Public perception varies in the way three athletes -- Kyrie Irving, Aaron Rodgers and Novak Djokovic -- have handled their decision to not get vaccinated for COVID-19 over the past several months, according to a survey conducted for ESPN.
A majority of fans approve of how Irving has handled his decision, the survey conducted by Hart Research found. Overall, more respondents approve of how the Brooklyn Nets star has handled his vaccination status (45%) than disapprove (40%, with 15% saying they don't know). Those numbers climb to 46% approval, 41% disapproval and 13% don't know for self-described NBA fans.
For Rodgers, 49% of fans disapprove of how the Green Bay Packers quarterback has handled his vaccination status, with 40% approving and 11% not sure. The numbers are the same for all fans and self-described NFL fans.
For Djokovic, 46% of all fans and 48% of tennis fans disapprove of how he handled his vaccination status in relation to the Australian Open (he was eventually deported from Australia before the tournament started after discrepancies were found in his visa application). However, 42% of all fans and 43% of tennis fans approve.
Overall, the survey found that two in three sports fans want to see athletes vaccinated (66% to 34%), 55% agree that athletes have a responsibility to publicly disclose whether they are vaccinated (36% disagree; 8% do not have a feeling one way or the other), and 59% think unvaccinated players are hurting their team because they are more likely to miss games (33% disagree; 8% don't have a feeling one way or the other).
But 56% of those surveyed agree that unvaccinated players are standing up for their own rights by choosing not to get vaccinated (36% disagree; 8% are undecided).
The study was conducted for ESPN by Hart Research during Jan. 16-18 and surveyed 1,002 adults 18 and over in a nationally representative online survey.