So it started last year, this third-string quarterback on the edge of being cut makes a big production out of not standing for the National Athem because “oppression.” (Dammit, can somebody oppress me with an $11 million contract?)
Suddenly, the fact that nobody wants this third string quarterback is political. He’s not being cut because he’s bad, oh no. He’s being cut because…racism. And other teams don’t want to hire him, not because he’s bad but because, again, racism. (70% of professional football players are black compared with 13.3% of the US population in general.)
And the story grows. Other players begin to not only not stand but to expressly kneel as further protest.
What they’re protesting? Um, that’s a good one. Aside from a general “America bad” and “Trump bad” this isn’t particularly clear. And the usual suspects in the media cheer their “courage”.
And the result of this? People are attending fewer games. Fewer people are tuning in on television. And fewer people are buying less NFL merchandise (with some notable exceptions which I’ll get to).
You see, they forgot one thing. The people who are impressed by this protest, in the vast majority don’t. watch. football. games. They couldn’t care less about the sport except now to point to the protesters on “their side.” But the thing is, that care, that pointing and saying “see, they agree with us”, doesn’t translate into actual sales. These protests aren’t pulling those people into stadiums. They aren’t getting them to buy player jerseys or NFL logo apparel or, really anything.
The folk applauding the logo aren’t becoming football fans.
The actual fans, on the other hand, are annoyed, offended, and insulted. And. they’re. staying. away. Sales are tanking.
So what are the teams, and the NFL administration doing?
The coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers decides they’re not going out on the field until after the anthem. Only one player, Alejandro Villanueva, defied that decision, Villaneuva, a combat veteran, stood alone on his side of the field for the National Anthem. Of course since then, he’s been “convinced” into apologies for doing so.
I made coach (Mike) Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only. I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault.
No, Mr. Villaneuva. They made themselves look bad.
As for the fans, Mr. Villaneuva’s jersey is the best seller in the NFL. People are voting with their wallets.
And there you have it. While I’d be the last person to say that players don’t have the right to peacefully protest as they see fit, I would say that fans also have the right to not buy tickets to games. That they have the right to not order pay-per-view showings of games. That they have the right to not buy merchandise.
And if these protests cost the owners of these teams money (and it’s not just the team the individual players play for. There’s some complicated rules on how income is distributed among teams that means it hurts everyone in the league) then the owners (within the limits of existing contracts) have the right to replace them with players that don’t cost them money.
I mean, come on, this is the league that fined a player for twerking in the end zone. You think it’s not within their purview to speak out against politicking on the field, particularly when it’s driving away their fanbase?