Colin Kaepernick, Day 41: Irony

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Through the first four weeks of the NFL season viewership on major networks is down about 10% from last season. Even ratings for Monday Night Football are down. A multitude of reasons have been speculated for this decline: loss of viewers to the presidential news cycle, declining quality on the field, the absence of marquee names such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Tony Romo, and Colin Kaepernick backlash. Fans may be protesting the protesters.

As national anthem protests begun by Colin Kaepernick spread throughout the NFL in order to bring attention to issues of social injustice and racial inequality in the United States, many fans have expressed their anger at these actions. A Yahoo/YouGov poll found that 47% of respondents opposed the anthem protests. This same poll found that 44% of NFL fans said they would stop watching football if more NFL players started following Kaepernick’s example.

Similarly, in a recent Rasmussen poll 32% of respondents said they are less likely to watch an NFL game because of the growing number of Black Lives Matter protests by players on the field.

However, to attribute the decline in ratings to Colin Kaepernick and the other NFL players who engage in the national anthem protests seems inaccurate. Viewership for live sports has been on the decline, the NFL simply hadn’t experienced the same falls as other sports. The NFL is overtly patriotic, even if it has been paid for  by the U.S. military. But the revelation of this patriotism-for-pay scandal did not seem to move the needle with fans.

It’s not as though the NFLNFL coachesNFL commentators or NFL players universally support these protests. Many vehemently oppose them. Numerous NFL teams are not participating in the protests at all.

In what way do these protests ruin the viewing experience? A few players on some NFL teams kneel and/or raise their fist during the national anthem before the game starts. NFL players didn’t even stand for the national anthem until 2009. And until these protests increased the entertainment value of the anthem, it wasn’t shown on television. Did that stop fans from watching the games?

You don’t have to watch the national anthem. Unless the very thought of a potentially kneeling player ruins your viewing experience. In that case, you probably weren’t much of a fan in the first place.




  1. Glancing around the internet, it’s interesting to note the one factor many aren’t seriously considering: concussions. The election cycle wouldn’t normally be enough to pull diehard fans away from their favorite sport and I agree with you, what players do or don’t do during the Anthem probably has little to do with viewership. But this concussion thing has people thinking – and reconsidering the sport – and it’s showing up in everything from prominent personalities (ex NFLers among them) saying they would not allow their own kids to play football to recruitment for youth football. The reality of what happens to boxers’ brains over the course of a career took a long time to seep into the public conscience, but once it did boxing’s never been the same. I suspect there are other factors at play as well: inconsistent rules policies, the apparent league favoritism of some teams over others, players who are increasingly unrelatable to average Americans and pernicious nexus of high definition TV at home verses human eyes on the field making calls… So… Is there a tipping point approaching? When everyone watches football, everyone watches football – it’s what people gather around to do on Sundays and talk about on Mondays. But when people start opting out, more people will opt and find other things to do on Sundays and to talk about on Mondays. Kind regards, Jack


    1. You make a salient point regarding concussions. But I don’t know the transition between understanding the effects of football on the brain and not wanting to play to understanding the effects and not wanting to watch. I’m sure there is overlap between the two but I don’t know how significant it might be.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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