It’s been the talk of the NFL season. The national anthem has garnered more attention than the Joe Burrow hype. What will teams do for the national anthem? Will they stand, kneel, or remain in the locker room? For many fans, it’s getting to be too much. Will fans actually stop watching the NFL because of the national anthem?
Initial NFL ratings are down
The ratings from Thursday night’s opener between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs are down from last year’s first game. According to CNBC, the game averaged 19.3 million viewers for the night. That number was a 12% drop from last years’ opener between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.
NBC Sports said the game peaked at 22 million viewers between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m. Eastern. Although the numbers have dropped from a year ago, the network said that this was the lone sporting event to surpass 20 million viewers at one point since last year’s Super Bowl. Last year’s Packers/Bears game peaked at 23.9 million viewers.
There are several factors that could’ve played a role in the decline. The likely scenario is that the NFL and its players have gone heavy on taking a stance on social justice. Many viewers have said they have grown tired of the messages and want to get away from it all by watching sports. The pandemic has also forced the NBA and NHL into having their playoffs at this time. Those leagues are usually finished by June.
The NBA set the tone
The NBA and its players went very heavy with their stance on social justice. The league, which normally has a rule stating players must stand for the national anthem, lightened up on that rule to allow players to voice their opinions on the social injustices taking part in the country. Players used their platform to make their voices heard after the death of George Floyd on May 25.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver allowed players to wear social justice messages such as “Black Lives Matter” or Freedom” across the backs of their jerseys. The NBA court had “Black Lives Matter” written down the sideline. Players kneeled in unity during the national anthem as the season restarted back on July 30.
After Jacob Blake was shot by police in Wisconsin, the NBA turned it up a notch. The Milwaukee Bucks refused to come out for Game 5 of their playoff matchup with the Orlando Magic in protest of the shooting. Other teams followed suit, and games were postponed over a three-day stretch.
Fans’ voices are being heard
Fans are getting fed up. Ed Burton, the owner of Starlight Club, a bar in Oklahoma, is willing to take the financial hit by not showing sports if players kneel during the national anthem. “That’s disrespectful to our country and to all the men and women that have fought for and died for this country, to give those people the right to protest in whatever way that they want to,” Burton said, according to Newsweek. “But we also have the right to protest against what they’re doing because we feel like that’s wrong.”
The national anthem is taking center stage and is the key to many fans. Many have said they will boycott the league if players will kneel. The NFL will survive, but lower ratings will have a trickle-down effect on player salaries. The less money taken in due to lower TV ratings means there likely won’t be an increase in the salary cap.
Burton was asked what sports he would show if the NBA and NFL players kneel for the anthem. He said golf, rodeos, hunting, fishing, and “anything where they don’t protest by taking a knee and disrespecting the national anthem.”