NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finds himself in an impossible spot.
NFL TV ratings are way down, clearly in part due to the Colin Kaepernick-driven anthem protests (over oppression of black people). But what can he do?
If Goodell orders them to stop kneeling during the anthem, myriad players and sports reporters (mostly liberal) will likely destroy him, accusing him of censorship and not honoring First Amendment rights. ESPN sports debate shows would have a field day going after Goodell for stifling freedom of speech and expression. CNN and MSNBC would probably jump on board.
And keep in mind Goodell already endures a Darth Vader portrayal by many players and journalists for perceived disciplinary overreach.
If he demanded players stand for the anthem, the backlash would be significant. And surely the union, run by liberal trial lawyer DeMaurice Smith, a friend of President Obama, would come after him hard. Who knows, Smith might even take the league to court for violating the First Amendment.
The NFL is 75 percent black, and Kaepernick has significant support from the rank-and-file, so if Goodell outlawed anthem kneeling, there is a good chance the edict would backfire, and even more players would do it.
‘‘I truly respect our players wanting to speak out and change their community,” Goodell said on September 18 when asked about the anthem protests. That statement clearly falls into the category of “What do you expect him to say?”
Do you think he’s going to slam these protests driven by Black Lives Matters in a mostly black league?
At an NFL meeting in Houston Thursday, Goodell addressed the ratings dip, and avoided blaming the anthem protests. He said:
It’s something that I don’t think there’s a single reason for. I really don’t. We look at all those factors. Everyone’s got theories, you guys got theories, others got theories. We work closely with our network partners.
We see tremendous strength in our numbers. But we also know that the prime time ratings we’re seeing the most dramatic decrease. It went straight up against two very significant debates. Another one of our prime time games on Thursday night was on the NFL Network, as opposed to a network, which will always get a lower rating. There are a lot of factors to be considered.
We don’t make excuses, we look at it and we try and figure out what’s changing. I think you’re touching at a point that I think is significant, which is consumer changes and their behavior, and the way they consume media. That’s something we’ve been focused on for several years. It’s why we’ve been doing more with with Snapchat and YouTube and others. And it’s why we did our work with Yahoo last year…. We’re seeing these changes.
We recognize that network television is still dominant, and we believe it’s going to be dominant going forward. It’s where the vast majority of our fans view our games. It’s a great experience. The advertising markets are incredibly strong. I think our ratings are something that we’ll continue to look at and trying to make sure we’re doing everything, not just to get them to tune in but to get them to stay tuned in. That’s the issue, that’s what we’ve worked on.
He probably wishes he could work on making all players stand for the national anthem.
But if he forces them to stand, he would probably be kicking over an ant hill, and give this movement, which many consider misguided, even more momentum. He would likely make the ring leaders into martyrs with many of their fellow players and the progressive media,
So whether you are a fan of Goodell or not, you can make a strong argument he’s in a no-win situation.