“Though many of our nation’s service members are unable to be home with family and friends to enjoy this evening’s American tradition, they are always in our thoughts and prayers. We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life. Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner. We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the national anthem.”
This Sunday, before the Super Bowl began, President Trump issued the following statement [via CNN]:
As Politico stated in their piece, it was the President’s attempt to “not-so-subtly” remind everyone of the anthem-protest controversy before a game where “no players were expected to kneel”.
Sadly, it’s a tactic that will most likely work.
According to The New York Times, regular season ratings are down down 12 percent this year. In September, view of the NFL went from 73 percent favorable in August to 42 percent favorable among males aged 34-54.
When asked, 61% say they dislike how politicized the game has become (ie. anthem protests and the discussion surrounding Colin Kaepernick).
Part of that is most likely due to a general decline in TV viewership. Five million people were expected to “cut the cord” and cancel cable in 2017; the year before, two million people cancelled their subscriptions. But there are other factors that might be contributing to it. For instance, there are the studies that link pro-football to brain damage in 99% of players. However, this appears to be a lesser factor, as data indicates that the majority of viewers (77%) don’t really care how football affects the players. More than twice as many people are upset about the protests.
So, if you truly believe, as implied by these results from the Burson-Marsteller survey, that the anthem protests are the reason for such a huge drop in NFL ratings, then Trump’s actions make sense. His goal becomes very clear: continue to politicize the protests in order to keep the viewers on his side.
It’s not a terrible strategy. There no doubt are a lot of people who agree with Trump’s opinion, and it surely accounts for part of the league’s drop in popularity. However, CBS CEO Les Moonves thinks there might be another reason the NFL is getting bad ratings: the market is saturated.
With NBC, CBS, ESPN, Fox Sports, Verizon, the NFL Network, Amazon Prime and Twitter all trying to broadcast NFL content, there are no shortage of NFL content deals. But, as another “high-ranking TV executive” told Recode.net: “If you expand the number of windows but don’t do anything to create more national-quality games, then you are stretching the inventory pretty thin.”
In short, the league may have overextended themselves.