It isn’t just the fake God & Country crowd that’s pissed. And they shouldn’t be the only ones raising hell.
A lot of noise is being made about NFL fans boycotting the league this year because it won’t “do something” about (mostly black) players taking a knee during the (apparently quite racist) national anthem to protest racial injustice.
Some folks have pointed to ratings being down last year and claimed that as evidence of people sick of “inappropriate protests.” Well, maybe, but The Atlantic notes there are a lot of factors to be considered.
To explain the mystery of cascading football ratings, observers have pointed to several potential culprits. In the autumn of 2016, analysts blamed the election and Donald Trump’s nonstop antics for pulling viewers’ attention from football to the presidential campaigns. Last year, they blamed players’ protests and the president’s relentless tweeting. But now evidence is mounting that the NFL’s problems are deeper than political story lines and social-media distractions.
Quite simply, televised football has a television problem and a football problem. The television problem is prominent yet simple. Fewer people are subscribing to pay TV, which means that ratings are declining for just about everything on cable and broadcast. To pick an example quite different from football: The audience for last weekend’s Grammys telecast declined by nearly 10 million, a stunning 30 percent drop in one year that is related to the fact that cord-cutting is accelerating, leaving fewer people (especially young people) with access to cable TV. Attention has shifted from pay TV to mobile devices, which aggregate football highlights, stats, and fantasy scores, allowing more fans to closely follow the sport without actually watching it live on television.
Other factors? Concussions. Less interesting players?
Instead there is evidence, sometimes circumstantial and often crystal clear, that football has suffered as its most popular players and teams have disappointed, in various ways. NFL ratings peaked several years ago, when some of the greatest quarterbacks in history were in their record-setting primes and most of the league’s most popular teams were competitive.
That’s simply not the case anymore. Many of the most popular and marketable players in the NFL in 2017 are either injured (like Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and J.J. Watt), playing for mediocre or noncompetitive teams (like Russell Wilson, Von Miller, and Eli Manning), or both (like Odell Beckham Jr.). It ought to concern the league that the remainder is composed mostly of quarterbacks aged 35 and over (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger). Of the 10 NFL players with the best-selling jerseys, only one made the playoffs without being injured or suspended: Tom Brady.
What else? Oh, yeah – popular teams sometimes suck.
But it’s not just a dearth of star players; the NFL also suffers when its most popular franchises are suffering. This has been particularly clear in the playoffs, which have shown some of the worst ratings declines of the year. An analysis by the media research firm MoffettNathanson ranked the league’s teams by internet traffic to their official websites. Just four of the 13 most popular teams made the playoffs. But of the 10 least popular teams in the league, half of them made the postseason and played in the first round of the playoffs. It will surprise no one that ratings for that week were dismal, down 20 percent from the previous year.
You tease out the number of folks mad about the protests and let me know.
Meanwhile, there’s another group of people who are really unhappy with how the NFL has handled the movement started by Colin Kaepernick a couple years ago. Those folks? They’re sick of a bunch of rich old crackers putting cash ahead of what’s right. They admire athletes who stand up (or, in this case, kneel) for justice. Billionaires … kneeling for Trump? Not so much.
And a lot of these folks have stopped watching the NFL, too.
Again, I can’t quantify the damage, but it’s real. And if the people I know are representative of a larger sentiment, the impact is significant.
And the latest move by Nike suggests there are a lot more people on my side than the league may suspect. If you missed it, the sports apparel giant has made Kaep the centerpiece of it new anniversary celebration. While heads are a’splodin’ all over in Republican Jesus Country, it behooves us to slow down and think for a second.
Nike knows its customers. As in, really knows them. It’s unlikely any consumer company on the planet has more in the way of customer data, and having worked in the Big Data world for a few years my guess is they know a lot more about you than you’d be comfortable with.
As Corbin Smith explains over at the Daily Beast, Nike is in the business of making money and they don’t throw shit at the walls just to see what will happen. They are not in the social justice business, and if they have taken this sort of “risky” move, you can bet the server farm their data shows that it’s smart business.
If it didn’t, they’d deny they ever heard of Colin Kaepernick.
I love sports and watched football my whole life. But I’m about done. Fuck Trump. Fuck the plantation owners. Fuck Jerry Jones. And fuck this guy. I can live without the NFL, but America can’t live without justice.
So what do you do? Well, here’s some suggestions:
1: Don’t watch. Don’t listen to games on the radio. Don’t watch highlights on ESPN. Don’t play fantasy.
2: Let the media outlets know you aren’t and why.
3: Blog about it. Put it on Facebook. Tweet it. Heck, share this post.
If you can’t bring yourself to turn it off, you can still help move the needle:
4: Keep track of their advertisers.
5: Boycott those products.
6: Write the advertisers and tell them you’re boycotting and why.
7: Each week, use your social accounts to publicize those sponsors and encourage your friends to join you in boycotting. And when you do, make sure you tag the post so their social media team sees it.
It’s hard to be ethically pure in this society, but we do what we can. Especially when we’re choosing between something we need – fairness and justice – and something we merely want.