NFL players – and even owners – may feel the need to kneel during the national anthem, but it could cost them fans who might stop attending games or watching them on television. Just as we’ve seen in academia and on ESPN over the last 12 months, sports are also not immune from the laws of free markets.
Whether you describe the protests as anti-American or you just want politics out of sports, one thing is for certain: Americans aren’t pleased with what is being presented on the field or their screens.
Prevent Defense Possible
In the marketplace, consumers can vote with their wallets. If they like a brand, they can show their love with the dollars and cents in their pockets. On the other hand, if they dislike a business, then they can highlight their disdain by refusing to purchase any goods or services from them.
Is the same thing happening in the NFL?
Some analysts warn that the football league may lose as much as $200 million in lost advertising revenue and earnings this season. This stems from the fact that television ratings are tanking: Week Three’s Sunday Night Football game was down 9% compared to last week and 11% versus last year. Across-the-board, football viewership is fumbling by as much as 25%.
As a result, the stock market has been selling the companies that broadcast NFL games. Shares in Comcast, Walt Disney, Fox and CBS tumbled between 1% and 8% on Monday.
The optics of it all are horrendous. For those who still watch football on Thursdays, Sundays or Mondays, viewers see fans booing the players for their actions. This was put on display on Sunday in the New England Patriots-Houston Texans game.
Even in-person attendance is on the decline. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, there have been multiple reports of empty stadiums across the country, and the images of half-full arenas have been “a massive embarrassment for the league.”
You can come up with all the excuses in the world – time priorities, online streaming, DVR – but there is one particular factor that can’t be omitted from the conversation: #TakeaKnee.
Do You #TakeaKnee?
When Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling through “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it was meant to protest racial injustice and police brutality. But the hysterical left has taken over the movement and transformed it into a demonstration against President Donald Trump.
Kaepernick, who has been unemployed this season, has yet to garner fan support. And it’s not just because of his exorbitant $126 million contract; many fans want to politics out of sports.
In September 2016, a Reuters study and a SurveyMonkey poll found that a majority of Americans did not approve of the quarterback’s kneeling during the national anthem. Interestingly enough, most of those respondents conceded that Kaepernick should not be punished for exercising his constitutional right.
You see? It isn’t because of racism or white supremacy that Americans are not hopping on the kneeling bandwagon. It’s because they just want to watch a bunch of overpaid athletes throw a ball around, not engage in political discourse.
At the same time, many Americans are not afraid to show their support for an athlete who merely adores his country. The No. 78 jersey for Pittsburgh Steelers player Alejandro Villanueva, who served three tours of duty, has quickly become a bestseller because he was alone among the Steelers in deciding to stand for the national anthem and show his respect for Old Glory. As of Monday morning, Villanueva has seen his jersey become one of the top sellers in the U.S., sitting behind only Tom Brady, Marshawn Lynch, and Aaron Rogers. Villanueva has since been somewhat chided by his coach, who revealed that he expected “100% participation” in the team’s move to stay in the locker room.
Perhaps love of country and respect for the flag are favored by the marketplace.
Into the Red Zone
Opposition to the knees and chains is only intensifying. Across social media, there are many fans, particularly in Pittsburgh, who are recording themselves destroying their sports gear.
One of the biggest concerns in the sports world right now is that this controversy seeps into other leagues. Unfortunately, we may be past the point of no return.
On Saturday, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem. This may have been expected if you read his Twitter and Instagram feeds prior to the game. He tweeted:
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell confirmed to reporters over the weekend that the organization will “fully support” their players to act how they wish during the national anthem. This type of drama may not bode well for a team that has already endured a plethora of cheating allegations during the 2017 MLB season.
In the end, there may be one sport that could benefit from all this hullabaloo: NASCAR, a sport that has failed to remain relevant in recent years.
Liberty Nation’s Leesa K. Donner explains that NASCAR is taking an entirely different approach to the nationwide protests. She quoted a few leaders, including NASCAR legend and team owner Richard Petty, who said:
“Anybody that won’t stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”
Infection of Sports with Politics
In the age of Trump, sports and politics have converged, and now it is splitting up fanbases and teams. It’s a shame. We consume baseball and basketball, cricket and curling to escape the daily treacheries of life, not to engage in politics.
Does anyone really care what Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi thinks about the top marginal tax rate? Does anyone lose sleep not knowing what New York Knicks center Joakim Noah’s opinion is on trade tariffs? Does anyone ever ask what Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin’s stance is on the North Korean situation?
Athletes may want to bend down during the national anthem, but you can’t force fans to accept or support those actions. The market will eventually dictate if the sports landscape needs more politics. Preliminary results suggest that the trend has not been well-received.
The merger of sports and politics hasn’t worked out well for ESPN. It likely won’t turn out well for others. So, here is a hashtag that should start trending: #PlaytheGame. Short, sweet, non-partisan, uncontroversial, and to the point.
Do you support or oppose kneeling during the national anthem? Let us know in the comments section!