When players started kneeling for the national anthem, the reaction broke down into three separate categories:
“Good for them, exercising their first amendment rights and using the only pulpit they have to protest injustice.”
“How dare they not stand for the anthem! It’s disrespectful to the flag and troops! The troops!”
“Who gives a shit?”
Well, people did give a shit. One specific group of people, a loud group currently led by the President of the United States and his incoherent, grammatically-challenged Twitter feed. (Besides the stupidity and lies found on that feed, I’m always fascinated by the words Mr. Trump chooses to capitalize. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. He just randomly chooses a words and CAPS.)
Suddenly, the sideline became the big story.
State Television – Fox News – started blaming the kneeling players for the league’s declining TV ratings every single night on every single show. Oddly, the company pushed this narrative while preparing a $3.3 billion offer for the league’s Thursday Night Football package, which they acquired in January. It’s almost like those folks had an ulterior motive behind what they were incorrectly stating about television ratings. Almost like they were trying to devalue the package.
[Side note: I worked for Nielsen for several years in their television department. No issue has been more incorrectly reported than the TV ratings issue. But here’s what you need to know. TV ratings are declining across the board. NFL football ratings are declining at a much slower rate than the rest of the medium. It has actually INCREASED the value of the commodity. And now with sports gambling, look out.]
A lot of other shit went down too. Bob McNair and the “inmates”. The Steelers debacle at Soldier Field. Whatever the hell Jerry Jones and the Cowboys did that one time. But it was this ratings debate – the economic one – that seemed to truly bother Roger Goodell at the home office on Park Avenue. With the NFL, it’s always money.