The opening day has finally arrived for many of us who are football fans. However, if there was hope to have a season without the highly divisive anthem controversy, those hopes were dashed as the NFL officially announced that it would go forward on its policy against protests during the anthem. Further fueling the controversy will be Nike’s campaign featuring Nike is referencing Kaepenick’s stand as an example of courage despite the opposition of many football fans. I have previously written about the legal aspects of these protests.
It is fascinating to see a publicly traded company like Nike intentionally steer its products into a controversy that has reportedly cost the NFL so dearly. Even if ten percent of its customers avoid Nike products, the cost would be huge unless the gamble succeeds in attracting newer, younger customers. This is an unconventional and risky move in an field with close competitors which will not be associated with the protests. The move also likely alienates the NFL management, which hardly welcomes a national commercial campaign viewed as celebrating the protests. Nike shares slide downward with its new campaign, though it is still unclear if the move will pay off. A promising indicator is a 30 percent jump in online sales for Nike after the start of the campaign.
For its part, the NFL has thrown up its hands and just said that they could not get people to agree. Thus, this season could be like the last, though ESPN has decided to cut away from the anthem entirely while some networks have been previously accused of intentionally not showing the kneeling or fan objections to the protests. The NFL seems incapable of simply taking a stand with a single coherent position under Roger Goodell — one way or the other. In so doing, it has remained exposed on all sides — rather than simply allow or disallow protests during the games.
In the meantime, I am looking forward to watching my newly revamped Bears go up against our historic rivals the Packers with the highest paid offensive player (Rodgers) going head to head with the highest paid defensive player (Mack). Perhaps they will collide and simply merge into a single roughly $300 million player capable of playing entirely alone.
As usual, most of us are locked out of the games by the NFL’s ridiculous deal with DirectTV, which imposes a prohibitive cost on fans. Unlike the MLB which offers games at a fair price, the NFL under Roger Goodell have made it prohibitively expensive for most fans to watch out of market games. The owners are clearly supportive of Goodell’s record fleecing fans at every opportunity despite declining ratings. Between the protests and continued abuse of fans, the NFL facing a a long-term problem in maintaining its base of support. Every year I write about the short sighted treatment of streaming services and out-of-market packages. If the NFL simply offered a more reasonable package for fans to watch just the 16 games of their chosen team (as does the MLB), it might actually see rising viewerships. Instead, the owners have conveyed nothing but contempt for the fans, including the renewal of the contract of the least popular Commissioner in the history of the sport.