As hundreds of NFL players puff themselves up as political activists, many fans are responding, but not how the “social justice” activists had hoped. Fans were already abandoning the NFL in droves, but now they are responding in anger in a myriad of ways.
After Week 3 of the NFL, which featured nearly every NFL team protesting during the playing of the national anthem, some of the league’s sponsors have spoken out. Many are supporting the protests against the country, but others are pulling ad dollars from NFL teams and stars.
It doesn’t help when various sports personages and reporters have attacked those who stand against the protests. ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt slammed fans who are mad at the protests for not listening to those staging the protests. And San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich attacked white people as a whole saying the need to be made “uncomfortable” over how evil the U.S.A. is.
However, in the end, it is the fans that really count. If the fans walk away, it will cripple the NFL in particular and sports in general.
The anthem protests had caused blowback even before Week 3. In Cleveland, Ohio, for instance, a local VFW post decided to stop showing Cleveland Browns games because the players protested the country during the pre-season.
For that matter, the national Veterans of Foreign Wars organization itself also condemned the protests, not just for Cleveland, but for the whole of the NFL, saying, “using sporting events to disrespect our country doesn’t wash with millions of military veterans.”
In another case, the protests perpetrated by the New Orleans Saints drove a St. Bernard Parish bar to turn off the NFL telling customers that the protests “will not be supported or praised.”
The owner of Vincenzo’s Pizza in Saugus, California, also announced that the NFL is banned from the establishment’s TVs thanks to the anthem protests. The owner of the popular eatery said that most customers have his back on the decision to dump the NFL.
Many individual fans also jumped to the protest.
A Green Bay Packers fan was so upset with his favorite team that he made a video showing him burning his Packers gear:
A Packers fan becomes an ex-Packers fan today. It was his decision. I never thought I would see the day a Packers fan burns their gear. 🙁 pic.twitter.com/arKOcaENgv
— Derek Utley (@DerekUtleyCEO) September 25, 2017
The enraged Packers fan was hardly alone. ABC News noted that a growing number of fans made videos showing them burning their NFL memorabilia:
— ABC News (@ABC) September 26, 2017
Others joined the pyrotechnics:
— Ben Perry (@superbthree) September 25, 2017
#BurnTheNFL by refusing to buy gear or watch games.
Also, I'm having a bonfire later😊🔥
If you intend to join, use the hashtag #BurnTheNFL
— Leah the Boss (@LeahRBoss) September 24, 2017
Fans in Chicago were also unhappy over the anthem protests.
Of note, the Chicago Bears play at Soldier Field, a stadium that was built as a memorial to fallen soldiers from World War One.
Even fans a Gillette Stadium in the blue state of Massachusetts were seen jeering the protesting players as the New England Patriots faced the Houston Texans last Sunday.
There’s even a petition circulating among Ravens fans, to get Ray Lewis’ statue outside of M&T Bank Stadium, pulled down. In response to the Ravens legend taking a knee with his former team.
It’s impossible for anyone outside the league office, to truly know what kind of public reaction the NFL believed their day of protest would receive. However, judging by the early returns, it’s clear that things are less than good.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.