NFL Returns Thursday, Will People Really Watch? (Op-Ed)
(NOTE--Op-Ed refers to the presentation of information and opinions, or asking readers to form own opinions--not necessarily a news event) To many middle class, especially 'non-minority' Americans, the NBA has been dead for a number of years. Since Adam Silver took over as commissioner over 7 years ago, the league has morphed into a social justice vehicle.
TV ratings were falling well before COVID. MLB had a decent 2020 return, until social activism began to creep in. Only the NHL has shown any real success. Although percentage-wise NBA and MLB audiences tend to be bigger, the NHL has picked up a lot of new fans because they simply play (for the most part) their sport and don't irritate their fans.
But the BIG test is coming Thursday, when the NFL makes it's season debut on Thursday night football, Chiefs vs. Titans. Even prior to this COVID season, NFL numbers were slipping, although not nearly to the degree the NBA has fallen.
Post-Kaepernick, some studies show slippage in ratings, but increases in revenue. The league appears to have weathered that kneeling storm. But will the most popular sport in U.S. survive 2020?
A June article by S & P Global online, a worldwide marketing and research group, shows NFL numbers dropped nearly 10 percent as a result of the Kaepernick fallout, but did recover by about half of that in 2018 and 2019. However, they raise the question about whether George Floyd, flag, BLM, and other social justice protests and actions will affect this season.
Included in these is the decision to play a Black National Anthem at games, at least during all the opening weekend telecasts. ESPN also plans to air a number of player comments and short features about social justice. Many of the games will not have fans in the stands, or very few, so the bulk of the focus will be on TV ratings.
In the Washington Times July 15, Stanford Professor Victor Davis Hanson (a frequent guest on Fox and some other cable channels) wrote that 2020 will present the biggest threat to the NFL vs. it's fans because of what he calls it's 'virtue signaling' over social justice, and he believes the league will not recover like it appeared to do after Kaepernick faded off the field.
We've been studying Facebook reactions to various ads posted by ESPN and other sports networks about the return of the NFL. One that appeared Thursday morning was from the NFL on ESPN. It was a meme showing Brady, Wilson and other NFL players crying (post game joy) and it referred to that 'feeling you get when you get to watch the NFL again'.
We saw there were about 1300 comments to the post, and after counting through the first 2-300, the split was roughly 66 percent anti-NFL, 33 pro-NFL. The anti- reactions said they were not going to watch. Others said they would watch, but stop buying merchandise.
Another factor, say some sportswriters, is that due to COVID, many Americans have discovered alternatives to sports once they were cancelled, or they have shifted focus to college football, and especially local and even youth sports. How will this affect the NFL?
According to an article in the Insider online, dated June 27th. it will be interesting to see the impact on the league. According to online social media data calling for NFL boycotts, the Inside put together a map showing the states where fans (online) appear to be most willing to not watch.
The states with the most anti-NFL stances, boycott efforts, and criticism are as follows:
7. South Carolina
Washington shows virtually -0- serious online activity towards ignoring the league, probably because of west side support for the Seahawks.
This image shows how that data looks on a map. The darker the shade, the most "anti-NFL" rhetoric and willingness to boycott.