Pretty soon, it could be NFL team owners on their knees begging TV viewers to come back.
Once again in Week 4 of the 2017 season, as players continued their sitting-kneeling protests against something, former fans silently exercised their right of free speech using TV remotes.
Despite the always insightful, candid commentary of Jon Gruden, this week’s Monday Night game on ESPN lost audience again. It was actually a pretty good game, by all accounts. After the 29-20 win, Kansas City remained the only unbeaten team at 4-0, while Washington fell to 2-2.
This game though drew 13% fewer viewers than last week. And the drop was worse — 16% — in the key demo that ad buyers covet.
The game drew 11.9 million viewers, down almost two million from last week.
Perhaps even more disturbing for the 32 billionaire team owners, another sponsor pulled its ads over the protest controversy.
Said Steve Kalafer, a mega-car-dealer and baseball team owner in New Jersey:
The National Football League and its owners have shown their fans and marketing partners that they do not have a comprehensive policy to ensure that players stand and show respect for America and our flag during the playing of the national anthem. We have cancelled all of our NFL advertising (for 2017)…As the NFL parses the important nationwide issues of ‘social justice’ and ‘freedom of speech,’ it is clear that a firm direction by them is not forthcoming.
Kalafer said a decision on his 2018 substantial ad buy remained undecided now pending NFL action. He explained his problem is with the league and owners who failed to give direction to players on how best to exercise their free speech rights while also showing respect to the flag and National Anthem.
“Owners buried their heads in the sand,” Kalafer added.
The Wall Street Journal reported that despite an appearance of league unity, team owners clashed in a recent meeting over the league’s combative response to White House criticisms. “We made our point,” said league spokesman Joe Lockhart, who used to be Bill Clinton’s spokesman. “There was no point in responding to every tweet or every statement.”
Reaction against protests by the multi-millionaire players has been emotional and nationwide with President Trump weighing in. We wrote here Monday about a Georgia high school football team that had its own surprising patriotic response to the pro protests.
The next opportunity for angry fans to not view a televised NFL game comes Thursday evening when the Patriots visit the Buccaneers.
As a disappointed and likely apocryphal Hollywood producer once said about a box-office flop, “If people don’t want to come, you can’t stop them.”