for his actions. After winning gold, the athlete raised his fist in protest against racial discrimination. In an interview with USA TODAY he said "I support him because he's bringing the truth out.

If it's not done violently, at least he should be heard."

Many contemporary athletes came to his defense too. Fellow NFL players Roger Goodell, Bradley Beal, and Torrey Smith are just a few of those who made their support for Kaepernick's stance clear. He even made it onto the front cover of Time Magazine.

On the opposite side of the coin there was plenty of criticism. Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had the following to say in an interview with KIRO7 News; "I think it's a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him."

Some fans are being put off of the sport

A national sports poll entitled "Football's enduring popularity" was published this month in the Washington Post.

It was conducted jointly with MIT. Two of the questions in the poll help to illustrate the extent to which the national anthem protests affected the interest of NFL fans.

One question that was asked (among pro football fans) was: In the past few years would you say your interest in professional football has increased, decreased or stayed the same?

23 percent said increased, 19 percent said decreased and 58 percent said stayed the same.

For those who said their interest had decreased, there was a follow up question: What is the biggest reason you have become less interested in professional football? The most common reason given, accounting for 17 percent of the those who answered, was: "Player protesting national anthem/Colin Kaepernick."

It is clear from the numbers here that his protest, or at least the debate that ensued after it, did decrease the interest of a significant percentage of fans.

It seems that those who gave his protest as a reason for their decreased interest would prefer to keep politics separate from sports. However, history would suggest that this is not an easy thing to do, and that the debate that this started is not slowing down any time soon.