Sunday’s ratings show the NFL is truly struggling. Since the “take a knee” protests became more prominent, viewership is down five percent from the first half of the 2016 season, and down almost 20 percent from the same period in 2015 [NFL Anthem Protests Continue To Smack League’s Broadcasters And Sponsors, by Mike Ozanian, Forbes, November 3, 2017]. Sunday Night Football just hit a new season low [TV Ratings: ‘Sunday Night Football’ Hits Season Low, by Joe Otterson, November 6, 2017].
Attendance is also down at stadiums around the country [Backlash: Week 6 of the NFL reveals several nearly empty stadiums as fans continue to leave the league, by Dylan Gwinn, Breitbart, October 16, 2017]. Football is also reportedly now the “least liked” sport in America [Shock poll: NFL now least liked sport, core fans down 31%, by Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, October 7, 2017].
A poll from October also reports more than half of those who are watching football less identify the protests as the reason [Seton Hall Sports Poll on ‘Kneeling’ Question to Just NFL Fans, by Marty Appel, Seton Hall University, October 11, 2017]. Among them is the sportscaster Vin Scully, who has said he will “never again” watch the NFL. [Vin Scully: I’ll Never Watch NFL Again Thanks To Protests, TMZ, November 5, 2017]
Though the “Take A Knee” protests have slowed in some ways, they are continuing, with scattered acts of disrespect during the anthem during Week 9 [Scattered NFL protests continue for ninth week, by Brett Samuels, The Hill, November 5, 2017]. And there is always the potential for another flashpoint. Houston Texans Bob McNair saying “we can’t have inmates running the asylum” prompted almost all his players to “take a knee” during Week 8 in protest [Most Houston Texans kneel during National Anthem, by Jacqueline Thomsen, The Hill, October 29, 2017].
No matter what the NFL and the owners do at this point, they are going to infuriate someone.
Affirmative Action bloviator Michael Harriot [Tweet him]claims white people being angry out the NFL protests are an example of how “white supremacy” works. He maintains the players’ actions are not “a reflection of how they felt about the flag or the anthem”. [The NFL Protests Are A Perfect Study of How White Supremacy Works, The Root, October 23, 2017]
But the man who started the protests, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, specifically said he was protesting because “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppressed black people and people of color.” Kaepernick subsequently wore socks portraying police as pigs and compared officers to “runaway slave patrols”. [NFL’s Kaepernick Compares Cops To Fugitive Slave Patrols, Fox News, June 18, 2017]He also donated a group named after cop-killer Assata Shakur. [Colin Kaepernick donated $25,000 to group honoring convicted cop-killer, by Valerie Richardson, Washington Times, September 28, 2017]
Notwithstanding this, Leftists are campaigning aggressively for Kaepernick to be rehired by the NFL and Kaepernick himself is accusing owners of collusion against him. Indeed, some Main stream Media supporters are suggesting the reason the NFL’s ratings are down is because he’s no longer in the league, thus preparing the way for him to be rehired and given a hero’s welcome [Does the NFL Need Kaepernick for ratings? Week 9 Quarterback Play Sucked, by Teddy Cutler, Newsweek, November 6, 2017].
Needless to say, this would only spark more opposition from the NFL’s mostly white fans—most likely led by President Trump himself. Trump already called for protesting players to be fired, meaning that if Kaepernick returned, the Commander-in-Chief would likely interpret it is a personal attack. [Read President Trump's NFL Speech on National Anthem Protests, by Aric Jenkins, Time, September 23, 2017] The President is also likely to be triggered by Kaepernick’s reported $1 million book deal. [Colin Kaepernick reportedly lands $1 million book deal, Fox News, October 25, 2017]
The NFL is caught because both sides are hardening their positions. For example, Vice President Mike Pence already drew national headlines when he simply walked out of an NFL game after the anthem was disrespected in early October. This lead to an incredible meltdown from Leftist sportswriters [Pence walks out of an NFL game and sports journalists lose their collective minds, by Peter Heck, Fox News, October 9, 2017]. A black personality on ESPN slammed the President as a “white supremacist” [ESPN’s Jemele Hill stands by her statement that Trump is a white supremacist, by Erik Wimple, Washington Post, September 15, 2017]. Not surprisingly, ESPN’s ratings are also down, though the Main Stream Media is demanding its readers not associate this with the network’s politicization [Don’t Blame Jemele Hill For ESPN’s Ratings Problem, by Madeline Berg, Forbes, October 10, 2017].
And the racial outbursts from black players are becoming more explicit, with defensive end Michael Bennett raising a black power last month to “show Black Pride” [Michael Bennett's NFL black power salute could change sports protest, The Guardian, by Latria Graham, September 19, 2017]. Remember how Tom Brady was lambasted by the MSM after a photographer snapped a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker?
Many white people have based their very identity on collegiate and professional sports teams, allowing a thrilling victory or demoralizing defeat to influence their moods for days. The National Anthem protests are a kind of shock therapy to break European-Americans away from the “opiate of America.”
Just like America, the NFL is falling apart into warring tribes. There’s even a parallel with the war over monuments. At the very time statues to Confederate generals, Christopher Columbus or the Founding Fathers are being vandalized, many fans are furious over a statue of retired NFL linebacker Ray Lewis. It received ever protection after a petition was signed by 36,000 people calling for its removal because Lewis joined current players in refusing to stand during the National Anthem. [Extra security placed near Ray Lewis statue after petition urges its removal, by Jeff Barker, Baltimore Sun, September 27, 2017]
Not surprisingly, many NFL sponsors like Papa Johns are becoming anxious, trying to toe the line between black and white customers [Papa John’s and other brands are grilling the NFL over National Anthem protests – here’s how all of the league’s sponsors have responded, by Kate Taylor and Dennis Green, Business Insider, November 7, 2017]. But they will not be able to do this forever: the two constituencies they are trying to appease have less and less in common.
Showing respect to the flag and to the National Anthem is probably the lowest standard for civic nationalism that could exist. But it is something America of which is no longer capable. And even a football game is now a battleground.
What’s different this time is that thanks to President Trump, the European-Americans who have been subsidizing the people who hate them are finally fighting back in this Culture War.
Paul Kersey[Email him] is the author of the blog SBPDL, and has published the books SBPDL Year One, Hollywood in Blackface and Escape From Detroit, Opiate of America: College Football in Black and White and Second City Confidential: The Black Experience in Chicagoland. His latest book is The Tragic City: Birmingham 1963-2013.