Every now and then some news comes across the transom that makes even someone as bullish on America as I am think twice. Today the development darkening my outlook is the appearance of evidence that TV ratings for pro football are down significantly so far this year because of fan resentment of the national anthem protests some players have staged.
There’s little uncertainty left about the ratings, as indicated by this post – though of course it’s still early in the season, and circumstances can change. What’s less certain is the cause, as some analysts have blamed sloppy play and/or inept officiating in the National Football League (NFL). But at least one prominent analyst of the sports business claims a prominent role for reactions against the political views and gestures of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others. Moreover, a “boycott NFL” movement has sprung up on the internet.
As I’ve written, I fully support the players’ constitutional right to express their views at the games, but don’t believe that such contests are the best venue for sending their message. But if the boycott movement really is taking hold, that would bug me big-time for a somewhat different reason: for what this success would reveal about the cockeyed priorities of pro football followers.
Why do I say this? Because two years ago, another boycott movement tried to get off the ground – to protest pro football’s long, shameful record of indifference (at best) to domestic violence incidents involving its athletes. I personally was so troubled by the number and severity of these reports that I swore off football on TV myself. And do you know what happened? Squadoosh! Ratings that year were as strong as ever. I continued my own boycott even after these depressing results became apparent, but the following season concluded there was no point, and returned to the tube.
I certainly don’t oppose the current, anthem-related boycott movement. Upset fans have just as strong a right to express their own views through their viewing choices as the protesters do. But it seems that many fans who are boycotting for anthem-related reasons didn’t let the wife- and girlfriend-beating cases ever disturb their Sunday afternoons, or Monday or Thursday nights. I’m glad I won’t ever have to explain that choice to my kids.