Each week America might suspect the NFL has taken enough of a beating to regain sanity, and each week the NFL continues to surprise.
I’ll admit up front: I’m not a football guy. I’m not even really a sports guy. But I recognize the historic role of football as a defining piece of American culture and can understand other Americans’ passion for it. I am also a business guy with a particular focus in how formerly successful businesses collapse, and the NFL’s willful freefall should leave everyone thinking, “What are the owners and leaders thinking?!” Maybe Babylon Bee nailed it with their headline, “Amazing! It Took A Few Years, But Tebowing Has Finally Taken Over The NFL.”
My grandfather used to love to tell a story about sticking it to those leftist loonies back when he was mayor of a small town which has since been swallowed by one of the American mega-cities. The city orchestra was not making any money from ticket sales. No one wanted to hear them. I’m not sure if back then it meant more local tax dollars were being forced into a terrible orchestra, but the new mayor intended to find out the problem. First, the orchestra did not open with the national anthem. (Maybe this was a common thing back then, but grandpa’s not around anymore to ask for clarifying detail.) Second, they only played modern avante garde trash and called it music. One of the mucisians’ favorites only required four different horn instruments to sit together and take turns playing whatever favorite note popped into their head at that moment. No sheet music or skill required. So the new mayor used the powers of his office to lay down new policy for the city orchestra. They would henceforth open every performance with the national anthem, and they would play known music that crowds wanted to hear. This resulted in all manner of weeping and gnashing of teeth from the musicians. But the mayor stood firm and said they would either play that way or be officially disbanded. So the orchestra did as they were told and ticket sales surged and paid for the orchestra to continue to operate.
The point is, if you’re in the entertainment business and you expect to turn a profit, then job #1 is TO ENTERTAIN. Strangely, so many companies and creators in movies, TV, books, sports, comic books, video games, tabletop games, and more, have completely forgotten this basic fact.
What’s worse, if that orchestra had opened with the conductor wiping his feet on the American Flag as an act of protesting the Jim Crow laws in the south, they probably would never have recovered because their primary customer base would have been insulted.
If I held some sort of Muslim-focused entertainment event, and opened with burning a Koran as a symbolic protest of the not-so-peaceful elements of the religion of peace, the Muslims would not say, “That’s cool. It’s just a freedom of speech expression and we respect that and are not offended.” Or if I opened an event for Roman Catholics by desecrating a piece of Eucharist in protest of the child predator scandals or maybe as a statement about confusion at the papal levels, guests would not say, “No worries, we respect that. On with the show.” Obviously not.
The point is twofold.
First, if you are in the entertainment business, then your customers handed over their cash expecting to be entertained. Being a captive audience for a political message the customers don’t agree with significantly reduces the entertainment value. It is not entertaining. If the players want to use their freedom of speech to express their political views, fine. Go start an organization. Use your sports fame to record social media messages starting a movement. Place the political message on a platform where folks will go to hear a political message, or athlete-so-and-so’s opinion. Folks attending or tuning into the game gave up their money and time to find out who is really the best at catching and throwing that ball, not to be insulted with accusations from a uniquely American sport that everything about America is evil.
Second, disrespecting the American flag or the national anthem is disrespecting a symbol which represents ALL OF America; EVERYTHING American. You can’t say, “I’m just protesting this one detail of America,” anymore than you can tell the IRS you’re just going to not pay that percent of government spending you disagree with in your taxes. So a protest which disrespects these all-encompassing national symbols certainly succeeds at saying you “don’t like this one thing going on in America.” It also succeeds in saying you have no respect for our ways, any of our cultural values, any of the heroes of our history, or all the men and women who have or are still fighting and bleeding for what this country stands for. You cannot separate the bit of America you’re protesting from all the rest of America.
Disrespecting an all-encompassing symbol of America means you might as well step across the line and stand next to a lead Jihadist or Kim Jong Un and shout, “Yeah! I agree with what he said about America!”
Is The NFL Winning?
Back around Sept 23, Michelle Malkin wisely observed,
“We’re seeing drops in attendance. We’re seeing drops everywhere, in advertising as well and that’s because there’s no business enterprise that is ever going to survive by insulting and trashing its own customer base.”
I could list many companies that strangely began to despise and hate their primary customer base, and went bankrupt shortly thereafter. This was seen en masse during the GamerGate controversy, in which many organization that relied on video game players and enthusiasts as the major customer, began to insult and attack that major customer as a whole. But I’m not going to bore you with beating a dead horse. Let’s stay focused on the NFL.
This political behavior from the NFL isn’t new. Last season, when “bathroom bills” were being debated in many states, the NFL threw its weight against several state governments. In response to a bill in Texas that sought to spell out in law the men are men and women are women as far as public facilities go NFL league spokesman Brian McCarthy said: “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”
Texas governor Abbott responded variously:
“The NFL needs to concentrate on playing football and get the heck out of politics.”
“For some low-level NFL adviser to come out and say that they are going to micromanage and try to dictate to the state of Texas what types of policies we’re going to pass in our state, that’s unacceptable. We don’t care what the NFL thinks and certainly what their political policies are because they are not a political arm of the state of Texas or the United States of America. They need to learn their place in the United States, which is to govern football, not politics.”
Go Texas! Where can the US get more conservatives or Republicans like that?
But the governor had a solid point. Is the NFL about entertainment in the form of professional football? Or are they a PAC with a primary mission of influencing state political policy, even silencing the will of the voters of the state?
Apparently, the NFL didn’t learn and has strongly doubled down this season.
I already gave you Malkin’s sage quote from 9/23. She followed up with a hard hitting political article on 9/28 in which she pointed out the problem with the NFL’s claim that they are a private enterprise whose free speech is under attack by the president’s comments is misleading because the stadiums they play in are supported by billions of tax dollars.
Now I don’t agree that tax dollars given to a private organization should make it subservient to the government, especially if those dollars are open to all qualifying organizations. Grants for adoption agencies, for example, are open to any organization meeting the government requirements for successful adoptions placed. But the recent problem there is that the government has decided that it will no longer offer grants to organizations that do not consider a homosexual household as good as a normal household. This effectively bars all Christian adoption agencies, and effectively becomes the government establishing a religion.
Government money with strings attached is the same reason that most homeschooling parents and organizations are strongly opposed to any sort of government grant or voucher to help them out. Once the cash passes through government hands, they can mandate that getting your cash back requires parents to submit to all sorts of mandates on what they teach their children, which is directly counter to the reason most parents chose to homeschool in the first place. The only way the homeschoolers can be helped without strings attached would be to offer a tax deduction. Let them reduce school taxes paid if they are saving the schools money by taking responsibility for their own kids.
Who competes with the NFL? If a state or local government is offering enormous tax investment for a new football stadium, is it come one come all? And for the same reason the homeschoolers (and strongly Christian schools like Bob Jones University) reject all government grants and handouts, if the NFL takes tax dollars they should expect strings attached.
Later that day on 9/28, the headline pointed out “BACKLASH: NFL Loses First Sponsor Over National Anthem Protest; “Our companies will not condone unpatriotic behavior!”” While it was a significant sized contract for most businesses, it wasn’t that much across the whole NFL. But every bit counts, especially in a down economy. The day before, the same news source pointed out that DirectTV was offering refunds for outraged customers to cancel their NFL package.
The next day, 9/29, saw this shocker:
NFL’s Oakland Raiders Threw Game After White QB Refused To Kneel For National Anthem.
So, now the fans aren’t even going to find out who is the best at moving that football, because professionals are willing to throw a tantrum on game day and deliberately lose in order to punish someone who doesn’t want to participate in their “free speech.” What about the QB’s free speech? Does he not have a right to disagree?
As the satirical article about Tebowing at the top highlights implicitly, this is NOT about free speech, otherwise all manner of free speech would be defended. Instead, it’s about compliance to force an anti-America message into the face of Americans in the stadium and at home.
How’s that working out?
Sports Illustrated notes the Cowboys hard stance about not disrespecting America, and opines:
But as I see it, that was no declaration of war on guys kneeling. I don’t think the Cowboys boss was even talking to players. My feeling: he was talking through the players, and hoping his message would land in living rooms from El Paso to Wichita Falls.
And to explain why, I’ll give you the three words that should serve as your guidepost in explaining almost everything NFL: Follow the money.
The Cowboys need those people in West Texas and on the Oklahoma border to watch. The NFL needs those people tune in too. And the proof came in the ratings not that you read about this week, but rather the ones that were privately presented to the owners over the league’s two-day meetings in lower Manhattan.
They go on to highlight the dismal drop in TV ratings:
You may have already seen the figures from Nielsen that show an overall decline of 7.5 percent in total viewership, comparing this year’s ratings to last year’s, which the NFL believed were down from 2015 because of the election.
What you didn’t see is consistency in how the numbers sunk across the board, something the owners showed concern over inside those meetings rooms. Consider these:
• There are six time-related viewing windows the NFL measures every week. Through six weeks, the NFL’s ratings were down in 22 of 36 windows.
• The NFL’s average household rating is currently 25.1, down from 26.9 over the same period last year, and the 28.1-28.7 range where it sat from 2013-15.
• Twenty-five of 31 teams (excluding the Chargers, because of the move) are drawing lower local numbers than they did in 2016. Nineteen have dropped 5 percent or more, including brand name teams like the Cowboys (7% drop), Patriots (8%) and Steelers (6%), and both New York clubs (the Giants are down 7%, the Jets are down 37%). Conversely, only three teams (Chiefs, Bucs, Lions) have improved by more than 5 percent.
• Digital streaming numbers are improving, but not at the rate that TV numbers are falling. ESPN counts the stream crowd as 3 percent of its viewership of Monday Night Football, which is the best of all the game-carrying networks.
So, America is no longer tuning in to the NFL, because the customers don’t like being insulted as an opening for their entertainment. And as for the stadiums:
“NFL HELL: Several Stadiums Nearly Empty As Anthem Protest Backlash Rolls Into Week 7”
If the NFL thought Americans would ease the backlash against the league — they were sadly mistaken. Photos of empty stadiums from around the league show how dire a situation kneelers have spurred. Stadiums were nearly empty in Week 6, as well.
Note, that the Jets played New England on Sunday, meaning there should have been a big crowd for that game. The Texans, Atlanta, and Baltimore are also very relevant teams with relatively loyal fan bases. Yet, thousands upon thousands of fans no-showed or didn’t buy tickets for those games.
So, America is no longer showing up at stadiums to be insulted either.
Why Does Your Business Exist?
I’m not a fan of wasted, flowery language in business Mission Statements, in which the leaders of the business hang a bunch of great-sounding vague platitudes on every wall, and then ignore it. If you want to see a good write-up on Mission Statements done right, get Jack Welch’s book Winning.
Basically, a mission statement done right is supposed to remind everyone of the reason the business exists. A good mission statement will likely go on to connect into concrete examples of the company values being lived out.
For example, that foreign government agent says he requires a bribe in order for our company to land a contract. Do the leaders of the company expect the employee to say yes or no, or make sure not to tell them how he landed the contract?
What is the mission of the NFL as a business? To entertain fans by letting them find out which team has the most skill in moving the football up and down the field? Or to effect social justice across America? One owner makes it clear what he thinks the mission of his NFL business is:
“There’s no question this had an impact on the business,” said Giants owner John Mara. “But this is an important social issue. And sometimes you have to put the interests of the business behind the interest of issues that are more important than that.”
There you go. As far as the Giants are concerned, forcing you to hear the players’ political opinions is more important than entertaining you. If you don’t like it, then you ought to say so with where you spend your money and time.
It Gets Worse
What’s even sillier for the NFL is that not only are they driving away most of their traditional customer base by insulting and offending them with a selective and compulsory form of “free speech,” the NFL has taken a strong pro-immigration promotion stance in its political maneuvering as well. Only problem is that most of the rest of the world prefers watching futbol [soccer], not football, and they don’t suddenly change favorite sport by virtue of setting foot on American dirt.
So the NFL is rapidly eating away at its customer base by politically promoting the dilution of the loyal customer base, while simultaneously offending and insulting the customers they still have.
If you were an investor, does the NFL sound like a good investment anymore?