As the NFL season gave way to the playoffs, everyone from league officials to television executives to social commentators are evaluating the continuing precipitous drop in viewership of the country’s most popular sport.
I shared my thoughts on what was the biggest factor behind the decreasing interest a month ago, but in addition to the devastating injuries, certainly the emergence of alternative viewing options besides cable has had a significant impact. And then there are those infamous and apparently pointless anthem protests.
Diehard Trump fans were the most likely to belligerently recoil at the spectacle, which morphed from protests over police brutality into a protest of Donald Trump, and then proceeded to morph into a bevy of personal crusades and pet causes. And the raw numbers indicate the number of annoyed fans wasn’t small:
[S]urveys over the last year have consistently shown that a sizable percentage of fans have been turned off by the divisive protests, one survey showing a quarter of fans listing the disrespect of the flag as the number one reason they're tuning out the league.
Organizations like the Baltimore Ravens didn’t ignore that reality as they stared at empty suites, boycotting season ticket holders, and bare bleacher seats in the face. Instead they sent out a pandering “please come back” mea culpa to fans. Still, even in the midst of a playoff race, it didn’t help.
So, while the league tries to piece together how to navigate player politics with fan anger, it seems fair to at least draw this simple conclusion about the protests: they didn’t work. The players have ended the protests, but has anything changed? No. They didn’t work.
If the purpose was to provoke dialogue about police violence, they didn’t work.
If the purpose was to turn NFL fans against Donald Trump’s meddling, they didn’t work.
If the purpose was to “end systemic racism,” according to the very social justice warriors who still claim such systemic racism exists, they didn’t work.
Now, it’s certainly fair to conclude they didn’t work because pigheaded white fans wouldn’t listen.
It’s also fair to conclude they didn’t work because left-wing sports media completely overplayed their hand, desperately hoping they themselves could be part of chronicling something more important than balls and goalposts.
And yes, it’s also fair to conclude they didn’t work because they were poorly planned, poorly organized, poorly defined, and poorly implemented.
I've got my own guesses and other people will have theirs. But with the season in the books, this much we can all know for certain: they didn’t work.