Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My View on NFL Protests and Television Viewership

So, after two NFL seasons of hubbub about kneeling during the National Anthem, I might as well wade into the controversy.

My short take: a bunch of ‘much to do about nothing’; a politicized outcry about two percent of all NFL players who are protesting. What about the other 98% - jeopardize their livelihoods? Makes no sense to chop off the 98 percent to slap the 2 percent.

In 2016, then San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting what he saw in policing and the black population by not standing for the anthem. Actually, he sat for the first two preseason games. Then, Nate Boyer, a green beret who served multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, suggested to Kaepernick that kneeling would be much more respectful to him and other veterans rather than just sitting. 

Repeat: Boyer advised that kneeling would be much more respectful than sitting.

The kneeling began after that suggestion from Boyer. The green beret. The decorated military man who also played football.

An odd fact: we found out this year that NFL running back Marshawn Lynch had been sitting for the National Anthem for eleven years. 11 years - for no apparent reason. And no one cared. But Lynch is one of the most eccentric people in the world and no reporter probably even cared what he did on the sidelines.

Kaepernick on the other hand, a few yards short of winning a Super Bowl, was a different matter. Easily recognizable across the NFL and American sports landscape. 

As we found out this year, Kaepernick essentially sacrificed his NFL career for his stance. I don’t think he cares that his football career is over; he is taking his fight onward through his foundation. That what makes America great – creating nonprofits for a cause or for a stance.

Number 45 fired up the NFL base of players and owners calling any NFL protestor a son of a bitch. Even ardent number 45 supporters such as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was not happy with that comment. But as with a lot of things in America today, the disdain was short lived.

Despite the decrease in television viewership for NFL games, the advertising money has increased. Why? Well, NFL games were an anomaly for the last few years. Television viewership in general had decreased the last few years but not for NFL games until the last two years. For advertisers on television, NFL games are still gold even with the decrease compared to other television advertising options.

But as American ways of seeing things and watching things continue to change, I think television viewership in general across the board will change significantly. Cord-cutters have increased; people who stream online are not counted as viewers. Traditional pay TV (cable, satellite, telephone companies) lost 1.7 million subscribers in 2016 and more than 2.6 million cut the cord through September of 2017. Cord cutters use streaming Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime companies plus free over-the-air antennas to supplement their viewing.

Plus, football’s violent nature has been documented to affect the human brain. There are some longtime football families who no longer want a part of it.  This new cultural outlook has affected the game as well. 

We are on a shifting scenery of change, not very comforting to those of us who want the world to slow down a little – it’s easy to take advantage of these shifts for political gain. And again, that may be short lived too.

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