The Verdict Is In: Politics and Sport Don’t Mix
Like spitting in the wind, that Colin Kaepernick thing has come back to hit the NFL in the face.
There’s little need to go into great detail. Kaepernick started his own protest movement when he wore socks depicting cops as pigs back in August 2016. He knelt during the national anthem and grew out his afro, but after a year he had attracted only a handful of supporters. He also lost some of his platform, since he’s not been a member of any NFL team since March. Along the way he was said to be crusading for equality, for justice, and for an end to racism in America. But by dissing the national anthem, he also got backlash from those proclaiming love for their country and those who support U.S. servicemen.
Then, on September 22 President Donald Trump roundly criticized Kaepernick and his followers, and things exploded into a full-fledged partisan war. Supporters of Kaepernick ballooned to around 200 NFL players. Under great pressure to be seen as compassionate and politically correct, the usual suspects were drawn into the fray. Commissioner Roger Goodell of course wanted to be on the right side. Somewhat surprisingly, Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy felt compelled to issue a mushy statement. Coach Mike McCarthy even added his two cents worth.
Aaron Rodgers, who regularly strays from his area of expertise – throwing a football – epitomized those who felt the need to jump on the bandwagon. In describing why he and his teammates decided to lock arms during the anthem before the Thursday night game, Rodgers proclaimed: “On this team, we’re going to keep choosing love over hate, unity over division, and that’s what it was to us.”
There’s no doubt that these rich, pampered, powerful, and white guys thought they’d be lauded for their moral sensibilities, that they’d be applauded for their humanity, and that they’d only enhance the NFL brand – and pocketbooks. I’m sure some thought maybe they could also cleanse some of the guilt from their white souls.
The Verdict Is In
It matters not what I think. The American people have spoken, and they have done so in lightning-quick fashion.
A poll by Politico indicated that on September 21, 30 percent of those asked rated the NFL favorably. Not so good. But one week later, the rating had fallen to a low of 17 percent — the lowest rating this poll has ever measured on the question.
The same poll revealed that just 35 percent of responders believed the league has a positive impact in their communities. That’s a 10 percent drop from September 13.
A Rasmussen poll conducted in September found that fans are 34 percent less likely to watch an NFL game due to the protests that have occurred during the national anthem.
Another poll found that 44 percent of fans said they’d stop watching NFL games if protests that demeaned the anthem continued. While I don’t believe this would occur, I believe it does accurately portray fans’ sentiments.
Lastly, a J.D. Power poll showed it was the connection to the anthem that was the primary reason for the way the fans felt.
Effects on the Game
TV ratings are equally revealing. The NFL’s season opener between the Patriots and Chiefs was rated at 14.6, which is 11.5 percent down from a year ago, and 17.5 percent down from 2015.
Though all kinds of excuses were made, when the week 2 ratings flowed in, a CNN report on September 20 indicated that ratings continue to be down for the year. CNN added that NFL football is the biggest ratings driver on TV.
On September 25, following the NFL’s week 3 Sunday games, Entertainment Weekly posted an article with this opening line: “The NFL’s ratings took a knee Sunday night.” Viewership of the Sunday Night Football game was down about 10 percent compared to that of last year. Writer Frank Pallotta asked: “So is it time for the league and its TV partners to panic once again? The answer is that it’s simply too early to tell.”
For Goodell and his spinmeisters and bean counters, all those You Tube images of fans burning their NFL player jerseys — and at least one claiming to be burning his upcoming game tickets — must be particularly distressing.
But with each successive game the trend continues. The Packers’ romp over the Bears on Thursday night was yet another low-rated affair. MSN News had this to say: The lack of viewers for Thursday night’s NFL game between the Packers and the Bears showed that pushing politics on one of America’s favorite sports can drive spectators away.”
There’s your lesson, people: keep politics out of football!