One of the startling revelations this Fall has been the steep decline in NFL ratings on a nationwide basis. Local audiences are tuning into their local games at a near average rate but games that are broadcast nationally have seen a dramatic drop off in viewership. Media pundits have hypothesized along with league executives that the drop off can be traced to the 2016 Presidential election coverage but that simply does not fly. The viewers revolt is an accumulation of five factors that have them saying enough already. Listed in order of affect are the five factors we have identified causing the decrease in national viewers.
National Anthem Protests
These protests by players is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The other four items on the list have been contributing for several years but the National Anthem protests by NFL players is the final straw. As we all know, the majority of NFL players are African Americans but the majority of NFL viewers are Caucasians, as is our national population. These viewers are extremely proud of this country and for what it stands. These viewers also do not claim America to be a perfect country. When they spend their hard-earned money to see a football game, or go to a concert, or watch a movie they want a break from the realities of life. They don’t want to see someone protesting the very symbol that has allowed these entertainers to enjoy a life of luxury the fan can only imagine. It is insulting and they have finally realized they are under no obligation to support someone who is throwing mud in their face.
The NFL has completely diluted the product with the additional games on Thursday night, early Sunday morning, Sunday night and Monday night. Part of the allure of the NFL was the limited exposure it had. The season was only 16 weeks long; games were only played on Sunday afternoons accompanied by a Monday night showcase. MNF games were top tier games. The announcers were entertainers as much as they were sportscasters. You had John Madden, Howard Cosell, Dandy Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. What do you have today? Cris Collingsworth? Jon Gruden? Phil Simms? Jim Nantz? Joe Buck? Troy Aikman? Yawn! Too many games and boring announcers is killing the product.
There is tepid outrage from the public over the NFL’s cover up of the damage concussions cause to players. The public’s outrage is not so much over the damage to NFL players but the damage playing football causes to their kids and the reports that the NFL knew this and attempted to disqualify the studies. Mothers are expressing more of a voice in their son’s playing the sport which has shown in some markets a decrease in youth football enrollments upwards of twenty percent.
There is a reason why the NFL now stands for the No Fun League. They have completely taken the joy out of scoring in the league. Part of the excitement of sports is watching athletes celebrate their accomplishments. No more dunking the football on the crossbar. No more group celebrations. No more this. No more that. The NFL needs to lighten up. No one is being armed by these celebrations. Kids are more influenced by video games Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto than they are by a player spinning the football like a top.
If it was up to this writer, greed would be at the top of the list. But my editor assures me not everyone is astute as I am in the economics of sports. His words, not mine. So, in the limited space I am provided let me attempt to educate you. Owners are billionaires, players are multi-millionaires. Owners want communities to build them stadiums and give them tax breaks. Players are paid millions by corporate sponsors on top of their NFL contracts. Corporations sponsor stadiums. Shoe companies sponsor players. The cost of razors increase to $20 for six razors. The cost of a pair of sneakers go up to $200. The cost of a decent seat at a football game is over $200. The cost to take a son or daughter to a game is over $600 when you factor in seats, parking, food and merchandise. Owners threaten to relocate their team if the community does not build them a billion-dollar state of the art stadium. Players threaten to sit out if owners don’t renegotiate their contracts. Sportswriters publicly admonish team executives for not paying players the multi-million dollar salary increase they are demanding. The casual fan says enough. The newspaper folds. The sportswriter is out of a job. The propaganda arm of the NFL goes away. Ratings go down. You see where this is going.